Labyrinth Canyon

Put-in: Green River State Park
Take-Out: Mineral Bottom or Green/Colo. Confluence
Trip Length: 3-8 days
Mileage: 68 or 120 mi.
Class: I

The Green River flows through Labyrinth and then Stillwater canyons before reaching its confluence with the Colorado River. Both Labyrinth and Stillwater offer calm water (no rapids) in beautiful wilderness canyons. They are ideal for multi-day canoe and kayak trips.

One-day Trips
The stretch of river that flows through the Labyrinth is too long to be traveled in just one day.

Multi-day Trips | labyrinth canyon guides |
Labyrinth can be self-navigated, or experienced with the help of a professional guide. Trips tend to vary from 4 to 5 days. The beauty of the canyon seems to be internalized on this trip, as people quietly experience the river by canoe or raft. The calm water and redrock canyon walls, plus the chance at viewing the eruption of Crystal Geyser, makes this trip unique.

Family Trips | labyrinth canyon guides |
Families enjoy this trip! It's an opportunity to spend the evenings camping on the river shore, and long days on a calm stretch of river. Labyrinth Canyons trips are the perfect way for parents to help their children experience the outdoors. Water is calm enough for swimming and playing. Guides often provide inflatable kayaks for individual paddling, or people may choose to stay in the raft. Whatever families choose to do, this is a great memory-building trip!

Groups/Corporate Trips
Due to the calm nature of the canyons, plus the amount of time required to make it through, this is not a trip commonly selected by groups or corporations.

Labyrinth [ Planning & Packing ]

History

Labyrinth Canyon is another amazing portion of the Canyon Country of southern Utah. It is public domain and is managed jointly by the Moab District Office of the Bureau of Land Management and the Utah State Division of Natural Resources.

The area is best explored by floating down the Green River, as it was by the explorer Major Powell in 1869. In leisure and stillness one can survey the landscape, unchanged since Powell saw it.

Scenic And Geologic Interests

Gliding out onto the longest smooth water portion of the Green from Green River State Park, you will float through an open valley and begin a descent of about a foot and a half every mile. Shales and marls of light blue and slate colors, topped with rocks of buff and gray, then brown, will begin to dominate the environment. There are no rapids on this portion of the river, only a few riffles will be found just below the town of Green River.

Four and a half miles downriver, a terraced formation formed by mineralized water spills into the river. This is Crystal Geyser, an unsuccessful oil well drill site which spurts erratically. The geyser did not exist in Major Powell's time. He writes only of "interesting rocks, deposited by mineral springs that at one time must have existed here, but are no longer flowing." It is a magical place with its peculiar forms, colors and textures. A perfect warm-up of the views to come.

Passing the mouth of the San Rafael River, the country begins to change and the river leaves the open desert as it meanders its way into the rising plateaus of the Canyon Country. This is Labyrinth Canyon, as named by the explorer Powell, which is very suggestive of its character.

The general surface of the land itself tilts toward the north, so the canyon becomes deeper toward the south. Massive sandstone walls of the Wingate Formation rise hundreds of feet on both sides. Fiery orange and reddish brown cliffs drip with a darker brown and blue-black "desert varnish," consisting of a thin film of iron oxide and hydrous manganese deposited from surface rainwater. Formations of tan Navajo Sandstone domes, purplish-red Kayenta towers, and brown Wingate cliffs, continuously unfold above the rich green of reed, willow and tamarisk along the sandbars. Side canyons appear, deep and narrow, all containing a unique character. For example, you may find one to be the mouth of three side canyons, all opening upon the river in the same place. This is Trin-Alcove, first described and named by Major Powell.

At mile 69, the river meanders a long, easterly loop of seven and a half miles, only to finish its ramble 1,200 feet south of where the loop began. A narrow neck of scrambled talus lies below a saddle where a Wingate Formation wall has crumbled away. This is Bowknot Bend. From atop the saddle, it is one of the river's best views of the desert and its geological wealth. (A fairly easy hike, too.)

Wildlife

While floating down the river, you may come close to deer standing by the shore. Or, the great blue heron and American egrets may be perched on the rocks. An occasional beaver swimming from one burrow to the next competes for survival along with the badger, porcupine and coyote. There are killdeer on the sandbars and flocks of cliff swallows in the air. Often, a swallow's mud nest can be seen on the undersides of grottoes in the canyon walls. Ravens, magpies, buzzards and red-tailed hawks soar above. A variety of birds fill the canyon with music; vireos, yellow warblers, rock wrens, canyon wrens, catbirds, mockingbirds, and others, but especially the mourning dove with its wistful call. Catfish can be caught easily from the bank or from the boat. This is not a complete list. Take along a wildlife book and see if you can add to it.

Prehistoric & Historic Values

Petroglyphs can be spotted on cliffs in several spots along the river and tributary canyons. Flint chippings are also present. These may have been left by the Fremont Culture (500-1275 A.D.), a semi-nomadic people who had an agricultural home base but who also traveled and utilized natural resources. Archaeological values are protected for every one's enjoyment through state and federal Antiquities laws. Please take only photos - leave only footprints.

Much more abundant are the inscriptions left by latter-day river expeditioners, Launch Marguerite was a stern-wheeler river boat which plied the Green and Colorado Rivers between Green River and Moab during the early 1900s.

Denis Julien is thought to be a typical mountain man, one who would go anywhere after beaver. Julien went south into the Canyon Country, where he left his autographs on the rocks in a number of places. All are dated 1836. How did Julien get into the canyons? By boat? Or, did he walk in from the rim? An inscription in Cataract Canyon, below the confluence of the Colorado and Green, would argue that he was using a boat. Fur men like Denis Julien corrected the mistakes in geography made by earlier Spanish explorers. They connected the Green with the Colorado, erased the San Buenaventura and other mythical rivers, and were undoubtedly the first to make detailed exploration of the canyons.

Tailings from old and new uranium mines are seen along the canyon bottoms. Traces of these are in Hey Joe Canyon, Spring Canyon and Mineral Canyon. For your own safety do not explore old mines. Talk to the operators before venturing around new mines. The many users of uranium depend greatly on the uranium-rich Canyon Country of Southeast Utah.

Safety Tips

  • Trip Preparation - In the planning stage of your trip, leave word with a neighbor or friend, telling of your plans and whereabouts during your travel. Plan ahead and enjoy your trip. Canoes and rubber rafts are the most used water craft on this portion of the river. The Friendship Cruise, from Green River to the confluence and up the Colorado River to Moab, occurs on Memorial Day weekend. Float boat parties should consider the heavy use of the river during this time period and plan accordingly. U.S. Coast Guard approved life jackets are required for each passenger.
  • Water - The scarcity of fresh water is another concern. When planning your water supply, consider the number of days you will be on the river, and the number of people, then supplement this amount for safe measure. Carry a minimum of two quarts of water per person per day.
  • Heat - In July and August, the temperature ranges in the 90's and 100's. It is best to stay on the river or in the shade during the hottest hours. It is easy to stay comfortable by wearing a wide brimmed hat, which can be filled frequently with river water and put back on the head. Dipping a shirt or bandana and replacing it can also be an effective method of combating the heat. Guard against sunstroke and sunburn and you will have an enjoyable trip.
  • Hiking - Be prepared for your journey. Take water, a first aid kit, and wear the proper clothing and footwear. Be alert to weather conditions and keep an eye out for poisonous flora and fauna, such as poison ivy and rattlesnakes. If you're planning to hike a long way, take a map and know where you're going. Never hike alone; share your experience with a partner. Please see Hiking Wonders Of Labyrinth Canyon for more detailed information.

Information courtesy of Utah Guides & Outfitters Association.

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