Colorado & Utah 2019:
Day 5 - Cataract Canyon


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Colorado and Utah 2019: [Day 1 - Steamboat Springs] [Day 2 - Grand Junction] [Day 3 - Moab] [Day 4 - Moab] [Day 5 - Cataract Canyon] [Day 6 - Cataract Canyon] [Day 7 - Boulder] [Day 8 - Denver] [Day 9 - Denver] [Day 10 - Denver]

Wednesday, May 22, 2019: We were up before 6:00 AM, ...
... and checked out a half hour later.
We grabbed breakfast in town at McDonald's and passed this great sculpture on our way ...
... to Springhill Suites, which was just across the river from where we were staying.
Our meeting time was 7:30 AM, but we got there a half hour early. Not to worry, though, because the Western River Expeditions people were already there and ready to go.
We patiently waited in the lobby for our fellow passengers to arrive. Yes, that's a picture of Delicate Arch there on the wall.
At 7:30 sharp, we started to board the bus and were on our way in minutes.
We headed down SR-279 just like we had the morning before. Look at that beautiful Colorado River! That's Moab in the distance.
When we passed Corona Arch Trail Campground, we saw a trailer nearly identical to Dianne and Other Tom's.
We continued on SR-279. That's the potash mining operation in the distance, ...
... and here it is as we drove by.
At 8:00 AM, we pulled up to the Potash Boat Ramp.
We were here. The pink area all around us was owned by Intrepid Potash. The dark blue area is Dead Horse Point State Park and the light blue area is Canyonlands National Park.
We had some time to use the restroom and to load our belongings into our day bags and camp bags.
We pushed off shortly before 8:30 AM. River mileage is calculated counting down with the confluence of the Green and Colorado Rivers marked as Mile 0. We started at roughly Mile 47.3.
Let's run some river!
Once we were on the water, our guides hooked our boats together and gave us an overview of our trip and covered rules of the river.
We were on the Cataract Canyon Express trip, which meant that we would be covering 100 miles of Cataract Canyon in just two days (instead of four), so we had a lot of ground to cover.
We passed Caveman Ranch which has its own small airstrip.
It's a full hotel with rooms built right into the rock walls, but it's hard to tell online if this place actually accepts visitors or not.
There's a paddle wheel hidden among the brush, ...
... and a spiral staircase painted to blend into the rocks. If we hadn't been told to look, we wouldn't have noticed that anything was there.
Here's some pretty rock formations.
Look closer to see the different colors in the sediment layers.
As we came around a bend near Mile 37, we could see Dead Horse Point in the distance. We had probably glimpsed this bit of river from the rim when we were there two days earlier.
Let's zoom all the way in for a glimpse of the point.
We slowed down to take a look at a granary in the rock wall.
They're difficult to spot unless you have a guide telling you where to look.
Here it is.
On the plateau up ahead of us, we spotted ...
... some teeny-tiny people with their teeny-tiny 4x4s looking down at us. They were standing on a point just downstream of Mile 39.
Hmmm, looks like rain up ahead.
Sure enough - at 10:00 AM on Tuesday, May 22, 2019, the Bundlings Weather Luck ran out. Years of vacation weather had been consistently excellent. So much so, that we got used to hearing tour guides tell us that the weather the day before had been bad, so we were lucky to have such good weather. But that all came crashing to a halt at this moment.
Fortunately, a little rain is not a problem on a boat where everything you are wearing is rain gear. Unfortunately, it happened as we were nearing the famous river bend at Mile 36 near Dead Horse Point high up on the plateau, and Thelma and Louise Point on a lower plateau.
The canyon weather changes quickly, and blue skies were already peeking out after 10 minutes of rain. At this point, we had rounded the bend.
It's easy to forget that the canyon was carved by erosion over millions of years. Then you see a boulder like this that obviously broke off many years ago, and you realize how long it must have taken for the Colorado River to carve this land.
Yay! It is sunny again!
We celebrated by stopping for some snacks.
Delicious!
We were about to enter Canyonlands National Park at Mile 31.
A sign was perched on a rock shelf to our left: "Entering Canyonlands National Park, United States Department of the Interior, National Park Service, No Hunting."
It was chilly and windy as our boat moved along quickly, so we were happy to accept our guide's offer of a blue tarp to keep us warm. Earlier, Debbie had given a pair of socks to Jess, because she wasn't wearing any and was freezing. We never saw those socks again.
Debbie kept track of our progress with her river guidebook.
Around Mile 23, we passed Lockhart Canyon and Horsethief Canyon.
Up high on the plateau, ...
... a scraggly-looking Great Blue Heron looked down over us.
Pretty.
Around 11:15 AM, we stopped for a hike at Mile 23.5.
Here are our boats. That's Nick's boat on the left, where passengers Shawn, Linda, and Kate were riding. We were in the front row of Daniel's boat, with siblings Jess and Chris and their dad John sitting in the two rows behind us.
Daniel pointed out things of interest along the hike, including this matted-down brush where bighorn sheep had rested.
There was a lot of matted-down brush in this area, but the sheep had moved on.
The trail zigzagged up the hill.
Debbie spotted a tiny metal disc in a rock on the trail.
What does it mean? No idea.
From higher up, we could see across the river to where we'd be having lunch.
We cropped the photo above as much as we could to show where we would be. However, we didn't know that's where we were going next, so we didn't know we should get a photo of it.
We had one slightly tight move to make, ...
... to reach our first stop.
We were there to see some rock art, including these markings, ...
... and this hand outline. We had seen similar hand outlines much further downstream on our the Grand Canyon river trip in 2006.
We hiked just a little further ...
... to see this granary, ...
... then a little further to see ...
... this animal figure and rainbow-like symbol.
Daniel told us that the theory is that the rainbow symbol may have served as some sort of calendar, based on the shadows cast on it during different times of year.
We saw more hand outlines ...
... and Daniel explained how they may have been made.
We passed another granary on our hike back down.
We were back on the river by noon but the weather up ahead looked bad ...
... so we decided to cross the river and have lunch at a park-owned picnic area at the base of Lathrop Canyon.
It had a restroom, which was very nice, plus ...
... a picnic table. Our guides immediately started to set up a shelter, ...
... and then served us lunch.
We had chicken salad served in pitas, with apples, oranges, two kinds of potato chips, and Nutter Butter cookies.
As we were finishing up, a bunch of 4x4s showed up so we cleared out of there as quickly as possible to give them some room to have lunch.
Just as we were leaving, it started to hail. Yes, actual hail.
Buh-bye, lunch location!
Twenty minutes later, we had blue skies overhead as we passed ...
... Coffee Pot Ruin near Mile 20.
Here's a closer look, ...
... but we really had to zoom in to see the granary at its base.
At this point in the canyon, in an area called Sheep Bottom, a distinctive white layer of rock appeared. Daniel explained how it was created, but time has passed and we don't remember the specifics. Water, minerals, blah blah blah.
But look how cool it is!
Here's a close-up.
We saw a pair of huge black birds zoom by us.
On the right side of the river, Daniel pointed out the rock layer that forms the distinctive white edges of the canyons when viewed from the Canyonlands overlooks.
If you look closer, you can see the rocks that have broken off of the white layer that creates the white outline look.
We spotted a fishing boat and campsite on the left side of the river.
Small birds were swooping low over the river, searching for food.
They were impossible to photograph, so you'll just have to use your imagination on this.
We passed a DNR boat. Rangers were using an electronic device to stun the fish temporarily so they'd float to the surface and the rangers could check them. Maybe tag them? Maybe count them? Can't recall.
We were now around Mile 16, near ...
... Monument Creek
At the mouth of the creek was another granary at the base of the rock column near the right of the photo.
We zoomed in, ...
... and then zoomed in some more. These things blend in so well.
The rock column is actually part of an arch formation. It had a name, but we can't recall. That's the peril of waiting over three months before writing up captions.
Debbie was happy. She loves this river so much.
There was another section with the interesting white layer of rock.
We were approaching the area called The Loop, consisting of two horseshoe bends back-to-back.
Here's the approach to the first bend. The river used to run straight through here, which is why there's a large notch in the wall of rock that separates this portion of river from the portion that is just on the other side. Eventually, the river changed course as it wore down layers of rock.
Here's another camper enjoying life on the river.
Here's the first large bend to the left in The Loop up ahead.
Coming around the bend, you see the lower point in the second wall of rock that separates this second section of river from the third section on the other side.
Check out that solid vertical river wall.
Here we are in the middle of the middle section. To the left is the notch in the canyon wall that we originally saw from the first section of the double horseshoe. Straight ahead is the second bend to the right.
We went around the second bend ...
... and then we straightened out for a while. That was fun!
Here's another rafting party on the side of the river. It was 2:30 PM, so perhaps they were stopping for the day. We would be on the river for more than two more hours.
One thing we didn't realize about this trip was that all the rapids are bunched into one section of the river.
So it was nothing but flat water until then.
These little riffles in an area called The Slide around Mile 1.5 were as close as we came to river-running action.
It was nearly 3:00 PM when we made it to Mile 0 - the Confluence. This is the place where the Green River flows into the Colorado River. There's the Green River appearing from around the bend to the right, then merging into the Colorado.
Depending on the characteristics of each river, either clear or muddy, it can be possible to see a dividing line between the water flowing from each river, but on this day, it was hard to tell there were two rivers merging at all.
To us, it just looked like the Colorado got a little wider. Here are the two rivers joined into one, continuing downstream. At this point, mile numbering starts around Mile 216.5 and works down from there. Eventually, the river disappears into the belly of Lake Powell so we're not sure where Mile 0 ends up. Perhaps at Glen Canyon Dam?
Clouds rolled in a few minutes before we got to ...
... the Cataract Canyon sign at Mile 214.4. It read: Danger, Cataract Canyon, Hazardous Rapids 2 Mi., Permit required from Superintendent Canyonlands National Park for boating below Spanish Bottom.
Below the sign is a box and a smaller sign that is important later in our story: Please register for downstream camps here. Daniel got out and registered for his preferred campsite and came back to the boats pleased that it was still available.
We connected the boats together and drifted for a few minutes.
Daniel told us about the rapids coming up in just a couple of miles.
Here's another river tour making camp for the evening.
On the right side of the river, Spanish Bottom is a large flat area that lies below spiky rock formations on the rim called the Dollhouse.
Shortly after 3:30 PM, we were approaching our first rapid. The offical name is Rapid One, but the unofficial name is Brown Betty.
We had swapped our primary camera for our waterproof camera, and it's a good thing we did! Bam!
We barely had time to get a picture of drenched Tom, ...
... because one minute later, we were in the middle of Rapid Two.
Here's Nick's boat coming through Rapid Two.
We used a complicated system of hand signals to keep the different rapids straight. This hand gesture indicated ...
... that we were heading into Rapid Three.
Up next: Rapid Four.
Whoa!
We had gaps of less than a minute between rapids, so here's Rapid Five.
Rapid Six was up next.
Here it is. The bigger waves were downstream and Debbie chose to hang on instead of photograph them. Rapid Seven in particular was a great thrill ride.
Here's Rapid Eight.
Let's go!
Debbie was quite pleased.
Here's Rapid Nine.
We passed another Western River Expeditions group. They were on the three-night, four-day tour, and this was their second night on the river. They were staying in one of the X-Y Right campsites, tucked between Rapids Nine and Ten.
There are three spacious campsites here, and another set of three across the river.
Seeing their camp gave us an idea of what our own campsite would look like soon.
At this point, we offered to move from the front to the back row so the family riding with us could fully enjoy waves of ice cold water in their faces, starting with Rapid 11, ...
... followed immediately by Rapid 12.
We had a short break between rapids, ...
... so we took the opportunity to wring the freezing water out of our soaked gloves.
We blew through Rapids 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, and 21 in fifteen minutes. At this point, we had photographed enough rapids, and they all looked very much alike. The previous rapid (Rapid 21) was called Big Drop I, this one (Rapid 22) was called Big Drop II or Little Niagara, and the next one (Rapid 23) was called Big Drop III or Satan's Gut.
This was probably Rapid 24, but it was all a blur at this point.
Here's Nick's boat going through one of the last rapids of the day.
Here's the Start of Rapid Twenty Something - maybe 25?
Look out, Chris, a wave is coming for you!
Here it comes!
We arrived at Ten Cent campground, which Daniel had reserved. But it had been taken by a single kayaker who didn't seem to be aware of a reservation system.
He had already set up camp and wasn't budging, so Daniel walked back along the gigantic, empty, beautiful sand beach to our boats.
We rafted slightly downstream to Lower Ten Cent campground instead, arriving around 4:45 PM. John and his kids, Chris and Jess, set up camp to the right, ...
... Shawn, Linda, and Kate set up camp to the left, and we picked a spot at the back of the campsite.
A half hour later, we were thrilled when the sun came out. Daniel showed us how to set up our cots, which should have been easy enough to figure out but was shockingly difficult until he showed us the secret technique.
We laid out all of our wet gear to dry in the sun. There were rain pants and rain coats and life jackets and shoes and hats and fleeces and socks and towels and scarves and gloves and so on.
All memory of being freezing cold faded away as we slowly warmed up.
We took a little look around our campsite. Here are our trusty boats, nearly completely unloaded of gear by now.
Downstream, three more rapids awaited us the next morning.
Some of the cactus plants were in bloom.
Here's a shot of some of the many places we had spread our gear to dry. How foolish we were, because ...
... it was pouring rain again by 6:15 PM.
Shrimp cocktail was served as an appetizer, so we ate those under the shelter ...
... and then retreated to our tents until dinnertime.
We had a brief break in the rain when dinner was served at 7:00 PM.
Nick and Daniel served up a meal of rolls, rice pilaf, corn, and steaks cooked to order.
Make ours medium-rare, please. Delicious! There were camp chairs set out in a circle, so we sat there and enjoyed our dinner even if they were a little damp.
We had tasty chocolate cake for dessert.
By 7:30 PM, it was time to get ready for bed. That included a trip to the outdoor restroom ...
... with a great view of the river.
Here's the handwashing station.
At 8:00 PM, we were all tucked into bed. We fell asleep to the relentless sound of rain pounding our tent.

Day 6 >


Colorado and Utah 2019: [Day 1 - Steamboat Springs] [Day 2 - Grand Junction] [Day 3 - Moab] [Day 4 - Moab] [Day 5 - Cataract Canyon] [Day 6 - Cataract Canyon] [Day 7 - Boulder] [Day 8 - Denver] [Day 9 - Denver] [Day 10 - Denver]

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