Stillwater Canyon 3-26-17


May 19, 2012
Trip Reports
Thread starter #1

After many recent float trips down Meander Canyon (fewer people), I decided to give Stillwater another shot. A sublime place, yet hard sometimes to deal with. Our first trip ( ) started out ominously when we had to use We-Suck-A-Long for the drop off and jet boat pickup, and had a 15 mile or so extra distance due to Mineral Bottom Road being washed out, 65 miles in 3 days. It was a bitch. The second time ( ) , Charlie (where are you?), his brother, my good friend Michael and I had a great float, good times. Michael passed away last summer, so this trip was bitter sweet float for me.
Both trips we had only 2 1/2 paddle days, 50 and 65 miles each and that was not nearly enough time to really enjoy what this place has to offer.
So I decided to give myself an extra day this time.
The weather was forecast to be sunny on Sunday (put in day), high of 65. Monday the same with increasing clouds in the evening. Tuesday rain, high about 50. Wednesday and Thursday sunny. The weather site was spot on. Shout out to Weather Underground.

The Green was flowing at about 10k cfs, much higher than the 3000 I am used to. This meant no sand bars, my favorite place to camp. Consequently there will be far fewer places to camp, and all are in high water spots, which I have tended to avoid. It's much easier to pull up to a sand bar, move everything a few feet from the canoe onto the sand and have a cocktail. So this trip would be completely different for me, which is what I wanted.
It was an incredible day when Tex's dropped us off at Mineral Bottom. I met some cool folks in the van on the way to Mineral bottom, a couple with their 4 year old daughter (her 3rd trip!) from Lander Wyoming, and another couple from Denver, all in canoes. We traded notes and experiences, and then we were at the boat ramp. There was a big party barge pushing off for a trip down Cataract, and the Australian Armada, about 15 people in 10 canoes, hell bent on going as fast as they possibly could go. I would see all of these folks once or twice on my way down the river. The couple with the child were in their boat and off in about 20 minutes, very impressive.

I love pushing my canoe off at the start of a new adventure, leaving the rat race way behind. I just float without paddling, spinning slowly, checking out the neighborhood, very happy I am here. I also enjoy being by myself. Group dynamics can be fun, but not what I wanted today. I can camp where I want, eat what I want, and talk to myself if I want a conversation. The only sounds are the canoe cutting the water, wind and the occasional goose, and unfortunately my mind playing a song on continuous loop of Aretha Franklins' Respect (what you want/ baby, I got it!). But soon the river encapsulated my brain, pushing Aretha out.

I decided to try to plan out (loosely) my camping spots. I am using a new map (Guide to the Colorado & Green Rivers in the Canyonlands of Utah & Colorado, way too long of a title), which gives the high water camps a name, none of which I have ever heard. So I will use these names.
I wanted to paddle around 12 miles or so a day, starting late and ending early, because I knew finding places to camp would be problematic.
Map of the first day:

At Mineral Bottom, Sunday afternoon:

In about an hour I was passed by the Aussies, like I was standing still. They were pretty cool, calling me mate and all. They seemed to be really enjoying themselves.
My goal was Hades Camp (great name!), a beautiful little spot, high above the river, sketchy docking place for the boat, not really an issue though. This place could handle probably 5 tents, as shown below.
I was really tired, up since 3am etc. So I hiked up to this spot and made this photo, and that was it for exploring. Back to camp for food and refreshment, sunset and slumber.

I had a leisurely Monday morning, then pushed off.
Second day:

Butte of the Cross:

@ mile 44.5 or so, I pulled over for a view of Upheaval Bottom, not too impressive, at least from the river. So I went back to the cliff over the river for lunch, which is when I saw my 1st (and only) blue herons of this trip, a pair of them. They let me get pretty close:

I was getting a little sleepy as I did not have my afternoon nap. So I looked for a place to stay the night, and ended up @ Upper Cabin Bottom @ mile 25:
Fun spot. A lower level river terrace for the kitchen, with many camp spots above:

From near my tent:

It started to rain and blow hard about 7pm, so I retreated to my tent to read.
It rained and howled that night. Tuesday morning:

Third & fourth day:

In the morning, laying in downy heaven I had a decision to make, the crux of the float, if you will.
Where do I want to camp next? At mile 25, I have 25 miles to the confluence and pick up in 2 days. So I decide to start out early, packing in the light rain, which I would encounter at times the whole day. It was cold, about 50 with the wind and rain. A silver lining: I had a tail wind the whole day! Unheard of, at least for me.
Every camp spot I saw was occupied. Paddling down the river freezing my ass off, all I wanted to do was get out of the frickin' boat. Not to be. I ended up doing 24 miles that day, kicking my ass.
When I passed the Water Camps, I had only 3 spots before the confluence. I decided to let go, not worry about it.
I have always wanted to camp at the side canyon that I think Powell climbed up to get a look around, the place with rocks he "did not understand". I have seen this spot 2 times, always occupied.
I passed 3.3 Mile Camp about 5pm, 2.6 Mile shortly thereafter. One more spot left before the confluence. The last thing I wanted to do was camp at Spanish Bottom Zoo for 2 nights. I went around the bend, Powell Camp was empty!

The above shot is from the camp site above, 3 flat areas about 100 feet above the river. I know I have said this before, that I was at the "best camp spot I have ever seen". Well, this spot is beyond the best. It was a place of supreme grandeur, and healing, which I needed because my arms were ready to fall off. I can't really explain why this place was so magical, it just was.
It takes me about 10 minutes getting the boat tied up, at the large wide flat rock shore. I removed about half of my stuff, then I reached for a container that contained some essential items, and in the process tipped the canoe sideways. The container slid off the boat and started floating down the river, right side up. I just stared at it, and looking up at my perfect camp spot. I quickly loaded up everything and took off for my container. I caught it about 300 yards below the camp. Fun fact: My priceless Backcountry Post beanie was on top of my container when it fell into the river, and it was still there when I found the container. I pulled up in the eddy, and caught my breath. I was pissed. Really pissed. Looking up at my perfectly unoccupied camp spot, I started to eddy back up. I was making good progress until I hit a particularly strong current, about 100 feet below the camp. I tried 3 times to get any further up river. No way. I sat there fuming. My goal was so close! So I decided to give it one more try, sliding down river about 50 feet and getting a head start I made it. I could not move my arms for about ten minutes.
So, I start unloading again, with care. I got everything out except my chair. I edged over to get it and promptly fell into the butt cold river, with no life preserver. I grabbed the edge of the canoe and it tipped into the river, partially filling it with water. But I was able to pull myself up enough to get on the rocks.

View towards the confluence from my terrace:

The next morning I decided to climb up Powell canyon (not sure this is the real name), about 1/4 mile above camp. I was hoping to get up to the overlook 1000' above, which I heard was spectacular. I made it up about 600' and was stopped by a narrow section of the trail with exposure. I am a wussy when it comes to such things.
On my day hike, a view up Powell Canyon:

View down canyon, camp spot on right, confluence in the distance:

Back at the terrace, ahhhhhhh:

Another spot reached by a "bridge" that was not going to be crossed by me:

Next day I paddled the mile and stopped at the confluence river right, and joined a family with 2 kids who were waiting for Tex. They were from Ontario, Canada. We had a good time talking about our respective adventures.

It was an amazing 4 days. Ups, downs & bliss.
Thanks for looking
Last edited:
May 22, 2015
Trip Reports
Ever see any rock art near Lathrop, Gooseberry or Dog leg canyon mouths? West side only. Yes or no suffices. Been wanting to backpack down there from the Island in the Sky.
Jan 17, 2012
Trip Reports
Great report Greg, I love so many of the photos--particularly the herons and the black-and-white view toward the Confluence. I like the idea of dong a solo trip through Labyrinth or Stillwater but I'm a bit of a scaredy cat. Your incident at Powell Camp punctuates my reluctance to float solo--glad you recovered nicely from that!


Desert Rat-Weekend Warrior
Jun 7, 2012
Trip Reports
Looks like a great trip @gnwatts!

My has been wandering to the desert like crazy lately. I'm very jealous of 4 days solo. Cleansing.


Sep 12, 2014
Trip Reports
this was a really good report, thanks for sharing. perfect writing, perfect pictures.


The mountains are calling and I must go
Mar 31, 2013
Trip Reports
I love your B&W shots!

Just looking at your images and reading your
narration I can feel the tranquility.


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