Rafting with Western River Expeditions Along the Legends of Desolation Canyon Considered the West’s Top Family Trip

SALT LAKE CITY, UT, Feb. 7, 2024 – The granaries where ancient Indigenous Americans stored crops of corn are scattered around Utah’s Desolation Canyon.  But the Fremont didn’t know about the reserves of oil and coal under their feet.

Until recent history the Osage had no knowledge of oil reserves on their lands to the east on the Great Plains where once the buffalo roamed.

In 2024 these tribal stories intersect. Here’s how.

One contender in the Academy Awards (March 10, 2024) is Killers of the Flower Moon, a story set in the early 1900s concerning oil, greed, murder and the Osage.

Were Academy Awards handed out for this country’s best family river rafting adventure, Western River Expeditions bets that Utah’s Desolation Canyon 5-Day Trip would win hands down. This journey traverses a National Register of Historic Places cited for connections to ancient peoples, to surviving outlaw hideouts filled with stories of past adventures, and to the remnants of lost dreams testified by abandoned ranches and homesteads.

An example of an abandoned ranch is Rock Creek Ranch built in the 1930’s, today exhibiting the remains of small, huddled cabins near a freshwater spring used to irrigate the land. Western River Expeditions’ guests can still enjoy fruits from an edible mulberry tree.

Contrary to its name, Desolation Canyon is anything but desolate, except for the fact that it is part of the Bureau of Land Management’s largest Wilderness Study Area in the Lower 48. Nearly 291,000 acres comprise the area that includes deep systems of canyons, some up to a mile deep. There are no roads, no towns and no cell service.

Desolation Canyon was carved over millennia by the 730-mile Green River that is spawned by glacial melts on the Continental Divide in the wilds of northern Wyoming. The Green, flowing for 450 miles through Utah, is less strident than the Grand Canyon’s rollicking Colorado River. Instead of the world-class rapids on the Colorado River, whitewater on the Green River is playful, marked along the rafting course by over 60 family-friendly Class I-III rapids. The minimum age for this trip is just 5 years old.

Hailee Hughston is a second-generation river guide for Western River Expeditions. She has made a study along the 88 river miles of this canyon, affectionately dubbed “Deso”. She shares with guests her findings about locales and what’s known about the Fremont and still extant Ute tribes who subsisted along the Green River that provides water to this desert region. She shares stories of rugged farmers and famous outlaws. Butch Cassidy and the Wild Bunch found that the rugged terrain here offered a perfect hideaway. Everyone, in some way, depended on the water flowing through the canyon. See: https://www.westernriver.com/blogs/stories/highlights-of-desolation-canyon

Hailee writes: “A short hike from the river, thousands of Fremont petroglyphs can be found hidden throughout. The Fremont people inhabited the land from around 600 to 1200 A.D., living as semi-nomadic and moving with the change of the seasons. As we show respect to the relics of ancient inhabitants, it is even more important to respect the present native inhabitants who still claim the land. The Ute/Ouray tribe owns the land spanning the left side of the river.”

Supported by stories of real people around the river, Hailee introduces 40 million years of geologic history: “towering stepped walls boasting wild rock formations and the shades of green (a switch from yellow) that seem out of place in a desert setting. These vertical monuments that rival the Grand Canyon offer precarious refuge for pinyon pine and juniper, bighorn sheep, black bear, and even wild horses.”

Over 60 named class two and three rapids thrill boaters, and the gradual increase in size and difficulty of rapids make it an ideal place for beginner to intermediate boaters to develop their skills. Many rapids reflect the passion for this region’s lore: Little Wild Horse, Wire Fence, Moonwater, Steer Ridge, Three Fords, Range Creek, Firewater, Trail Canyon, Saleratus, Coal Creek, Poverty and Rattlesnake.

On this journey guests choose how adventurous they want their on-water time to be. They can team up as paddlers in two-person inflatable kayaks or sit back in a guide-powered oar boat and watch the world go by.

As with all Western River Expeditions’ itineraries, all the ingredients for host-prepared hot and fresh meals (sourced from local farmers and producers) and for deluxe camping on sandy beaches come with the thrill of rafting and with guided exploratory hikes along the river route.

The 2024 trips are scheduled to begin in June and continue through August. The adventures begin and end in Moab, Utah.  Guests will experience a trip highlight on day one, where a morning flight over the canyons of the Green River lands guests atop a desert plateau. From here, the choice is a hike or van ride to the river’s edge, a float down calm waters and majestic canyons, and the first night of camping on the banks of the Green River.

For a copy of Western River Expeditions’ 2024 catalog, questions, availability and reservations call toll-free: 866.904.1160 (Local: 801.942.6669) or visit the website at: http://www.westernriver.com/.

For more details on this trip please see https://www.westernriver.com/desolation-canyon

About Western River Expeditions

Western River Expeditions is an adventure travel company headquartered in Salt Lake City, with operations and offices in Moab, Utah and Fredonia, Arizona. Annually from March through October it escorts more people down rivers on professionally guided rafting trips in Utah, Idaho and Arizona than any other company. It is the largest licensed outfitter in the Grand Canyon and the largest single tour provider in Moab, UT, through its division Moab Adventure Center (http://www.moabadventurecenter.com/).

Western River Expeditions was founded in 1961 by Colorado River rafting pioneer Jack Currey. In 2023 it was chosen by the readers of USA Today 10Best as the #2 rafting company in the nation. The company is also the proud recipient of the "Best of State" award through Utah’s Premier Recognition and Awards Program for the past nineteen consecutive years (2004-2022).

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