Labyrinth Canyon |

Green River

Floating Labyrinth Canyon - Green River Floating Labyrinth Canyon
Green River

Overview | Getting There | Route | Photos | Maps | Comments

Overview

RATING: Easy Float
CFS RANGE: 500 - 20,000
MAPS: GREEN RIVER, UT; TENMILE POINT, UT; MINERAL CANYON, UT; BOWKNOT BEND, UT; HORSE BENCH EAST, UT; GREEN RIVER SE, UT

Thu

94 | 58

Fri

96 | 59

Sat

97 | 60

Sun

93 | 62

Mon

94 | 61

View Full Weather Details
SEASON: Spring, Summer, Fall
GEAR: Standard floating gear, bug spray, sunscreen.
WATER: The river is very silty. Bring all you need if you can, or a way to remove the silt before filtering.

Thu

94 | 58

Fri

96 | 59

Sat

97 | 60

Sun

93 | 62

Mon

94 | 61

View Full Weather Details

"There is an exquisite charm in our ride to-day down this beautiful canyon. It gradually grows deeper with every mile of travel; the walls are symmetrically curved and grandly arched, of a beautiful color, and reflected in the quiet waters in many places so as almost to deceive the eye and suggest to the beholder the thought that he is looking into profound depths."

-John Wesley Powell, Canyons of the Colorado

I can think of no better introduction to Labyrinth Canyon than the imagery Powell conjures up in his description of Labyrinth Canyon when he and his men floated the Green River in 1869. He and his men named this picturesque canyon.

Floating the Green River through Labyrinth Canyon is one of my absolute favorite trips. Though a class I float that more hardcore boaters might consider "boring", the scenery of the float more than makes up for the lack of rapids in my opinion. This may be the best family-friendly river trip in Utah filled with scenery, history, and a lazy meandering river.

The trip is, however, a bit of an endeavor. It is commonly floated from the town of Green River to Mineral Bottom, as a 68-mile trip, or from Ruby Ranch to Mineral Bottom as a 45-mile trip. I would recommend 3 days as a minimum if starting at Ruby Ranch, and 4+ if starting from Green River. The canyon lends itself to lazy afternoons at camp and a leisurely pace.

Season

Spring
Floating in April, May can be pleasant, and usually before the bugs start to come out. Flows often start to rise in mid-May to peak flows by the end of May or the first part of June. In my experience, up canyon winds can be worst in the spring. Once water levels rise, finding paths through the tamarisk for a place to camp is challenging and not fun.

Summer
June, July, and August are my least favorite times to be on the river. Afternoon heat can be a bit miserable if not on the river, but more-so can be the bugs. On my first July trip, the bugs were so bad when not in the middle of the river floating, we paddled from Green River to Mineral Bottom in about 30 hours, stopping when it got dark to sleep, but otherwise trying to stay away from shore and the bugs! Like spring, high flows make finding camping spots harder. By mid to late summer, the flows drop enough to find good sandbars and banks to camp on.

Fall
September and early to mid-October are my preferred season. Nice temps, still fairly long days, and fewer or no bugs make this a charming time to be on the river. The lower river levels mean sandy beaches and islands to camp on, but lower flows can mean for long floating days (or more paddling).

Winter
Not advised to float in winter. At least one group has ended up stranded when they found the river iced completely over mid-way through. The road down to Mineral Bottom can be impassable at times in the winter as well.

Permits

Floating requires a permit from the BLM, available on their website. Currently, these are free and unlimited.

Notes

  • Canoes are the most common way to Labyrinth, and what I recommend. Easy, fast, and a great way to experience the canyon.
  • Rafts, duckies, and other inflatables are also commonly used, but generally slower than canoes because of resistance in the water. I used a cataraft one spring trip, and enjoyed the extra space, but used canoes on all other trips.
  • Motors are allowed in Labyrinth, and I have run into one or two motorized rafts on my trips, but they are pretty uncommon. The group we ran into was struggling in the low water with the motor constantly dragging.
  • On all of my trips, float time seems to average about 3 miles an hour if not paddling much. On early spring trips, with higher/faster water, this has also meant stronger winds, slowing down overall mileage. Fall trips I have found a slower river, but less wind. For planning, 3 miles per hour has worked well for me.
  • Bugs can be horrendous at certain times. Bring bug spray.
  • The river water is very silty. Either bring all you need with you (recommended) or some way to remove silt before filtering (like alum).
  • If water is high and sandbar/island camping isn't available, often the best places to get through the tamarisk seems to be at the start or end of the hollows. I have also had good luck landing the boat at the end of a side canyon and walking upstream a ways to find a place out of the tamarisk.
  • Pick a campsite well before dark! On a couple of occasions, I left finding a campsite too long and ended up settling for a bad spot in the tamarisk as darkness was fast approaching...
Panorama from the saddle of Bowknot Bend.

Getting There

Starting Points
The float can be started in Green River (68 mile float) or Ruby Ranch (48 mile float). I have done most of my trips from Green River, and one trip from Ruby Ranch. I generally prefer Green River with the first day floating to just before Labyrinth Canyon and camping on a sandbar.

Green River
Starting in Green River has the pros of the shuttle being a bit easier (with less dirt road), and saving a few bucks on using the private Ruby Ranch Launch. One con of starting in Green River is the extra 20 miles is not particularly scenic compared to the lower 48 miles. The other main con is that before Ruby Ranch the land is mostly private, making finding a place to camp difficult. If starting at Green River, plan on floating at least past Ruby Ranch to find camping the first night.

The Green River launches are either Green River State Park (as of 2019, a $5 day use fee and $5 per night to leave a vehicle at the boat ramp) or putting in at the bridge over the Green River in downtown Green River on the I-70 Business Loop. (free, but no long term parking)

Ruby Ranch
Ruby Ranch is the other common starting point. It requires a bit of good dirt road to reach the ranch, and a fee to park and launch from the private ranch. In 2019, the fee was $10 per boat AND $5 per person. Most start at Ruby Ranch because the river quickly enters Labyrinth Canyon below Ruby Ranch and is all public land once in the canyon.

To reach Ruby Ranch, take exit 175 from I-70 and head south off the highway. This is about 10 miles east of the city of Green River. Once off the highway, head south on the dirt road and reset your odometer:

  • 7.4 miles - Turn left. This is BLM #147.
  • 12.9 miles - Junction, stay left on Ruby Ranch Road.
  • 14.9 miles - After going around a field, the road reaches a junction at the edge of fields. Go right here and follow the road as it curves around the field.
  • 15.5 miles - Stay left as the road continues around the field and heads southwest to the river and a parking spot.
  • 16 miles - The put-in and parking spot.

Ending Point
Most Labyrinth Canyon trips end at Mineral Bottom. Just below Mineral Bottom, the river enters Canyonlands National Park. Permits are required for all overnight trips in Canyonlands National Park as well as a jet boat shuttle back up from the confluence to Moab.

Mineral Bottom is reached from Highway 313, the highway to Canyonlands Island In the Sky. From the junction of 191 and 313, go west on 313 about 13 miles to a well signed Mineral Bottom Road on the right. Follow this good gravel road 15 miles. It steeply descends switchbacks to the river. At the bottom of the switchbacks, stay right to reach the put in.

Put-in and Take Out Shuttles
I've done my own shuttle on some of my trips. It is time-consuming to set up, and a hassle. A list of current shuttles is available on Discover Moab. I now use a shuttle on all trips to save time and hassle. It is more enjoyable to spend several hours floating on the Green than driving cars back and forth.

Route

Below are the main attractions that I recommend with river mile estimates on the map. River miles (RM) marked on the map are approximate from the confluence of the Green River and Colorado.

  • RM 121 - Green River Put-in on the river right.
  • RM 120 - State Park Put-In on the river right
  • RM 115.5 - Crystal Geyser river left. This geyser is a remnant of an old drilling exploration that hit a pocket of soda. These days the geyser is quite unpredictable. You can stop here but are unlikely to see the geyser, it generally only erupts ever 24+ hours. The area is easy to spot, as colorful flow stone comes down to the edge of the river.
  • RM 97.1 - Ruby Ranch on the river left
  • RM 97 - San Rafael River enters on the river right
  • RM 90 - Three Canyon on the river right. The bend is called Trin Alcove Bend and was named by Powell. Three Canyon is the start of Labyrinth Canyon. Hiking up the bottom of Three as a day hike is an excellent outing. Camping at the mouth is very popular and recommended if a spot is open.
  • RM 80.5 - Ten Mile Canyon comes in on the river left. A popular lunch spot on my trips.
  • RM 79 - Keg Spring Canyon comes in on the river right. Seldom trod, the bottom of the canyon is easy walking and quite pretty. It is more open than Three Canyon.
  • RM 77.5 - River Register on the river left. This is an interesting place for a break. DO NOT ADD YOUR NAME. The old names are historic and fascinating. Your name would just be adding graffiti!
  • RM 75.8 - Hey Joe Canyon on the river left. A popular spot to stop for a short hike. Just up canyon from the river is the site of Hey Joe Mine. This is an old Uranium and Vanadium mine.
  • RM 74.9 - D. Julien Signature on river left. Denis Julien was a fur trapper born in 1772. You can find his inscriptions in several places in Utah and one in Colorado. He would have been one of very few Europeans in the area at that time. Most of his signatures are from the 1830s, making him in his late 50s or early 60s when traveling the area. Some of his inscriptions include the depiction of a sail. It is assumed he used a sail at times when navigating the Green and Colorado Rivers.
  • RM 73.3 - Launch Marguerite on the river left. This is a signature left by a group that floated the river in 1909 and a prominent landmark.
  • RM 69.7 - The beginning of the river's loop around Bowknot Bend. The river makes a sweeping 8-mile bend to arrive less than a half of a mile south. A social trail goes from the river (river right) to the notch that separates the river and makes a great side trip. You can hike down to the river on the other side as well making a 3/4 mile hike that cuts off 8 miles of floating (if someone in your group will float the boat around the bend!).
  • RM 67.5 - Spring Canyon comes in on the river left. A road comes down Spring Canyon and parallels the river here.
  • RM 60.8 - Two Mile Canyon comes in on the river right.
  • RM 59.2 - Horseshoe Canyon comes in on the right. The end of the float is only 7 miles away. If camping a final night, decent camping can often be found here. Below Horseshoe, I have not found any good campsites. Horseshoe is a big canyon and makes a great hike if you are motivated.
  • RM 55.5 - Hell Roaring Canyon on river left. There is a second D. Julien signature on the rocks a short distance up from the river on the right (north facing) wall.
  • RM 52.1 - Mineral Bottom Takeout on river left.

Maps

Printable Maps:
Green River Put-In

12S 574159mE 4316496mN

N38° 59' 40" W110° 08' 37"

State Park Put-In

12S 573588mE 4315863mN

N38° 59' 19" W110° 09' 01"

Crystal Geyser

12S 574907mE 4310270mN

N38° 56' 17" W110° 08' 09"

Ruby Ranch Put-in

12S 577733mE 4292443mN

N38° 46' 38" W110° 06' 18"

San Rafael River

12S 577652mE 4292297mN

N38° 46' 34" W110° 06' 22"

Three Canyon

12S 576169mE 4284543mN

N38° 42' 22" W110° 07' 26"

Ten Mile Canyon

12S 581384mE 4279551mN

N38° 39' 39" W110° 03' 53"

Keg Spring Canyon

12S 581940mE 4277920mN

N38° 38' 46" W110° 03' 30"

River Register

12S 583205mE 4279498mN

N38° 39' 37" W110° 02' 37"

Hey Joe Canyon

12S 583245mE 4277362mN

N38° 38' 27" W110° 02' 37"

Julien

12S 583097mE 4276041mN

N38° 37' 44" W110° 02' 43"

Marg

12S 582346mE 4274581mN

N38° 36' 57" W110° 03' 15"

Bowknot Pass Trail

12S 584655mE 4273718mN

N38° 36' 29" W110° 01' 40"

Spring Canyon

12S 587072mE 4275021mN

N38° 37' 10" W109° 59' 59"

Two Mile Canyon

12S 581906mE 4271074mN

N38° 35' 04" W110° 03' 35"

Horseshoe Canyon

12S 583687mE 4269690mN

N38° 34' 18" W110° 02' 22"

Julien 2

12S 588518mE 4268886mN

N38° 33' 50" W109° 59' 02"

Mineral Bottom Takeout

12S 587779mE 4264511mN

N38° 31' 29" W109° 59' 35"

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