Ranger Kathryn's Arches

September 10, 2010

The Confluence

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 8:35 am
Tags: , ,

Looking north, into Island in the Sky District. Green River on L., Colorado River on R.

It’s been known for hundreds of years that two great rivers meet in southeastern Utah. The precise location, however, was not mapped until 1859 (Macomb expedition) after previous maps left the area quite blank. All that was rather immaterial as two fun coworkers and I drove to the Needles District of Canyonlands NP yesterday to undertake The Hike. Temperature: 70 degrees for this September day, with a few puffy cumulus clouds dotting the sky. Perfect.

It’s eleven miles round trip. While the mesa-top journey is pleasant and quite pretty (as opposed to knock-your-socks-off breathtaking), the reward comes at the end when you top the rise and THERE IT IS: the meeting of the Two Great Rivers.

The Green River, coming from the northwest (left branch in photo), passes through lots of Mancos shale on its way here. It is the Colorado’s main tributary, has a higher flow volume and generally more silt. Its characteristic color comes from the sediments it erodes away en route. The Colorado River, coming from the northeast (headwaters in Rocky Mountain National Park), used to have a characteristic reddish-brown color. The damming of the river has changed the flows and silt load considerably. South of the confluence their unmixed waters flow side by side for a considerable distance.

One of the many handsome formations along the trail

I find the Confluence to be a beautiful location, filled with history, excellent for sitting and contemplating while eating Ye Ol’ Geezer’s homemade beef jerky, a Clif bar, and a handful of peanut M&Ms. Lest that sound too bucolic, I stumbled on a blackbrush plant and almost fell backward over the cliff edge while posing for a confluence photo. The collective gasp that went up from gathered onlookers told me it was a very near miss. I am glad to be writing today…


  1. Looks like a hike brimming with geographic significance. Interesting how the Red(colored)River is green and the Green River is red.

    Comment by Ed Oak — September 10, 2010 @ 6:40 pm | Reply

  2. glad you said it Ed. I really didn’t wan’t to challenge the naming process of the members of the Macomb expedition.

    Comment by john — September 11, 2010 @ 6:58 am | Reply

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