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Green River Labyrinth Canyon

In July 2021 my wife Shani and I paddled 46 miles of the Green River through Labyrinth Canyon in Souther Utah, and when I say "paddled" I mean we paddled or walked every mile of it as there was virtually no flow.

Flows this time of year are low, but being that the western US is in a drought, it is particularly low. The river isn't advisable to paddle below 1000cfs, but on the week we were heading out flow was around 800cfs. I spoke with a local BLM ranger (this section of the river cuts through almost exclusively BLM lands) and she advised us that if we planned on paddling despite the low flow that we should plan on spending an extra day or two out there. Given that most people paddle this section in 3-5 days that was a big ask.

Shani is a tough person, but she's not as excited about sleeping outdoors as I am, so she was convinced and determined to paddle the 46+ miles in 2 days. I explained that flows weren't like the Colorado River we had done the month before where we easily could paddle/float 20+ miles a day, but nonetheless she had her mind set. I had my doubts and so carried enough food for 4 days and figured we could probably push hard and do the trip in 3 days.

The put in for most people running this stretch of river is a private boat ramp at Ruby Ranch about 1.5 hours drive north from Moab and the take out (unless you have a permit to go further) is Mineral Bottom just before the boundary of Canyon Lands National Park.

We drove our two vehicles up to Moab from Arizona and left our Prius at the top of Mineral Bottom switchbacks, which is 3.5 miles from the river and 1000+ ft of elevation gain. Having ridden the White Rim Trail I knew this wasn't gonna be a fun walk out, but we are fit and so prepared. We then drove our truck to Ruby Ranch for the put in.

Ruby Ranch is about 16 miles down a dirt road, most of which is graded and in pretty good shape. You'll have to go through a closed gate and enter on to the private ranch in order to reach the water. Utilizing this launch requires a fee and is on the honors system. Looking at the area I wouldn't want to be caught trying to cheat anyone btw.

We were able to get a decent start of around 10am and began paddling in the super silty and slow moving river. At best it we could float at around 1 mile per hour, which wasn't going to cut it so we started paddling and didn't stop until we hit our first un-passable sandbars.

The river was so low that even in low volume boats we still had to walk big sections, at times up to 3/4 mile through ankle deep water.

Honestly though it was a welcome break from hours of nonstop paddling and the temperature of the air and water made it feel like a day at the beach in tide pools.

We saw only one other group that day of canoers already camped for the evening as we pushed on to 20 miles.

By 7pm it was starting to get late and we spotted a beautiful high sandbar island beach to camp on. There were no bugs to speak of, but being almost in the middle of the river and the light breeze meant we weren't experiencing what the shore may actually have to offer regarding insects.

Unfortunately it didn't cool off much that evening and so we both sweated through the night, not making for very fitful sleep.

We were able to get a nice early start and were paddling by 7am. I kept reminding Shani that we didn't need to finish that day because we would need to paddle 25+ miles, plus hike the 3.5 out with all our gear. I tried to gently convince her that we should just do 15 miles and finish the following day, but once she puts her mind to something she is gonna do it.

Shani is kind of a fitness addict, so she decided that she was going to treat this just like a work out and said "Lets paddle non-stop for an hour" so we both did. After the hour of hard paddling we would float for a few minutes and then start again for another hour of non-stop paddling. We were covering pretty good distance but our mph was dropping every hour, but as we got closer and closer it felt ridiculous that we would spend another night out when we only had X number of miles left.

By about 5pm we reached the mineral bottom boat ramp and dragged ourselves out of the water and packed up. It was still pretty hot out but Shani didn't want to wait for it to cool off before the trudge out.

I took the bulk of the weight in my pack, but still Shani was going to have to carry her boat, pfd and her remaining food and she isn't much of a backpacker so when I put the pack on her back she was bummed.

We started off at a pretty good clip but once the climb started it meant lots of breaks. I was beat but got a second wind as we worked our way slowly up the intense switchback road. A number of vehicles passed us but none had space to haul us and our gear out, so we trucked on.

Getting to the top of the switch back and to our vehicle was a relief. We pushed ourselves super hard for two days and covered 49 miles exactly. I don't have any interest in doing this stretch in that sort of pace again, but it was cool to know we could do it.

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