In John Wesley Powell’s Wake: Cataract Canyon and Home (June 2019)

Day 25: At the Confluence

We were able to leave camp at River Mile 7 while it was still in shade and make the short float to the confluence in the relative cool of the morning. We’d reached the Colorado! We stopped at the register to check river conditions and campsite availability. Here Lars was able to determine that we could have Lower Brown Betty and Lower Ten Cent as our camps, which were his preferences. We bounced around Rapid 1 and pulled in to the beach at Betty. Although sandy beaches are common at lower water, Brown Betty was the first (and only) time on this trip that we were able to camp on such a beach. It was a joy not to have to hack our way through tamarisk or scramble up a slope to reach camp. We were laying over here so those who wanted to could hike up to The Doll House – a unique collection of rock spires on the plateau above – the next day.

Morning at River Mile 7
Nearing the end of the Green River
At the confluence of the Green and Colorado Rivers (note color difference)
Registering at the start of Cataract Canyon
On to Lower Brown Betty with the spires of the Doll House on the horizon
The broad sandy beach at Lower Brown Betty

Day 26: In the Doll House

We were fortunate to have some cloud cover as we made the steep, 1,200-foot climb up to the Doll House. Once there, we took in the views, visited a granary, and had lunch in “The Refrigerator” – a cave under a huge sandstone block. Afterwards, some of the group continued on to the Beehive Arch while we descended back to camp for a cool-off in the river. That afternoon OARS sent a large motorboat down from Moab to serve as a safety boat for our plunge through the rapids in Cataract Canyon the next day.

Starting on the hike to the Doll House
Climbing to the Doll House on a Park Service trail
Reaching the top
View of the Green River from the Doll House
Hiking to see the granary
The LovedOne at the granary (L)
Emily takes us to see “The Refrigerator”
A small slot canyon
Leaving “The Refrigerator” after lunch
More of the Doll House
Evening at Lower Brown Betty

Day 28: Cataract Canyon

Today we ran the biggest rapids on this trip (and some of the biggest rapids on any river in the western U.S.). In anticipation of a possible raft flip or passenger swim due to the high water conditions (about 45,000 ft3/s on this day), we got another safety talk and a PFD check, Then with anxiety a little higher than usual, we shot off into Rapid 2. Rapids 2 through 20 went by in a blur but they were FUN! Then we pulled over so our guides could scout the Big Drops (Rapids 21-23). And then we were off again – plunging up, over, around, and down huge waves that were coming at our raft from all directions. And then, almost before it began, we were in flat water across from Lower Ten Cent camp. We made it through Cataract’s rapids with no flips and no swimmers and it was just plain FUN the whole way. That this ride was just FUN and not an adventure with upside down boats and thrashing swimmers is simply a testament to the consummate skill and experience of our OARS guides. Some celebrations ensued in camp this night. 😀

Morning at Brown Betty
“Don’t fall out of the raft until I remember where I hid your life insurance policy…”
Wayne takes one for the team somewhere in Rapids 2-20
The start of the Big Drops
Wayne takes another one for the team somewhere in the Big Drops
With tanned, smelly, sandy, and toe-nail painted life-long friends at Lower Ten Cent Camp

Day 28: Lake Powell

When Lake Powell is at full pool (something that hasn’t happened in years), its slack water starts right at Lower Tent Cent Camp. But the reservoir is down, so we got a few more fun rapids in before we had to barge-up and start motoring to the take-out at Hite. At the take-out we said good-bye 😥 to all our wonderful guides (except for Lars) and then got shuttled over to the airstrip near Highway 95. There we were met by three planes operated by Redtail Aviation. They gave us a very scenic flight back to Vernal – covering in just over an hour what it had taken us 28 days to float. Once back in Vernal, we recovered Wayne’s car from the OARS boat house, said a round of good-byes to our fellow floaters, and gave Lars a BIG thanks for an AMAZING trip. Then it was good-bye 😥 to him too as he headed back to Moab and we went to our hotel for a sand-free wash-up.

Leaving Cataract Canyon
One last pull on the dory oars
Motoring to the take-out
This is technically Lake Powell
Passing under the Highway 95 bridge just upstream of Hite
The low reservoir take-out (arrow) across from the now defunct marina
At the low reservoir take-out
One of the Redtail Aviation planes
No in-flight drinks on this plane
Passing over the take-out (arrow) soon after take-off
The Doll House
Spanish Bottom
The confluence of the Green and Colorado
The Green River in Desolation Canyon
One last fireline at the OARS boat house in Vernal

And thus what has to be the rafting trip of a lifetime came to a successful and happy (OK, a little bittersweet too) end. 🙂


6 thoughts on “In John Wesley Powell’s Wake: Cataract Canyon and Home (June 2019)

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  1. Thanks Bruce for sharing your photos and posting your narrative of our trip, it brought back many recollections. I didn’t know you had a branch fall next to your tent during the storm or that you saw a snake eat a toad!


  2. This is a great record of our trip. Nice to get a coherent commentary on all the places we visited. I am afraid the days tended to blend together for me and I am not much for place names, so this will be a nice record I can point people to, who want to know about our trip. Great photos as always.


  3. Thanks! People talk about “a trip of a lifetime” but this one definitely qualifies as that. Not only because there’s only one 150th anniversary but also because getting all the permits for a long trip like this isn’t easy or certain. Not to mention the logistical support required. But trips down the Grand Canyon are equally amazing, are run every year, and certainly qualify as “a trip of a lifetime” if you want to do one.


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