Back canyon Colorado River or Labyrinth

I can only take one canoe camping trip this spring, and I am having a hard time deciding which of these trips to do. The Black Canyon on the Colorado below Lake Mead is interesting with cold water, desert vistas, and hot springs in the first 8 miles or so. If I go, I will do the 30 mile river trail, not just the 12 miles to Willow Beach. Labyrinth Canyon on the Green River also looks good. A bit more expensive because of the shuttle, but not bad. Longer trip at just under 60 miles, but I have time for a 5 day trip, plus a travel day before and after.

Most of the people I know who do the Green do it in the fall. I am thinking mid March through Mid April is my time frame. We are experienced canoe campers from the Midwest, but not a lot of experience on the western rivers near where we now live.



Black canyon
Seems I can edit messages but not the title. The alternatives are the Black Canyon Watertrail at the Nevada/Arizona border or Labyrinth Canyon on the Green River in Utah.


– Last Updated: Nov-02-14 7:44 PM EST –

is on Utube and Google Images from blogging photos.
Shuttle services define the route unless you have two vehicles.

There's the Delores.

I am occasionally looking for guide info for the Green from Wyoming to Green River UT and not finding route info and rapid difficulty.

Try WeatherUnderground for your route times. WU has past averages for week/month as a secondary selection from the almanac area scrolled down to. Check stream gauges as for example, an individual search: Green River UT Green river stream gauge. Your timing is for a higher flow than fall.

Expect chop with wind coming north ?

Appreciate your information. The basics of the trip are easy to find, and I am familiar with them. I guess I was looking more for the intangibles of why one trip might be better than the other. Is the solitude of Labyrinth much more than the lower part of the Black Canyon or is it overrun with guided trips? Are the views better in one than the other? More wildlife to see? I am inclined to Labyrinth just because it is more days on the river (plus it is three hours closer).

I probably should have said I like solitude and scenery. I have bad knees so I can’t hike like I used to, so much of the scenery needs to come from my boat or the river bank. I moved west from the upper Midwest, so I am used to canoe camping in the BWCA. I love the vistas here, but much of the water is more suited for rafts than canoes, and I am a diehard canoeist. I am looking forward to a nice trip.


Labyrinth in spring
is not overrun with guided trips. The water is cold and the rafting companies haven’t started running the river from Mineral Bottom.

Last April we did the Green from Ruby Ranch in 8 days and had to backpaddle. We only paddled two hours a day because the river was moving at seven mph. There was a release from Flaming Gorge Dam which upped the river to a 12,000 cfs flow from its normal 5000.

I’ve done the Green in the fall too and never will again as long as I can do a spring trip. However March is too early for desert flowers. We had tons of floral beauty in April and snow too.

You can hike as much or as little as you feel like but if the river is high there will be no sandbanks at all and you will have to go up side canyons and scramble twelve to twenty feet up to find nice beautiful wide open campsites.

I’ll go to Namibia ?

Very helpful
Thanks! Exactly the type of info I was looking for. Loved your trip reports, and I will bookmark the forum too. After reading your info, I am definitely leaning toward the Green, though only 5 days and only Labyrinth. Sadly, I don’t have enough vacation to do more, at least for the next couple of years.


Dolores Little Glen and Slickrock

– Last Updated: Nov-04-14 10:12 PM EST –

Canyon would make a spectacular run, but even if there has been enough snowpack this year, I think the water won't be "on" in April. I did Slickrock in early June. Little Glen and Slickrock require no permit, and are just easy enough for loaded tandems and intermediate skills. These links show Slickrock only, a wilderness area.

Which river
The Green has more wilderness character. It is remote country and you can read the journal of John Wesley Powell.

The Colorado is a good trip, but the put in at Boulder Dam is now convoluted and a pain in the butt. There can be a lot of people around spring break on the Colorado R and especially Lake Havasu. I would vote for the Green.

I’ve only done Black Canyon
The Green is definitely on my to-do list, and I am sure you will not be disappointed if that is your choice. Given the time of year, as kayamedic said, the two biggest issues may be significant river currents and difficult access to come campsites.

I did a day trip in early April a few years ago from Boulder Dam to Willow Beach, and I thought it was phenomenal. Good desert wildflower blooms, decent weather, and awesome hot springs. The only downer was the wind howling up the canyon in our faces in the afternoon, which I understand is pretty common. But if you have 5 days for 30 miles, you could easily get your paddling done in the morning, and haul into camp ahead of the winds in the afternoon. And we were far from overwhelmed by people. They were there, but it was nowhere near “crowded”.

Also, the town of Boulder City is a pretty cool place to hang out either before the trip or after it ends.


info Ez. I’ll visit.

A mtb-packraft blog on the Delores and backcountry, from Forrest McCarthy, introduced the Delores. The pack raft-Delores search is worth the time if you’re Delores interested.

Have you paddled the San Francisco ?

Thanks folks
I think we are going to do the Green. I have been on multi-day trips on the first 12 miles of the Colorado, so the combination of novelty and the longer trip sounds good. The information provided is great, and I appreciate folks taking the time to respond.

Now to decide exact dates and detailed plans.

I will wait on the other canyons until I have more time and more flexibility. That durn job gets in the way of having fun :wink:


Not the SF. What state is it in?
The only overnights I’ve done in the west are the Dolores and the San Juan. However I’ve daytripped easy whitewater all over the west, except for Nevada and Arizona.

the State of Albuquerque

reported undammed desert river/creek. I was up 180 in 1990 from Gila Cliff dwellings n hiking: very nice burble burble from the bridge there.

I was tempted to try deserting during this summer’s monsoon but stayed away from the desert heat quotient.

We would enjoy a complete rundown on your desert paddling.

I’m often wintering on the Colorado at Squaw Lake above Yuma

stop n
look over the side…

In the west, it’s hard to find rivers
that would not be classed as desert rivers. Western WA and OR, northern CA. But all the rivers I’ve done in CO are rather desertified.

I did a piece of the Chama in NM. The Pilar on the Rio Grande I mentioned earlier. AZ, NV and TX await.

Your pictures of floating with the dogs reminded me of my wading and swimming exploration of the Chattooga Headwaters. Until recently we were not allowed to paddle the Headwaters, so back in '93 I took my waterproof camera and made like a fish, doing the 25 miles in ~4 mile chunks. About 750 photos, some on my ezwater Flickr pages.

Yeah, to catch the Dolores, you have to
lurk on the internet, watching the snowpack and then watching the BLM for what water they will release from the McPhee Reservoir. Seems like only one year out of 4 or 5 recently when there has been enough water, and then only for a month or so.

which river
If you are sure that mid-March to mid-April is your time frame, be aware that Utah can be plenty cold that time of year. You would need to be prepared for some spring snow storms.

I had a contract in AZ with a mining company for 6 years. We drove through Utah twice a year in May and October. Sometimes it snowed and sometimes it was 95 degrees. March would be iffy for weather.

oh yeah
we got snowed on in May on Mothers Day no less… Bring winter camping gear for sure.

Yeah, I doubt I would do a Utah trip in
mid April. We started from Bluff on the San Juan roughly May 1, and the second camp we woke to ice on the tents. But most days it was OK. We were equipped for a bit of freezing weather, but not for days and days of it.