Southwestern US, US National Parks

Riding the rapids in Split Mountain Canyon – Dinosaur National Monument, Utah

After spending the other days of our long weekend exploring Dinosaur National Monument from above, a guided whitewater rafting expedition now afforded us the chance to see the Utah side of the monument from below. Our one-day trip took us along 9 miles (14.5 km) of the Green River through Split Mountain Canyon.

The geology of Split Mountain is fascinating. Split Mountain formed about 60 million years ago during the uplift of the nearby Rocky Mountains. The mountain is what’s called an anticline; when the rock layers were uplifted they were also warped, and as a result they formed a dome shape.

Over the following millions of years, eroded sediments from upstream were carried down and deposited over the area, completely burying Split Mountain and the surrounding lower terrain. When the Green River began flowing through these sediments it slowly eroded them away, re-exposing the top of Split Mountain and continuing to carve a canyon through the middle of the mountain. Obviously this is a very unique situation, as rivers typically flow around mountains rather than cutting right through them.

The tilted and curved rock layers of Split Mountain are visible here

And of course, the rafting part itself was an absolute blast! Pat and I got placed in the front of the boat, meaning we ended up completely drenched. One particularly large rapid very nearly threw me from the boat. Fortunately for me, I didn’t end up in the river. Unfortunately for the guy sitting behind me, I kind of ended up in his lap.

We navigated 6 sets of rapids over the course of the 9 miles (14.5 km) we spent on the river, stopping on a small beach around the halfway point to eat some lunch. The company provided lunch for us. We were expecting something simple like sandwiches; little did we know they’d packed all the fixings for vegetarian Split Mountain burritos. They were delicious, and the dietitian part of me is trying to figure out how to re-create their recipe.

At one point during a calm section of river, we watched a golden eagle chase a blue heron. After the heron flew away, a raven decided he wanted a piece of the action and started chasing the eagle. It was a really neat thing to see and we felt lucky to be in the right place at the right time to witness it! We also spotted a few bighorn sheep on the canyon walls. Plus, we were able to see many of the colorful and tilted rock layers that make up Split Mountain. Everyone in our boat was really interested in the geology and wildlife, which led to some excellent questions and conversations. Our guide was really knowledgeable and we learned a lot.

(This isn’t a sponsored post, but I do want to give Adrift Dinosaur a shoutout because we really enjoyed the whole experience and would recommend them.)

Because we were helping paddle, I don’t have too many photos from this adventure. And because we were on the river, I had my phone in a waterproof case so the photos I do have were taken through the plastic; they’re a little splotchy. Nonetheless, the photos I did capture are below.

Rainbow Park, the launch point for our trip
Lunchtime views
Looking back at the lunch spot (you can see people from another trip on the beach)
Split Mountain Canyon
Made it back to the Split Mountain boat ramp

Also, en route to the river that morning we stopped along the road for a quick climb up to some petroglyphs. This was not the only place in the monument we saw petroglyphs, and I talked about the history of the petroglyphs in my last post, so I won’t say too much about them now. One interesting factoid we did learn, though: the filled in figures are thought to be males and the hollow ones females.

And I guess that wraps up our day of rafting, and also our time at Dinosaur National Monument. It was a really neat place, both in terms of geology and dinosaur fossils, and I highly recommend a visit. It’s likely Pat and I will return one day too for one of the multi-day rafting trips that begin in the more remote regions of the monument and travel through longer and deeper canyons. We’ve never done an overnight rafting trip before, but it’s definitely something we’re interested in trying in the future!

31 thoughts on “Riding the rapids in Split Mountain Canyon – Dinosaur National Monument, Utah”

  1. Very nice! I guided on Dinosaur’s rivers for many years. If you can ever swing a Lodore or Yampa trip, I can’t recommend it highly enough. Both canyons are stunning with some of the most beautiful campsites you’ll ever sleep in, and overnight rafting is like tailgating in wilderness, pretty darn comfortable and relaxing.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I must admit that I’m a bit chicken when it comes to white water rafting (thought of falling out and hitting a rock scares me) but your adventure looks/sounds great. The colours of the rock walls, water and sky make for a beautiful and soothing scene, and those petroglyphs are amazing.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow, going on a guided white-water rafting expedition sounds like a proper adventure as the rafting trip can give you something you don’t find in other vacations. Would love to give it a go one day – it sounds like a fun, relaxing, and thrilling way to spend a few hours. Thanks for sharing and have a nice day 🙂 Aiva xx

    Liked by 1 person

  4. The photos you took while on the water barely look splotchy to me; they look quite clear! It’s also the dilemma of being in or on water and wanting to take photos, but of course, as cameras aren’t built to be waterproof, the art of capturing images through waterproof methods can be tricky…placing cameras in a plastic bag is the ultimate solution and simple enough! Looks to be another wonderful time exploring nature in that part of the US. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, it took me quite a while to come up with a solution. In the end, I used my old phone and put it in the waterproof holder. That way if things went awry, I wouldn’t lose my new phone.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Pat does as well but he managed okay… he wore his contacts with sunglasses over them, and we both put idiot straps on our sunglasses so they wouldn’t fall off even if we got jostled around. It worked out well.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I think availability varies based on the time of year. The rapids we did were class 3. I believe you can also raft the Green down by Moab, though I don’t know the rapid classes down there.


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