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Dirty Devil River Float- Hanksville to Hite

Dirty Devil River Page 2

I floated the Dirty Devil River from just below Hanksville to just above Hite from 13 May through 26 May, 2008. It was a solo trip and definitely a good one. I often feel that the time I allow myself for trips is inadequate, but 14 days on the Dirty Devil felt like the right amount of time. I was able to "float" leisurely, take a few dayhikes, and do two overnight backpack trips. I had plenty of time to sit and watch birds, the weather, and enjoy the incredible goelogy of the Dirty Devil River canyon and its tributaries.

Quick Facts- The Dirty Devil River was named by Major Powell and his party. The story goes that as they floated by the Major asked one of his party how the river looked. The reply was that "she's a dirty devil". The name was thus given. The Dirty Devil begins above Hanksville at the confluence of the Fremont and Muddy Rivers and ends at the Colorado River right below Hite Marina.

My trip began on the afternoon of 13 May just below Hanksville. I put in at the end of 650 East Road, or Landfill Road, found about 3/4 of a mile south of the Chevron gas station on State Route 95. To find the put in, drive to the end of the road- you will hit the river after about 4 miles. For river and other local information visit the Hanksville BLM office at 406 South 100 West. For more information on the town of Hanksville visit the Desert Links page.

River flows were quite low while I was on the river, around 8 to 10 CFS, down from about 100 CFS a month before. While 10 CFS was not optimal, I found myslef dragging the boat for only the first 10 kilometers or so. By dragging, I mean literally dragging the boat down the river across sandbar after sandbar. After that it was more "guiding" the boat- making sure it got into the channel with enough water to float it through. By day 3 or 4, I was actually in the boat floating much of the time. I had an increase to 100 CFS mid-way through due to rain storms on the mesa tops. On that day I floated about 12 kilometers in 2 1/2 hours. On average, I traveled about 10 to12 kilometers, or about 6 to 7 miles, per float day. See the current river flow information at the USGS Water Data website.

Since I had 14 days on the river, I did not really have a set schedule. I floated, stopped and explored when I decided to. I hiked up Robbers Roost Canyon and into White Roost Canyon, which has an exit to the mesatop via an old cattle trail. I spent a morning in Happy Canyon, an amazing non-technical slot canyon that should not be missed. Downriver from Happy canyon is an unnamed, shorter slot canyon that is equally intersting. I did a dayhike in Fiddler Cove Canyon, up to the pouroffs. Fiddler Cove Canyon has some interesting geology, including spires and abandoned meanders. I did overnight trips up Twin Corral Box Canyon and Poison Spring Canyon. Although I could have spent days in each of these canyons, exploring them from the river is an efficient way to do it. You avoid climbing in and out of the canyons and traveling across the mesatop.

Fully loaded boat on the muddy bank of the Dirty Devil River. This is at the put in at the end of Landfill Road, or 650 East. I use an Aire Tomcat tandem, with plenty of room for me and anything I decide to bring along.

Fresh beaver track on the Dirty Devil River.

Fresh beaver tracks along the Dirty Devil River. This track led up the bank to a stand of fresh, young willows that the beaver frequently feasted on, seen in the photo below. The drag marks between the footprints are from the willows being moved back to the river. All along the river I was able to find strong, straight, fresh cut willow stakes whenever I needed them for setting up a shelter from the sun or rain.

Fresh cut willows on the Dirty Devil River.

Breakfast scene on the Dirty Devil River.
This photo shows a typical sandbar campsite along the Dirty Devil. Note that my boat is flipped over- I often flip it after arriving at my camp and use it as a very comfortable bed for the night. Dry driftwood was very abundant all along the river- I had fires every evening and on many cool mornings as well.

John White inscription up the cattle trail in White Roost Canyon.

Photo of the John White inspcription just up the cattle trail built by White leading out of White Roost Canyon. There are many more inscriptions in the alcove directly across from this one with dates as early as 1922. This location is about 3 1/2 hours easy walk up from the river on well-defined trails.

View from mouth of Poison Spring Canyon looking down Dirty Devil River.
This photo was taken on a small hilltop at the mouth of Poison Spring Canyon looking down the Dirty Devil River. I spent a rainy night here, in an acceptable camp, and another on an overnight up Poison Spring Canyon. Poison Spring Canyon has a well-traveled road from the highway above all the way down to the gauging station at the river. There is a ford there and the road continues on the other side.

Skull with articulated spine and rib cage of Bighorn sheep, Fiddler Cove Canyon, along the Dirty Devil River.
This photo shows a Bighorn sheep skull with articulated spine, rib cage and front legs. I found this about half way up Fiddler Cove Canyon on a dayhike up to the pouroffs. I am not sure why it died. It wasn't too old, maybe 5 years based on the growth rings. The canyon is geologically very interesting, with its spires and abandoned meanders.


More Information and Further Reading-
If you have an interest in the history of the Robbers Roost and the WIld Bunch, I recommend reading one of Pearl Baker's books on the subject. Baker ran the ranch at the Roost early in the 20th century and heard story after story about the men, and women, of the Wild Bunch. Her writing is filled with fist-hand accounts and is written in the style of the time. I picked up The Wild Bunch at Robbers Roost just after my float. It is exciting to read and fills you in on the entire area and the exploits of the late 19th century outlaws. Read the book before you go or take it along to read on the float and it will be all the more exciting. I have not yet read baker's other book, Robbers Roost Recollections, but plan to buy it very soon.

As for guidebooks that might provide more information on hiking and backpacking while on the river, as usual I recommmend looking at Kelsey's Non-Technical Canyon Hiking Guide to the Colorado Plateau, 6th Edition. Kelsey's guideboks are not for the faint of heart- you need to know what you are doing, and know your personal limits, to use them. Allen's Canyoneering 2: Technical Loop Hikes in Southern Utah provides information on nearly every hike that you might consider taking from the river. It has two sections on the Dirty Devil River, split into north and south. It is more suited to the novice who needs step by step guidance on finding water, routes, and overall trip planning.

See Blog posts from 26 April 2008, 10 May 2008, 29 May 2008, and 17June 2012 for more information about the trip.

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