Thursday, May 16, 2013

My 2013 Canyonlands River Trip - Part IV

After traveling down the length of Stillwater Canyon and exploring the confluence area, it was time to begin our descent through the rapids of Cataract Canyon. The river picks up speed and narrows considerably.

Here the raft is entering Tilted Park, an obvious name given by the Powell party. The tilted block is a huge slump that has attempted to fill in the void made in Cataract Canyon. The toes of such slumps constrict the river and makes rapids.

Capsize Falls, the site of many a ruined day in historic times. The water level is low at about 6,000 cfs (cubic feet per second) but this was an increase from the levels we saw in Stillwater Canyon. Warm temperatures started to send the spring melt downstream.

Here is one of many inscriptions we saw on the right bank of Capsize Rapid. We also saw a faint "Georgie White" inscription beneath a toppled boulder. This inscription reads:

Col Grand Canyon
M. C. Impt. Co.
July 22, 1891 No. 1 Wrecked

G. M. Wright
Sept. 18, 1892

[Colorado Grand Canyon Mining and Improvement Co. - also known as the Best Expedition]

Here is a downstream view of Big Drop II, also known as Little Niagara. Note the large boulders that have tumbled down to the river from a slump block on river left.

And here is a look at Big Drop III, also known as Satan's Gut. Many rocks were present in the channel at this low water but the rapids receive their reputations from conditions when the water levels are much higher. Here they are just rocky runs but at higher water they become fitful torrents with many boils and eddies. I chose this time of year to run the trip to take advantage of gentler flows in the rapids and to enjoy spring wildflowers and ideal daytime and nighttime temperatures.

Running the rapids! When the Powell reservoir was at its highest level, lake water backed up to the foot of Big Drop III. The reservoir level is now down more than 100 feet from full pool and so many once inundated rapids have reappeared.

But a new formation has appeared at the lower end of Cataract Canyon (bottom of photo) - it is the Lake Powell formation. It is composed of sand, mud, and clay deposits left by high water in the Powell Reservoir. It is everywhere now being destroyed by gravity that pulls whole sections down into the reemergent river.

 Ultimately though, Lake Powell is encountered and we motor out through Narrow Canyon

The take-out at Hite, Utah, where the ferry boat once ran. Glen Canyon National Recreation Area spends virtually no money for upkeep of their two important river take outs (the other one being at Clay Hills Crossing on the San Juan). What an embarrassment to the National Park Service, as thousands of recreationists use these facilities.

The tumbleweed laden shore of the Colorado River near Hite

Time to fly back to Moab! Here is the old boat ramp at Hite from happier days when Lake Powell actually had water in it. The river is located about 2 miles in the distance against the red cliff. This ramp likely cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to construct and is useless. Meanwhile river runners continue to use Hite but virtually no upkeep is managed for.

In the Maze section of Canyonlands is The Land of Standing Rocks, erosional remnants of the Organ Rock Formation.

Spanish Bottom from the air with the Doll House visible in the upper left. If you look closely on the left side of the Bottom, you may see the trail we walked up

I jus thad to show the confluence of the Green and the Grand one more time!

Anderson Bottom and Bonita Bend on the Green River. Anderson Bottom is the site of a cut-off meander on the Green, which has shortened its course two miles by cutting though the gooseneck at Bonita Bend.

Upheaval Dome from the air. This is the first time I have offered a geology-themed rafting trip in Canyonlands but it won't be the last. The area is full of geologic curiosities and is a great place to explore the southwestern geohistory. Thanks for reading!

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