Saturday, September 22: Day 3 - Potato Bottom --> Anderson Bottom
Weather: Low 50sF with heavy dew at first light, low 90sF by afternoon with light breezes all day
Route: follow the Green River south
- With such a lot of dew last night we knew we were not going to pack up quickly this morning. Until the sun hit the sand bar dew re-settled on things we had already wiped dry. I took advantage of the wait time to take a stroll to the back channel of the sand bar, looking for a discreet spot to tinkle (NPS instructions were to tinkle in the river, not on land). According to the many tracks I saw in the sand and mud, there had been quite a bit of activity here before I arrived: small bird and large Heron tracks, drag tracks of something with claws (maybe the elusive otter?) and a snake track.
- Hubby was already boiling the water for breakfast when I returned. We peeled off layers of clothing and started drying our gear as the sun rose. By the time we were dry and packed it was already 11:00 -- a late start but we knew we had less than 8 miles to paddle to reach Anderson Bottom.
- Even this late in the morning the high cliffs on river left gave us some shade. We saw a Blue Heron gulp down a huge fish, hopefully an invasive Channel Catfish or Carp (only 2 of the 40 invasive fish species. There were many sand flats to avoid but the water was like glass so it was easy to see depth. Views of the Buttes of the Cross captured our attention for many minutes. They were actually two different buttes not touching each other but from one section of the river they looked like one big formation. When the river changed course we could see the separation of the two reflected in the glassy river surface.
- Next our challenge was to navigate the Millard Riffles. Near Mile 34, the river was filled with rock debris from years of flash floods rushing out of the large Millard Canyon drainage system. The riffles were small but after flipping twice during a Spring canoe trip we were nervous. We stopped on a sand bank to scout our path. Per Martin, our experienced lady coached us how to paddle across to the left side of the river before pointing downriver into the current. She pointed out the "tongue" of the riffle, which we could follow from left to right, keeping the canoe on the left side of the current. At the bottom of the tongue we had to turn hard to the left to avoid having the current smash us into the cliff face on river right. Our friends went first to demonstrate the maneuver and executed flawlessly. Hubby provided the power in the bow and I steered from the stern. He was a little nervous about my steering. At the bottom of the tongue I let our stern sideslip a little too far right but recovered in time to get us out of the current -- not elegantly but safely. Did we come as close to crashing as Hubby thought we did? I would have liked to go back and navigate the riffles a few more times to get the feel of the tongue. It was not possible, of course. Now Hubby could relax for the rest of the trip, as that was the only fast water we would have to navigate. This was our welcome into Stillwater Canyon.
- At 13:00 we were at our planned lunch stop but not really very hungry yet. Guessing we only had about 3 miles left to paddle we agreed to continue to our campsite at Anderson Bottom. On the upriver side of the Bottom, tied to the high bank, we spotted the NPS boat. Martin and Kelsey both recommended Lower Anderson Bottom in low water. It had a bit of a beach for canoe access and our scouts found a good area for our tents about 400' up the dry wash. At high water we may have been able to float our canoes right up the wash but not today.
-Home Sweet Home. The beach had a nice patch of gravel where we could sit or stand in the water to eat cheese and guacamole pita breads with red pepper and carrot finger foods. An Osprey checked us out on a fly-by. Hauling our gear up the dry wash we saw where the NPS crew had set up their campsite on a higher ledge away from the flood plain. We took a small area on the lower flood plain ledge (a small risk in this weather) to set up our 3 tents and the kitchen rock. After the canoes were empty and securely tied we rinsed our sweaty clothes in the river and put them back on wet...ahhhh....cool. A perfect start to a 40-minute hike to try to find the Ancient Puebloan Granaries, a Spring and a Cave House described by Kelsey. We couldn't spend much time searching for them at this late hour and never did find the sites but had some great views.
- When the NPS crew returned Ranger Tony told us their team of invasive plant removal professionals were camping here for 4 days to try to slow down the takeover of the tamarisk. Ranger Tony did not know about the ruins. Tamarisk, aka Salt Cedar is an aggressive, water-loving Mediterranean plant brought by settlers in the 1800s as an ornamental shrub. Later it was used as a windbreak along fence lines and to prevent erosion in arid places where not much else would grow. Alas, it escaped its harsh habitats to grow in its preferred areas along streams and rivers. Only in the 1920s did ranchers in the Southwest start to notice that tamarisk was replacing the native willows, cottonwoods, sagebrush and grasses. The problem is that the plant has no predators here like they do in Europe so it spreads unimpeded down waterways at about 12 miles per year. The plant sucks up a lot of water and prevents native species like Cottonwood trees from germinating and taking root while rarely providing habitats for native birds and animals. The exception seems to be that the native Southwestern Willow Flycatcher quickly adapted to the loss of willows and began choosing tamarisk to nest in. The NPS has introduced the tamarisk beetle (after extensive studies showing the beetle will not eat other vegetation) in some areas and has sprayed chemicals on other areas. The treated areas are slowly rebounding but tamarisk is so widespread they can only hope to deter its progress. The beetles should never run out of their favourite food. The Flycatchers seem happy to go back to their original habitats when willows are reintroduced after the tamarisk have been controlled.
- Dinner was Vegetable Korma Curry over pre-cooked rice and chicken with yellow pepper slices. We were washing dishes by lantern-light under the Cottonwoods at 19:00. The bats were dive bombing us to get the bugs our light attracted.
- This site had cool daytime shade under the Cottonwoods but we had to go back to the beach for good views of the sky. It was 20:45 when we turned in for the night.
- Millard Canyon was originally called Miller Canyon after one of the earliest sheep ranchers, Andy Miller, who brought his animals here perhaps as early as 1890. The Biddlecomes thought the canyon was named for Millard Fillmore, the 13th USA President, so started calling it Millard Canyon. Sometime in the 1920s Bill 'Peg Leg' Moore brought in burros that he acquired in a trade with the Indians.
- Mark Walker's family history can be found in the Grand County History book compiled by the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers. Kelsey's wife is Walker's granddaughter. Clyde and Leland Tidwell stayed at Walker's cabin one cold winter night in 1921 after looking for the horses they had pastured at Fort Bottom. In the morning they tracked the horses far enough to know that Bill Tibbetts had stolen them. Ephraim Moore, an early Moab rancher and graduate of Brigham Young University, convinced Tibbetts to return the horses.
- Anderson Bottom, originally Townsite Bottom, is on a tight curve in the river. John Powell was the first European to document it in 1869 but after Powell, it was used by Albert Anderson from 1909-1911, Ralph Miller and Ray Tibbetts (1955) and Karl Tangren (1958) until the NPS acquired it (1965). Anderson talked about how the land was so fertile that everything he planted, including sugar cane, grew well. Tibbetts dug down to discover the small spring, dynamited it and built a water tank. Tangren dynamited under a ledge to make a cave house. We didn't find the cave or the spring. Tangren allowed the flotilla of boats in the Friendship Cruise to stop at his ranch, build fires, cook steaks, and dance. The Chamber of Commerce of Green River and Moab started the cruise on Memorial Day weekend in 1958. It would start in Green River, stop at Anderson Bottom for the night, motor down to the confluence then travel the Colorado upriver to Moab. In about 1960 Tangren was paid to lay a cement floor for the party. We found the cement floor. After 2011 the participants no longer floated together as one big group, nor stopped to dance at Anderson Bottom.