Desolation Canyon makes for a relaxed, enjoyable week on the river. The whitewater is relatively easy at most water levels, the scenery is spectacular, and there are several historical sites to visit. The canyon contains over sixty rapids and riffles, most in the Class II range, as well as over sixty hikeable side canyons. You could do this trip again and again and still find new places to explore. Desolation Canyon the jack of all trades of river trips - there is something for everyone to enjoy.

Playing some horseshoes on the beach at Three Canyon.

Playing some horseshoes on the beach at Three Canyon.

The massive sandy beaches along the river make for fantastic desert camping. You'll want to have a layover day at every single one to explore the areas around camp. Many of the camps have access to native historical sites, petroglyphs, or old settlements from the days of the Wild West.

The old buildings at Rock Creek Ranch are a fantastic piece of history.

The old buildings at Rock Creek Ranch are a fantastic piece of history.

Get your family out there and get on Deso! This trip is perfect for the whole family, as well as for beginner rowers to hone their skills. Don't let the name fool you! Desolation Canyon is a desert paradise.

Trip Highlights

Mile 0: Sand Wash Boat Launch. There are several campsites here so you can meet up at put-in the day before if you would like. Make sure to check in with the ranger to get your orientation talk before launching!

Mile 6: The first of the many historical sites on the river, an old skiff lies abandoned on the side of the river.

Mile 10.2: Sumner's Amphitheater is on river right. This perfectly symmetrical amphitheater is a sight to behold.

Mile 15.3: Rock House Canyon, or Temple Canyon. A cool petroglyph panel lies a short hike up this side canyon on the right hand wall. Please respect this site by not touching!

The petroglyphs at Rock House Canyon.

The petroglyphs at Rock House Canyon.

Mile 23.4: Named by the John Wesley Powell expedition, Lighthouse Rock, a massive rock spire, is on river right.

Mile 25.3: Jack Creek comes in from river right. This massive side canyon has several shady campsites downstream of the creek. The canyon is hikeable and goes back for many, many miles.

Mile 29: Firewater Canyon comes in from the left. A short hike up-canyon leads to an old moonshiner's cabin that gives the canyon it's name.

Mile 38.5: Steer Ridge Rapid (Class III-). There are several rock piles throughout this long rapid. The line is generally left of center.

Mile 41.1: Rock Creek enters the river from the right. The trail along the creek makes for a nice hike on a hot day. There are some Native American sites up the canyon.

Mile 41.8: Rock Creek Ranch is on river right. This old site is a MUST STOP on Desolation. Built in 1914 by the Seamont family, this ranch served as homestead, orchard, and outlaw hideout until the mid 20's when it was abandoned due to economic issues. Legendary outlaws Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid were known to have hidden out at Rock Creek Ranch. The old buildings stand un-restored, still full of the homemaking and farming equipment from 100 years ago. If you need more time at the Ranch, a campsite just downstream has hiking access.

Old farm equipment and original buildings can be found at the old Rock Creek Ranch.

Old farm equipment and original buildings can be found at the old Rock Creek Ranch.

Mile 54.3: Three Canyon boasts one of the best campsites on the river. This large sandy beach has plenty of tent sites, space for games, and access to trails. The Three Canyon Loop hike takes you around the large butte just behind camp.

The loop hike at Three Canyon.

The loop hike at Three Canyon.

Mile 54.3: Joe Hutch or Cow Swim Rapid (Class III). A debris slide down Joe Hutch Canyon in 2008 made this rapid one of the biggest on the canyon overnight. A wave train down the left side leads into a sharp right hand turn. Be ready to move right.

Mile 55.4: McPhearson Ranch, another old homestead, is on the right. Here, modern buildings have been built but there are still some cool bits of history.

Mile 57.6: Wire Fence Canyon comes in from the right. A lovely campsite just above the rapid provides hiking to Wire Fence Canyon. Several trails run through the area, and a small ridge nearby offers some fun rock climbing routes to those with natural anchor skills.

Going climbing up Wire Fence Canyon.

Going climbing up Wire Fence Canyon.

Mile 58.2: Three Fords Rapid (Class III-). This long rapid has a slow lead-in and then a quick shot down the right side. At most water levels, the left side is too shallow, so hugging the wall on the right side of the rapid is usually the line.

Mile 59: You are now leaving Desolation Canyon behind and entering Gray Canyon.

Mile 68.6: Coal Creek Rapid (Class II+). This long rapid has several rock hazards at the top and then a long, splashy run-out. Below the rapid on river left, you can hike to an old abandoned cabin.

Mile 72.3: School Section Canyon joins the river from the right. A very small pull in just above the rapid accesses a big, beautiful campsite. A trail leads up the deep, twisting canyon with some fun rock scrambling. Another trail leads to the top of the cliff behind camp. This campsite is the perfect place to spend your last night on the river.

Mile 74.4: Nefertiti Rock is on the right. This is the put-in for the "Green River Daily" run, an 8 mile stretch of the last bit of Gray Canyon.

Mile 82.6: Swasey's Boat Ramp, and the end of your trip!

Written by
Nick Wright

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