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Green River, Colorado
Report by Marc W. McCord

Gates of Lodore to Split Mountain Campground
~ 44.0 Miles

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SOAR Inflatable Canoes - Somewhere On A River

General Description

The Green River is a very long stream forming in the Wind River Range of the Rocky Mountains in Bridger Teton National Forest of Sublette County, Wyoming, then winding its way south into Utah, turning east into Colorado and finally back south down into Utah where it terminates at the confluence of the Colorado River in Canyonlands National Park in San Juan County. The featured section is the 19 miles of Lodore Canyon, the upper end of this 44 mile run from the Lodore Ranger Station in extreme northwestern Colorado to Split Mountain Campground in Utah, though trips can continue another 8 miles to US Highway 40 near Jensen. This reach of the Green River encompasses Lodore, Whirlpool, and Split Mountain Canyons, all of which are quite scenic.

The Green River flows through Dinosaur National Monument where Lodore Canyon is located. This predominantly Class III whitewater run is in the high desert, with towering sandstone mountains on either side. Permits from the National Park Service are required for trips in this area, and are not easily come by. However, a trip here will be well worth any effort required, and the permit system limits overcrowding on a very popular section of the Green River. Contact Dinosaur National Monument River Office (970-374-2468) for permit information. During the heart of the season campsites along the river will be assigned by the NPS according to paddlers' itineraries, so be sure to have a good idea when and where you want to paddle when you contact the NPS about getting a permit. Camping is allowed ONLY in designated sites at all times. Most river runners camp at the Gates of Lodore Campground the night before starting their trips.

Ancient petroglyphs can be viewed on the lower reaches of this section. Fishing is excellent on the Green River, and Jones Hole Creek in Utah offers a great location for trout (be sure to have a fishing license and a trout stamp). The water is cold and clean, a necessity for trout populations, so paddlers need to wear appropriate clothing to protect against hypothermia. Numerous birds of prey and wild animals, including Bighorn sheep, are often seen on this section. What will NOT be seen are signs of civilization other than paddlers, and some of them are not all that civilized!

Location

Moffat County of far northwestern Colorado and northeastern Uintah County of Utah. Lodore Ranger Station is about 6-7 hours from Denver or about 5-6 hours from Grand Junction, depending upon road conditions.

Distance from major cities

Durango 420 miles; Grand Junction 250 miles; Denver 290 miles; Albuquerque 630 miles; Salt Lake City 320 miles; Phoenix 875 miles; Oklahoma City 915 miles; Dallas 1,075 miles; San Antonio 1,235 miles; Houston 1,325 miles (all distances are approximate and depend upon starting point and destination point on the river.)

Water Quality and Flow Rates

The Green River through Lodore canyon flows murky and cold. Its water quality is good, but not drinkable without purification. It is recommended that you bring your own drinking water since river water may be too silty for adequate filtration and purification. Snowmelt and late spring rainfall are the primary sources of water in the river. Dam releases from Flaming Gorge Reservoir in Utah may provide additional flow from time to time.

Best time to go

The prime season for Lodore Canyon of the Green River is April through October, and sometimes after a fall release of water from Flaming Gorge Reservoir in Utah. Typically, river trips can be made at any time of the year, weather conditions allowing.

Permit Requirements

Any trip through Dinosaur National Monument requires an elusive and hard-to-obtain permit issued by the DNM River Office. High use seasons run from the second Monday in May through the second Friday in September on the Green River, and through July 14 on the Yampa River. Low use and/or low-water permit seasons are all other times. Lottery applications must be submitted between November 1 and Febraury 1. For detailed information please visit the Dinosaur National Mounment web site.

Hazards to navigation

There are numerous Class III rapids through Lodore Canyon that require vigilance in negotiating them safely. Though none pose threats of imminent danger to intermediate or higher level whitewater paddlers, or even novice paddlers in guided rafts, attention to the task at hand is necessary. The first significant rapid is Upper Disaster Falls, followed quickly by Lower Disaster Falls, a couple of great Class III drops that are fun and challenging, located between Jack Draw (on river left) and Zenobia Creek (on river left) starting about 5 miles below the put-in. Next comes Harp Falls, located just below Zenobia Creek and Pot Creek (on river left) about 7 miles below the put-in. Triplet Falls at about 11.0 miles below the put-in requires a hard left turn away from the right bank. Avoid the cut-away rocky alcove at all costs! Hell's Half Mile is located about a mile or less below Triplet Falls, and is the last significant rapid on this section of the Green River, though numerous other Class II to III rapids will be found between Hell's half Mile and Split Mountain Campground. Hell's Half Mile can be scouted from river left for a view of a boulder garden with a fairly large-sized hole (at high water) or a large rock (at low flow).

River Access Points

Lodore Ranger Station on river left off Colorado SH 318 at 0.0 miles; Echo Park Campground on river left at 19.0 miles (difficult access - trailers not allowed!); Rainbow Park Campground on river left at 35.0 miles; Split Mountain Campground on river right at about 44.0 miles; US Highway 40 near Jensen at about 52.0 miles.

Campgrounds and accommodations

Gates of Lodore Campground (NPS) at 0.0 miles; Wade and Curtis campsite (NPS) on river right at about 2.5 miles; Pot Creek campsite (NPS) on river right at about 7.0 miles; Kolb campsite (NPS) on river right at about 8.0 miles; Triplet Falls campsite (NPS) on river left at about 8.8 miles; Rippling Brook campsite (NPS) on river right at about 9.5 miles; Wild Mountain campsite (NPS) on river right at about 11.0 miles; Limestone campsite (NPS) on river left at about 13.5 miles; Echo Park Campground on river left at about 19.0 miles; Stateline campsite (NPS) on river right at about 25.0 miles; Jones Hole campsite (NPS) on river right at about 26.0 miles; Compromise campsite (NPS) on river left at about 27.5 miles; Cove campsite (NPS) on river left at about 31.0 miles; Big Island campsite (NPS) on river right at about 31.0 miles; Island Park campsite (NPS) on river right at about 33.0 miles; Rainbow Park Campground on river right at about 35.0 miles; Split Mountain Campground on river right at about 44.0 miles; and Green River Campground on river right at about 44.5 miles.

NOTE: All campsites designated as NPS campsites are assigned by the rangers of the National Park Service when permits are issued for trips during the peak of the season. Always check with park rangers about campsites before beginning a trip, and stick to your paddling schedule so that you arrive at your designated campsite before dark. The NPS offers primitive campsites, so be sure to bring along everything you will need, and protect it in drybags. Also, boaters on multi-day trips CANNOT camp at either Echo Park or Rainbow Park.

Liveries, outfitters and shuttle services

There are at least ten commercial outfitters who are NPS-aproved vendors offering rentals, shuttles, guided trips and/or river information for Green River trips in Colorado.

Reviewer's comments

If there is a single drawback to paddling Lodore Canyon, then that would have to be the popularity of the place. During the peak of the season the Green River attracts a lot of traffic, and below Echo Park that is enhanced by paddlers joining the Green River from the Yampa River. However, assuming you can get a permit, that is not a decent reason to avoid paddling Lodore Canyon. The majestic sandstone mountains, deep canyon walls, wildlife, and picturesque scenery all around, as well as great Class II to III whitewater rapids, make Lodore Canyon a favorite trip for many paddlers in canoes, kayaks and rafts. Be sure to take along at least one gallon of water per person per day for drinking and food preparation, as well as additional water for hygiene purposes. Pack a camera, because you are going to need it here! Unfortunately, the normal season is usually limited to April through October, but controlled releases from Flaming Gorge Reservoir (Utah) will allow trips in the normal off-season. Check with US Army Corps of Engineers at the lake, or contact the Lodore River Office for release information.

Technical Data
Class Rating II to IV
Length 44 miles
Minimum Flow cfs
Optimum Flow 1,000 - 6,000 cfs
Maximum Flow cfs
First Put-in Lodore Ranger Station off SH 318
Lat. / Long. 40.6338882 / -108.9569473
Last Take-out Split Mountain Campground
Lat. / Long.
Elevation 5335 ft to 4785 ft msl
Gradient 15-19 fpm (average)
USGS Gauge Web: Greendale
Boats Canoes, Kayaks, Rafts
Season Year-round, weather permitting
Permits Yes - Dinosaur National Monument (970-374-2468) - see "Permit Requirements" section at left


Map of the Yampa River public access points courtesy Colorado State Parks Department
Map of the Yampa River public access points courtesy
Colorado State Parks Department


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Last updated September 14, 2014

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