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Front Page » May 15, 2007 » Local News » Destination Desolation
Published 2,662 days ago

Destination Desolation


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By PATSY STODDARD
Editor

The Green River as it meanders through Desolation Canyon offers a world class river trip experience.

Destination Desolation. Each year a few lucky river runners can make their way down Desolation Canyon. This adventure comes cheap according to the Bureau of Land Management who manages the river travel. For $18 you can have a permit that is good for the entire time you spend floating and enjoying the Green River.

BLM, representative, Dennis Willis presented his case before the BLM RAC in Castle Dale to raise the fee for Desolation. The proposed fee increase is to $25 per person per trip. The $18 fee has been in place for 14 years. The $25 proposed fee is still a virtual bargain in todays terms for a world class adventure. The Desolation program is totally self sustaining and has been except for last year when they had to borrow $30,000 to keep things operating. Their goal is just to stay even with the expenses.

Willis said, "Desolation is the deepest canyon in Utah. In 1969 it was designated a National Landmark. The river experience has changed very little since John Wesley Powell's time. It is a BLM special recreation management area. People will put in at Sand Wash and take out approximately 12 miles upstream from the town of Green River at Swaseys Beach on the east side of the river. Desolation begins in Uintah County and spans Carbon and part of Emery counties. It is an 84 mile journey to Swasey's Beach. Desolation canyon is on a high plateau. The canyon is rich in cultural resources and also includes the 320 acre Flat Canyon Archaeology District.

"I first came to the Price Field Office 27 years ago. I was going to be here two-three years and then move on, but as you can see I am still here. In addition to the archaeological history there is also outlaw and pioneer history in the canyon. Gray Canyon is also a wildland management area and this canyon is the confluence of the Green and the Price River. Desolation today is still managed under the 1979 Desolation and Gray Canyon of the Green River Management Plan. It is a good plan. It's primary mission is to maintain the natural character and environment as it was in Powell's day in 1869.

There are limited user days on Desolation. A permit is required and launches are limited. Patrol trips are launched every Wednesday and out the following Tuesday.

"We provide the opportunity for a quality type experience. We work to protect cultural resources and emphasize safe use of the river. There are 16 outfitters and 450 noncommercial permits. There is a 50/50 gender ratio; 50 percent of the users are from Utah and Colorado and 25 percent come from the rest of the west. Sixty-three percent of the users are between the ages of 30-66 and 72 percent hold college degrees.

River runners on the Green River.

"The user expectations are to experience nature and solitude and have social interaction with family and friends. Ninety three percent of the users were highly satisfied with the river experience. The environmental factors they listed as not being favorable included mosquitos, the wind and the road getting to the launch site. Approximately 481 trips per year involving 3,285 people is the average. The average trip length is seven days with an average group size of seven.

"The commercial trips averaged 168 trips with a group size of 12 and a six day stay on the river.

"Desolation Canyon is the best wilderness river trip in the lower 48 states. The camps are kept clean and the beaches are pristine. River users are ahead of their time on how they use the land and take care of it. They want it kept in the condition it's in. They work hard so everyone can have the same experience.

"Most everyone puts in at Sand Wash which is a three-four hour drive from Price. There is a ranger residence there and toilets and campsites with screen houses. There is also an airstrip at Sand Wash.

"River running dates can be reserved up to six months out. The BLM website has a list of vacant launch days. The season usually runs from early April through October," said Willis.

The RAC cannot approve the fee increase proposal until it has been reviewed for 30 days afterwhich they agreed to have a phone vote for final approval. They all spoke favorably to the fee increases as a necessity in keeping up with the costs of operating the program.


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