Desolation Canyon Stargazing Trip

Holiday’s stargazing and rafting 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). 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 new blog!

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 Days

  • Dates:

    August 10–15

  • Meet at:

    Green River, Utah @ 8:00 p.m. (night before your trip)

  • Difficulty:

    Beginner

  • Min. Age:

    5

  • Deposit:

    300

Highlights

  • Learn from Holiday's resident astronomy expert
  • Wide canyon walls that expose a full canopy of stars
  • 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

Rates & Dates

6 Day

  • Adult:
  • $1,285
  • Youth:
    18 and under
  • $1,285
  • Senior:
    65 and older
  • $1,285
  • Group:
    10 or more
  • $1,285
Book This Trip
Check Availability
2020
  • August
  • 10

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!

Typical Itinerary

Plan to arrive in Green River, Utah, one day before your trip in order to attend a pre-trip meeting at 8:00 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 2:00 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 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:  
 8 reviews
by Gary Simms on Holiday River Expeditions

A little cold to start with, but the recommended gear proved to work well.

Great views, new friends, great guides, great food!

A yearly event!

by Mark and Debbie Dawson on Holiday River Expeditions

We had the best time in Desolation Canyon! The guides were wonderful - very friendly and knowledgeable. The campsites were always nice, well thought out location for the kitchen, bano and camp sites. Riding the rapids in the inflatable kayaks was a blast. We will definitely travel with Holiday again!

by Mary and John Enemark on Holiday River Expeditions

Our guides, Sam, Nick and Larkin were excellent. They worked together seamlessly setting up camp, making the meals, and providing all kinds of information while on the river. The evening stargazing with Scott was very educational.

by Chris Gorzalski on Holiday River Expeditions

This is my second Holiday trip and both were exceptional. I really enjoy how there were many ways to have fun on the river-duckies, floating in life vests, hiking, swimming as well as sightseeing on the oar boats. Your guides were easy to get to know and encouraging in activities. Their love of the river, especially from Susan was evident. I also loved getting to know more about dark skies from Jesse.

by Gary on Holiday River Expeditions

Beautiful lanscapes with great food, guides, and new friends.

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