Desolation Canyon Stargazing Trip

Holiday’s stargazing trip through Desolation Canyon will take you into a landscape named by John Wesley Powell, who called it “a region of wildest desolation.” Utah’s Green River cuts through the Tavaputs Plateau, one of the remotest regions of the continental United States. It’s also one of the largest roadless areas in the American West, making the region a priceless dark sky reserve.

Spend your days exploring outlaw hideouts and ancient indigenous cultural sites. We’ll splash through consistent, fun whitewater (this is a great trip for playing in inflatable kayaks). Get curious about who came before you in this ancient canyon full of ghosts and ancestors with tales to tell through the depth of knowledge of our guides.  In the evenings our minds will expand along with the universe as it becomes visible around us. Using both binoculars and the naked eye, our resident star experts will guide you through the Milky Way. Hunt for the Andromeda Galaxy, watch for satellites and meteors and drift off to sleep while listening to stories about the constellations. Stargazing in Desolation Canyon brings us closer to the cosmos and inspires a sense of wonder.

Read more about our resident star expert and his passion for dark skies. Check out our Stargazing blog.

Green River, Utah: Things to Do and Places to Explore

Featured Review:

“This was an incredible experience. My brother and I took my father, for his 80th birthday, on a trip to retrace the path of one of his heroes, John Wesley Powell. We took the Desolation Canyon trip. Everything about it was exceptional: the guides, the scenery, the plane trip, the food…even the weather (you can take credit for that!). My father has been raving about it since. Thank you for an incredible experience!” (Lucas Hoffman)

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Trip Overview

  • Type:

    Naturalist

  • Location:

    Green River Wilderness

  • Length:

    5 or 6 Days

  • Dates:

    May 15-19, 2023

  • Meet at:

    Green River, Utah @ 7:00 p.m. (night before your trip)

  • Difficulty:

    Beginner

  • Min. Age:

    5

  • Deposit:

    400

Highlights

  • Learn from Holiday's resident astronomy expert
  • Wide canyon walls that expose a full canopy of stars
  • Not so tall tales of this rivers human history
  • Consistent Class I-III whitewater rapids
  • The best trip for inflatable kayaking
  • Folklore galore from outlaws to moonshiners
Getting Here Before You Go Packing List FAQs

Rates & Dates

5 Day

  • Adult:
  • $1,446
  • Youth:
    18 and under
  • $1,446
  • Senior:
    65 and older
  • $1,446
  • Group:
    10 or more
  • $1,446
Book This Trip
Check Availability
2023
  • May 15 - 19

Itinerary

Start your trip with a scenic flight in a small plane. Fly over the Tavaputs Plateau and gaze down at the river you’ll soon be floating. The Green River flows out of the Uinta Basin and carves its way through some of the youngest rocks on the Colorado Plateau. From the Sandwash put in to the take out at Swasey’s Beach near the town of Green River, Utah, you’ll travel more than 80 river miles and enjoy over 60 named rapids!

Sample Itinerary

Plan to arrive in Green River, Utah, one day before your trip in order to attend a pre-trip meeting at 7:00 p.m. (Mountain Time). We’ll go through a brief orientation to prepare you for life on the river, give you your waterproof bags, answer any last questions, and let you know what time to meet for your flight the next morning. Our store will be open if you need to purchase last minute items (please look at our packing checklist for a list of items you can find at our store).

Special note: due to the limited space and weight limits on the aircraft, please plan to bring any specialty sodas, beer, wine, or other extra heavy or bulky items to our headquarters by 12:00 p.m. the day before your trip.

Day 1:

Please arrive promptly at the predetermined time established at last night’s pre-trip meeting. We’ll drive you out to the local airstrip to meet your pilots and prepare for your flight to the boat ramp. It’s approximately 30 minutes from Green River to Sand Wash, along the same route you’ll be floating for the next several days. Your guides will be waiting to meet you at the landing strip, and will lead you on a gorgeous 45-min downhill hike to the river bottom. Be sure to wear appropriate shoes for the hike. Guests who are unable to hike can ride to the boat ramp in one of our vans. We’ll push off into the lazy currents of upper Desolation; imagine you are one of John Wesley Powell’s boatmen, seeing this region for the first time, with no idea what to expect around each new corner. We’ll settle in to camp that night and treasure the rare experience of watching darkness fall in the absence of light pollution.

Day 2:

Wake to the sounds of canyon wrens and your guides calling you to coffee and breakfast. Take advantage of the morning calm to paddle an inflatable kayak. We’ll run our first rapids today as we drop deeper into the canyon. Check out a cultural site and wonder at the story told by the images carved in stone. At night, listen to star stories and learn how to find the rising summer constellations such as Cygnus and Lyra.

Day 3:

Today we’ll pass through the deepest part of Desolation Canyon: over 5,000 feet from river to rim! Enjoy a tour of the historic Rock Creek Ranch, where Butch Cassidy’s Wild Bunch rested their horses and bootleggers traded moonshine for apricots. We’ll make camp early today and spend the afternoon hiking around an abandoned meander or up to a spectacular overlook.

Day 4:

Enjoy some fresh eggs cooked to order and get ready for some good whitewater. Belknap and Chandler falls are a refreshing way to start the day. Look high on the cliffs for McPherson’s Elephant Arch. We’ll end our day with the wildest rapid in the canyon, Cow Swim. Created by a flash flood in 2008, Cow Swim is an exciting reminder that geology is happening continuously.

Day 5:

We’ll pass out of Desolation Canyon today and into Gray, a dramatic transition made even more exciting by Wire Fence and Three Fords rapids. Hike along a side canyon and examine mineral deposits seeping out of the canyon walls, or lounge on the beach before one last gourmet dinner and dark, starry night on the river.

Day 6:

We will run a half dozen more rapids before lunch and then take out at the end of the canyon, near Swasey’s Beach. We’ll load boats onto trailers and take you for one last ride, 20 minutes down the road to our headquarters in Green River, for an anticipated return time of 3:00 to 4:00 p.m.

Wilderness river trips are changeable by nature. Please understand that this is only a sample itinerary, intended to give an idea of how your time will be spent on the river. You may have the opportunity to do all of the above activities, or you may have a variety of other memorable and exciting experiences. We encourage you to arrive with an open mind, a flexible attitude, and an appetite for adventure! Read more about why Desolation is the best place for going with the flow.

Desolation Canyon Stargaze Slideshow 4

Desolation Canyon trips are true wilderness adventures, and trip itineraries vary widely depending on weather, the desires of each group, campsite availability, and the need to be courteous to other groups on the river. This is a sample itinerary intended to provide one example of a six-day stargazing trip through Desolation and Gray canyons.

Reviews

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Holiday River Expeditions
Average rating:  
 15 reviews
 by Patti Sherlock

The description of the trip was accurate. The pre-trip tips of what to bring and expect were well-stated.

The website does a good job of cautioning those who might not be physically able to make the trip.

The guides, activities, and food all surpassed expectations. Guests on my trip marveled over the competence and efficiency of the guides.

We were in good hands. From start to finish, the Holiday staff bent over backward to make guests feel welcome, informed, and well-fed. Though we were camping, we felt pampered. No one could get over how fast the fresh, delicious meals appeared. Everyone appreciated that the guides scouted rapids, and looked out for each other and the guests.

 by Jane Liu

Worked with Karen. Everything went smoothly. The large sack was very large. More than enough space for my stuff.

Actually exceeded expectations. Loved the fact all guides happened to be women. So competent. Food was healthy and tasty, and plentiful. Liked the fact you had snacks available on the raft and the baked treats were so good.

Beautiful scenery and fun rafting, with a variety of rapids. The guides were so competent…really appreciated the fact that some rapids were scouted in advance. Each of the guides were interesting as individuals, and I noticed a few were wonderful with the young kids who were on the trip. The food was amazing: healthy, tasty, and varied. I went on the stargazing and loved the stories behind the constellations. I was a bit concerned about the backcountry camping aspect but you guys have it all figured out to make it pretty comfortable. Would definitely do it again!

 by David Sweet

The guides were absolutely outstanding. They were safety conscious, extremely dedicated to making sure our trip was enjoyable and very knowledgeable. They went out of their way to take care of the two youngsters on the trip.

 by Karen Raasch

Seamless and delightful!

 by Cathie Ward

What an amazing adventure. Every aspect exceeded my expectations. All 5 guides were personable and great fun. They really took care of us! Every meal surprised us by what could be cooked while camping. There were even desserts! Just the right amount of time rafting, swimming and relaxing every day. Would absolutely do it again!!

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