Ranger Kathryn's Arches

June 4, 2012

Adrift on the Green River

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 10:07 am
Tags: , , , , , ,

Utah’s Green River. Today: windless. Tomorrow: watch out.

(Continued from “Down the Switchbacks“)

The bow of my inflatable duckie circumscribed lazy spirals like a leaf in a creek; the panorama before me was new every few breaths. On my lap the paddle sat listlessly, waiting to be dipped into the river on rare occasion. I was on the water with our wildlife biologist looking for the endangered Southwestern Willow Flycatcher (SWFL). Last night’s cowboys — who had dismounted, walked their weary horses through the obstacle course of our belongings, and disappeared into the moonlit night — were a gauzy memory.

Milkweed in full bloom. Photo by W Sloan.

The river’s rhythms now become my rhythms. My only task is to observe. At less than three miles per hour, everything is more visible: a pair of Blue Grosbeaks, new rockfall, a Great Blue Heron fishing stealthily, muskrat slicing the water, peregrine falcon circling overhead, old cottonwoods staking their claim on a bank, beaver chewing on willow. Huge cliffs of Wingate sandstone tower, guardians of the canyon: 600 feet of ancient sand, now lithified, silent, stunning. Breathing slows.

Lathered in sunscreen, senses heightened in the wilderness, I reclined in my boat to watch the world go by. When we approached appropriate habitat Bill played a recording of the SWFL song; males would respond to a perceived territorial threat by singing back. Seven times in two mornings on the river we heard it: fitz-bew! It was one of those simple pleasures in life that inserts itself into the heart, an unexpected gift, giving me hope for this species.

~ To Be Continued ~


[Ecology note: According to the USGS, Empidonax traillii extimus populations declined during the 20th century, primarily because of habitat loss and modification from activities, such as dam construction and operation, groundwater pumping, water diversions, and flood control. It was placed on the endangered species list in 1995 and has only 280 known breeding sites. Critical habitat continues to shrink.]

Sunset from our campsite at the mouth of Horseshoe Canyon.
Green River meets Barrier Creek. Ranger Kathryn basks in joyful color.


  1. Cannot imagine life getting much better than this . . .

    Comment by leroque — June 4, 2012 @ 12:35 pm | Reply

    • The river might be one of my most wonderful playgrounds. Really. It was spectacular in every way.

      Comment by Kathryn Burke — June 9, 2012 @ 7:40 am | Reply

  2. Kathryn, I love the picture of the asclepias speciosa! It’s such a strange, beautiful plant. That section of the Green is pretty stunning too – I went in at 2mile canyon just above Horseshoe once. Let me know your thoughts on backpacking the Maze. My schedule is usually the Wed-Wed every payperiod through end of September. Hope all is well up at the Island!

    Comment by lily — June 4, 2012 @ 5:34 pm | Reply

    • Lily! Thanks for the Latin name! Its flower seems so mismatched to the everyday-ness of the plant… somehow so ‘over the top.’ It’s beautiful. You are right that the entire section of the Green, from Spring Canyon Bottom to Mineral Bottom, is spectacular. I’m shocked that it’s not IN the park. I have been pondering a Maze backpacking trip and shall be in touch. Perhaps when the weather is cooler? Hugs to you. — K

      Comment by Kathryn Burke — June 4, 2012 @ 6:26 pm | Reply

  3. Wow, Kathryn, Your top photo of the Green River just brings such a peaceful feel. I closed my eyes for a moment and pretended to smell and feel the surroundings…tho all I got in return was a good cup of coffee 🙂 I would love to be sitting in a Kayak taking it all in. However, like you said, tomorrow could be quite different. Rough weather is always around the corner making you appreciate these moments. I love your writings. Thanks for sharing.

    Comment by Brenda Potach — June 5, 2012 @ 7:16 am | Reply

    • It was sweet to hear from you, Brenda. Thanks for the reminder that our imaginations can help us go places… and I hope your momentary Green River trip was delightful!

      Comment by Kathryn Burke — June 5, 2012 @ 10:14 am | Reply

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