Sayonara, Quiet Little Green River


Jun 11, 2017
It really bothers me that Green River is going the way of Moab by trying to entice the UTV crowd. Moab's been overrun with them, and I even have friends talking about moving because of all the noise, though Moab is trying to deal with it (pretty much unsuccessfully).

For those of you who enjoy motor toys, let me say that I don't mind dirt bikes and ATVs if in small quantities and respectful. I spent 10 years exploring the countryside around Moab and Green RIver with my Yamaha four-stroke, which I finally ended up selling. It can be a great way to see the country, and I enjoy watching the dirt bikers fly through the air at the track at the Price fairgrounds. But the UTV crowd seems different - they ride in huge mobs and well...I could go on and on, having witnessed a lot of damage from them at the Sand Flats when volunteering there for a couple of years.

I'm starting to feel like an oldtimer bemoaning all the changes.

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Who doesn't love a convoy of 30 UTVs buzzing past, and being able to literally eat their dust and breathe their gas exhaust fumes for 5-10 minutes after they've passed?

I bumped up a mountain road in the Oquirrhs a couple years ago on a UTV to see a site that was the subject of litigation I was working on. We were in one UTV, following our clients in another, and it was one of the least pleasant backcountry experiences I've had. We had a windshield, but I still had grit in my teeth and the smell of exhaust in my nose the entire day. That combined with the constant bumps and swaying gave me a massive headache.

I feel curmudgeonly complaining about stuff like this too and I try to remind myself I don't necessarily have any moral high ground as long as they're recreating legally. Although I've made it clear it's not an activity I enjoy, I do like that ORVs get people outdoors to see cool stuff they wouldn't go out and see otherwise. I just don't like the culture of it where they get these massive groups together to go out and do it. A lot of them probably don't like backpacking culture either, so I guess we're square.
I owned some ATVs for a few years, right about as the UTV craze was emerging--I couldn't afford $20K machines so I stuck with a couple of $5K vehicles. Eventually I grew tired of the dust and being out in the weather and got a cheap ($7K) Jeep Grand Cherokee that would hold my entire family of four and some dogs, and now I don't see what the appeal ever was. A small unmodified Jeep will get you almost anywhere one of those huge UTVs can go, and in much more comfort. And the one thing I will never understand is why the exhaust is so loud on those things. If a 4.0 L engine can be so quiet, why can't a 500 or 1,000 CC engine?

But, back to Green River. I don't think things will get much worse there. There's really not that much you can ride to directly from town, and those areas where you can (e.g., White Wash sand dunes or Tenmile Canyon) have already long been taken over. Besides those few areas there's a lot of solitude to be found, in the Book Cliffs or the San Rafael Reef, where these DeciBels won't bother you.
UTV's seem like they could be fun if you're a pro driver ripping them through crazy stuff like Ken Block, but usually, I just see people who have their heads wrapped up in scarves and goggles to protect from all the dust like they're preparing for a weeks long trip across the sahara. Or they're driving past my camp while I'm shivering and all I can think of is how cold they must be. It looks pretty miserable. I'd way rather have a jeep or a truck like @Udink mentioned and have the option to roll the windows up and down. Windows AND a heater! Imagine that! Glad people get out and enjoy themselves, but it kind of seems like something that might grow old pretty quick. All that said, I also don't think Green River has enough appeal to them for this to make much of a difference. But that crowd is pretty mad at Moab lately, so who knows.
I drove one for the first time this past Christmas. We had an outdoor family gathering and someone showed up with one so I thought I would give it a try. I sold my Jeep when we bought our Tacoma but if I wanted to do the kind of UTV stuff again I would rather have an old Jeep Wrangler. I am not a fan, basically for all of the reasons mentioned above.
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