In John Wesley Powell’s Wake: Uinta Basin North & South (June 2019)

Day 8: To Horseshoe Bend

As noted, the Green River in Uinta Basin is flat water, with few opportunities to go ashore. We pushed-off from Placer Point and rowed down to where the Highway 40 bridge crosses the Green. The only place we could find to pull in for lunch was under that bridge! At that, the river was high enough to make it a bit of a tight fit. After lunch, we continued rowing and rowing and rowing along looking for a place to camp. Finally, late in the day, we found a marginal, mosquito-infested site on the north side of Horseshoe Bend. Not one of the great campsites but at least we were off the river for the night.

The Green River in the Uinta Basin
Lunch under the Highway 40 bridge
Hills along the Green
A wide river under a big sky
Under the Highway 45 bridge south of Naples, UT
Lars views the sunset from camp at Horseshoe Bend

Day 9: To Baeser Bend

We started the day with a short hike to the views from atop Horseshoe Bend. After dodging an abandoned oil well (not uncommon out here) we had a great view of the snowy Uinta Mountains to the west. Then it was back in the boats for more floating and rowing. The day had started clear but clouds soon began to build and, by late afternoon, a light rain was falling. It stopped just long enough to allow us to set up our tents and eat dinner. Then it returned with a vengeance, propelled horizontally with strong wind gusts much like those we’d experienced at Crook Campground. More tent pole holding ensued. Fortunately, the storm, which lashed us on and off throughout the night, dissipated at sunrise.

The Uinta Mountains from Horseshoe Bend
Along the Green River
A cloud with an arch
A storm builds above us
In camp near Baeser Bend

Day 10: The Bridge at Ouray

We spent a little time in the morning finding gear that had been blown hither and yon by the wind and then got back on the water. We started out rowing but soon Lars determined that we weren’t making sufficient progress manually. So out with the motor! Lash the boats into a barge! We motored on through the Ouray National Wildlife Refuge. Lars had scouted this section of the trip in October at low water and none of our guidebooks mentioned river level issues with the Highway 88 bridge at Ouray. So when we came around the bend above the bridge there was shock and awe when it looked like the river was too high for us go under it. o_O But with no support for a portage, we just went river right and ducked. Cleared it by 6 inches! Let me tell ya, we scared the poop out of a few swallows as we passed. 🙄 After adjusting our pace makers, we motored on down to a campsite some 30 feet above the river at Wild Horse Bench.

Continuing along below Baeser Bend
Rafting under a flock of cliff swallows
Lars captains the barge
More flat water
The bridge at Ouray
Cleared it by 6 inches! ^^’
Moonrise at Wild Horse Bench Camp

Days 11 & 12: Hydes Bottom

From Wild Horse Bench, we put the motor aside and rowed down to a make-shift campsite at the south end of Hydes Bottom. We had a layover day here. We had to clear the undergrowth from beneath a nice stand of cottonwood trees for our kitchen and dining area. We soon discovered that the trees were infested with cucumber beetles. They’re cute and harmless and don’t bite or sting but they fly badly and crash into stuff – like you and your food. They also poop a lot. We quickly learned to move them off ourselves on to a nearby leaf (and keep our food covered).

Sunrise at Wild Horse Camp
Toward Hydes Bottom (the white blobs are naturally occurring foam)
Toward Hydes Bottom
Emily commands her raft
Camp at Hydes Bottom
Moonrise at Hydes Bottom

On our layover day, we found a well-defined wild horse trail which we followed to a point overlooking Hydes and Kings Canyon Bottoms. This trail had obviously been created by the passage of generations of wild horses. In terms of grade and tread clarity, it was superior to many human-built trails.

Starting our hike on the wild horse trail
Russell and Garth survey Kings Canyon Bottom
Our camp (arrow) at Hydes Bottom
Group shot (it’s hard not to feel small out here)
Looking southwest from atop the plateau
End of our last day at Hydes Bottom

The next day, we’d make the short run to Sand Wash which marks the end of the Uinta Basin and the start of Desolation Canyon. Six of our group would be leaving us 😥 there and we’d pick-up six new rafters (in addition to the full 28 days, the trip had also been offered in two parts). A small end-of-trip celebration ensued for those who would soon be experiencing hot showers, cold beverages, and clean sheets. Those of us staying each removed a cucumber beetle from our food in their honor!


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