Deso/Gray Solo Trip Report

I flew into Sand Wash around 8 am on Saturday July 12th. I brought all of my gear, including five days of food and a little over 4 liters of water. The hike in to the river was only a couple of miles at most. After getting the all clear from the ranger, I headed down the river. I did not realize that sections of the river that had no rapids basically had the current of a lake. I paddled for about 2 miles before fortunately hooking up with a commerical group that had a motor for their three rafts. I ended up attaching my Alpaca to the side of one of the rafts, kind of like a little side car. They helped me get to Jack Creek Rapid (about mile 26), which is the start of the rapids and a steady current on the river.

They stopped at Jack Creek for the day, but I continued on for another 10 miles to a small island above Fretwater Falls. I’m glad I ended up bringing my tent (without the rain fly) because the bugs were ever-present. I set up my tent for the night on the sand bar and staked my boat out over the river with my throw rope. It was one of the best nights of sleep I’ve ever had outside when I didn’t have a sleeping pad (I did wake up at 2 am in a panic, thinking that my boat had floated away, other than that it was a good night).

I woke up early the next morning and got on the river at around 7:30 am. The river was flowing well and I made some really good time. None of the rapids were a big challenge, mostly just ride it straight down the tongue type of rapids. I passed up a number of other parties through-out the day, including a family on a nine-day trip, an archeological group, and a NOLS group. The rapids were mostly forgetful, but the scenery was amazing. Cow Slide, Three Fords, and Coal Creek were by far the best rapids, though. I’m glad I ended up scouting Coal Creek, because there was a fairly large hole along the main wave train.

I was planning on camping at Rattlesnake or Nefertiti Rapid, but there were groups there. By the time I passed Nefertiti, it was only about 5:30 pm, so I decided to continue on for as far as possible until it got dark. I ended up making it all the way to Swasey’s Beach by 6:40 pm. I decided to stop at Swasey’s instead of continuing down to Green River State Park (since most of that 12 miles is flat). I was able to hitch a ride a ride back to the airport with a guy that runs river shuttles on the Green and the Colorado). The whole trip was about 3 hiking miles, 84 river miles, and 2 days. It was such an awesome trip; absolutely beautiful.

I’ve posted pictures on my photo-sharing site:

Wow - 2 days - that’s a lot of ground you covered!

I ended up doing 36 miles on the river the first day, with help on the flats from that commercial group. The second day was 48 miles. That’s the nice thing about solo trips, you get to make all of the decisions. I decided to keep rafting all day on the second day because I didn’t have much better to do if I had pulled over for the night.

My original plan was to go another 12 miles to the state park and then hike back to my truck at the airport, but the flat water was just too slow (and a bit boring), so I pulled out at Swasey’s.

Hm. Sounds like you totally fluffed the research :unamused:

Some beta for anyone else thinking about this trip…

  • As with most desert rivers, Desolation bugs, camps, difficulty of rapids & flatwater flow are highly water-level dependent. Spring runoff is fastest flow, biggest waves & fewest bugs until the water starts to drop. Summer is warmer water & weather, longer days, mulberries & sandbar camps;
  • You can skip the flight in & float from the Uintah Basin if you like rivers rather than just whitewater;
  • The hike from the airstrip is scenic & less than a mile.
  • Don’t plan to camp at the put-in–the mosquitos at Sandwash are legendary;
  • There are excellent hikes & western history stops on this trip. Don’t hurry;
  • You can drive in to do Gray Canyon as a splashy daily, so don’t plan on having those camps [Nefertiti, et al] available when you get there.
  • In runoff, the Price River flows enough to boat if you’re looking for adventure. Try hwy-6 to the confluence with the Green, then on to Swasey’s take out.
  • In runoff, you could also run the White River to join into this trip;
  • Between Swasey’s & Green River State Park is a potentially dangerous lowhead dam & ag diversion with an unpleasant portage. Get some local beta before floating this stretch.
  • Buy a melon in Green River [amazing], check out the river museum & get a burger at Ray’s Tavern.