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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Until recently I had no idea that the Colorado River just past the mouth of the Dirty Devil was hundreds of feet northwest and 140 feet higher than the historic river location/elevation before Powell reservoir and the "Dominy Formation" of silt. Could a Pearce Ferry style rapid appear upriver from the North Wash "ramp"?

The Dirty Devil drains about 4,300 square miles, could a large rain/melt event force debris out of the mouth steering the Colorado towards its historic channel leaving North Wash high and dry like Hite's boat ramp?

I don't know the answers, but the good folks over at Returning Rapids of Cataract Canyon have been presenting some facts, they recently released a presentation based on this area and the interesting changes wrought by the reservoir and resulting sediment. It's worth a read and my opinion is that this volunteer effort could use our support. (I'm not affiliated though I may donate/volunteer.)


I have only been to the North Wash boat ramp on a river trip twice, including last year when it was in great shape after grading and very usable three years ago. If I manage to hitch a ride again this spring, I know that everybody on that trip will be prepared to go all the way to Bullfrog because some rigs are too big to carry if North Wash is a mess.

The Returning Rapids effort has been brought up before on this site last summer but that was before their website and excellent trip reports:

(Apologies for the clickbait post title.)
 

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As the silt is eroded down, the rapids will certainly continue to return. In what form they will return is hard to say but my gut feeling says they will return more to what they were before and not something new like Pearce Ferry.

Pearce is a bit of an anomoly since it was never there before the silt deposits. As the river cut down through the silt it took a different path then it did before the dams and ended up hitting the Conglomerate bar that created Pearce Ferry Rapid. My understanding is that it used to go far to river right against the side of the mountains.

The topography of Cataract is a much different. The area around Pearce is wide open and while the lake was in that area it was quite wide. There are some wide points in Cataract too, but nothing like the Pearce Ferry area. I did a trip last year and I didn't see any indication that any major re-channeling of the river has or will occur.

So, slowly and steadily...the rapids will return. Side canyon floods and the debris they bring with them always have potential to bring rapids or make small ones bigger...but I wouldn't think the receding lake and the silt erosion should play too big a part in that.

As the lake continues to fluctuate and that environment changes, they'll definitely have to keep adjusting the Dirty Devil takeout. I would imagine that, if the Dirty Devil take out becomes unusable they would come up with another option. Seems to me they could add to the Hite Marina ramp to get it to current lake level but its hard to justify for the amount of use it would get from just river runners taking out.

I agree that the returning rapids project deserves support...whether its contributing data and documentation or financially helping the main group of people doing so.
 

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I was at North Wash ramp in late October. We loaded three boats directly onto trailers. I was knee deep in mud at times fishing for sandals that were sucked off. We needed younger "volunteers", but even on Medicare I was about the youngest except for my SO. "Hey Sweetie, go out there knee deep" and deal with this. It just wouldn't work out right.

I need to read/examine the evidence but a takeout near Hite could become tough in the near future if the reservoir level drops much more.

Thank you "Shaft" for posting us.
 

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Th gradient simply isn’t there once you reach the Hite area. The last 20 miles of cataract are very flat, and they were that way before the reservoir. The river bed In that are is already down near its original level. As was stated above, the river has much less space to re-channel as the lake drops. Any rapids that would develop would quickly receded up canyon and wash out. For this to happen, the lake would have to drop faster than the silt is deposited, thus creating a gradient.
 

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The OP's point doesn't seem to have been taken: the North Wash takeout is NOT on the original channel of the river, and as the reservoir fluctuates - and in current drought conditions, likely doesn't return to "normal" elevations of ca. 3600 feet ("fasl" - feet above sea level in the report) - you end up with what they call a "perched river" that could create a Paiute Falls situation.

I've been running Cat since 1976 and try to go several times a year (until last year... and while I didn't go, according to the data in the report it saw the most private users since 2017 - wonder why?!!!). I've several times taken out at Hite when the traffic at North Wash meant waiting hours (talk about "ramp etiquette"... no shit show like that circus, dozens of boats spread all over mud and semi-mud bars, stuck vehicles, etc.). Not gonna' reveal how you do that, but the bottom line of the report is there's only two solutions: improve North Wash (with a jetty to keep improvements useable) OR extend Hite ramp (which would have to go well over a couple hundred yards and might not be useable for power boats since the gradient isn't enough to launch...).

Agreed the rapids in Cat will return to pretty much what was there before the damn dam (wish I could live long enough to run Dark Canyon!) but the flatwater section might be significantly altered by the Dominy Formation below Mille Crag Bend (Narrow Canyon) and especially below the White Canyon bridge (where the airstrip is). Which could have big implications for takeout, especially if reservoir levels drop and stay mostly below 3550 "fasl." Take a look at the photos of the takeout in 2013. I ran a trip in April and again in September that year and both times it was hours and hours of mud slog to get gear to where we coould load it into vehicles.

The conveyor belt option is not mentioned but gets my vote...
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 · (Edited)
In this part of the video linked from the Buzz post back in July from theusualsuspect, the Returning Rapids guys mention that a possible solution is returning the river to its original channel 140+ feet below the current height of the North Wash ramp and extending the ramp at Hite. Based upon my amateur grasp of geography and hydrology, I tend to agree. This would be a full-on civil engineering project that the powers that be (Bu-Rec?, Glen Canyon NRA?) might write-off as unnecessary because the reservoir level may rise again and cover everything with silt.

I'm sure that interests at Hite would like to see the ramp extended given that they could once again be a working marina even if it is just for river trips. When (if?) the reservoir level is higher, Hite could be the closest marina to Salt Lake/Denver where you could launch your plush-ass houseboat on Powell. Commercial Cataract operators would probably appreciate a concrete ramp for their takeout that isn't Halls or Bullfrog. (I don't have a dog in this fight other than being a part of a private group that continues to want to run Cat...)

 

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The OP's point doesn't seem to have been taken: the North Wash takeout is NOT on the original channel of the river, and as the reservoir fluctuates - and in current drought conditions, likely doesn't return to "normal" elevations of ca. 3600 feet ("fasl" - feet above sea level in the report) - you end up with what they call a "perched river" that could create a Paiute Falls situation.

I've been running Cat since 1976 and try to go several times a year (until last year... and while I didn't go, according to the data in the report it saw the most private users since 2017 - wonder why?!!!). I've several times taken out at Hite when the traffic at North Wash meant waiting hours (talk about "ramp etiquette"... no shit show like that circus, dozens of boats spread all over mud and semi-mud bars, stuck vehicles, etc.). Not gonna' reveal how you do that, but the bottom line of the report is there's only two solutions: improve North Wash (with a jetty to keep improvements useable) OR extend Hite ramp (which would have to go well over a couple hundred yards and might not be useable for power boats since the gradient isn't enough to launch...).

Agreed the rapids in Cat will return to pretty much what was there before the damn dam (wish I could live long enough to run Dark Canyon!) but the flatwater section might be significantly altered by the Dominy Formation below Mille Crag Bend (Narrow Canyon) and especially below the White Canyon bridge (where the airstrip is). Which could have big implications for takeout, especially if reservoir levels drop and stay mostly below 3550 "fasl." Take a look at the photos of the takeout in 2013. I ran a trip in April and again in September that year and both times it was hours and hours of mud slog to get gear to where we coould load it into vehicles.

The conveyor belt option is not mentioned but gets my vote...
Doh...that is what I get for only reading the OP's post and skimming the presentation.... I apologize.

One thing is clear...there certainly isn't an easy option. My trip last year in August definitely was kind of a clusterfuck but it was at least mostly dry and not too muddy. I think there were two or three groups taking out and maybe 15-20 rafts...which was not ideal with the steep dirt ramp. It was pretty clear to me that something different needs to happen there. Seems like you could make a new concrete ramp at Dirty Devil, with the Jetty...but if you actually wanted to keep the 2-3 degree rule it would need to be 1/4 mile long to deal with the water height fluctuations.

Travel down Cataract will almost certainly continue to rise. Too many other permitted rivers are filling up and the flatwater is proving to no longer be as much of a barrier for entry as it once was. We only saw a few canoe trips on the Green, but when we got to the Colorado basically all of the camps between the confluence and Spanish bottom had a trip in them. Some were canoe trips that would get jet boated back up to Moab...but many were going into Cataract. It was fairly challenging to find a camp below the rapids too... kinda limited spots and due to the "unemployed" status of a lot of people in 2020 it turns out some groups were spending 2-3 days at each camp. I wouldn't be surprised to find a change in permit policy for Cataract in the next couple years.
 

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OR extend Hite ramp (which would have to go well over a couple hundred yards and might not be useable for power boats since the gradient isn't enough to launch...).
When we did Cat last year at 32K CFS, you could see Hite from the river in a couple of spots, it was at least a mile or more from the actual river, that would be one heck of a feat to extend it that far. We took out at Bullfrog as the canyonlands ranger we spoke with said North Wash was a mud pit, and we were in snouts. Turns out North Wash was just fine, and one member of our trip backed right down to the river and took his boat out, we had already shuttled to Bullfrog and just kept going. That was memorial day last year, I can't imagine the reserviour has risen or will rise this year.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
When we did Cat last year at 32K CFS, you could see Hite from the river in a couple of spots, it was at least a mile or more from the actual river, that would be one heck of a feat to extend it that far. We took out at Bullfrog as the canyonlands ranger we spoke with said North Wash was a mud pit, and we were in snouts. Turns out North Wash was just fine, and one member of our trip backed right down to the river and took his boat out, we had already shuttled to Bullfrog and just kept going. That was memorial day last year, I can't imagine the reserviour has risen or will rise this year.
Marshall, I saw the exact same thing you did, mostly because I was on the grey snout on that trip.
-Rob
 

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It appears they have hooked up with Glen Canyon Institute for donations and will eventually be a part of that non-profit.

Thank you, I just became a sustaining member.

They do superb work to directly benefit and inform the boating community; and an excellent interface to the government agencies.
 

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Turns out North Wash was just fine, and one member of our trip backed right down to the river and took his boat out,
Uh, that's only because the guy who took his snout out there has the most badass snout trailer I've ever seen. His trailer never touched the water so he didn't have to deal with all of the north wash mud bull [email protected]!#. That trailer seems to have been built as the IDEAL north wash snout trailer.
I'm secretly copying it this winter. Although, not as pro style. mine is literally old bedframes, top rail and salvage bearings.

im afraid with the falling lake levels, the Paiute falls / Pearce ferry thing will just be the norm. This is my 1st time witnessing a dying reservoir so i dont know what the heck to expect. Hey that rhymes...
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 · (Edited)
Uh, that's only because the guy who took his snout out there has the most badass snout trailer I've ever seen. His trailer never touched the water so he didn't have to deal with all of the north wash mud bull [email protected]!#. That trailer seems to have been built as the IDEAL north wash snout trailer.
I'm secretly copying it this winter. Although, not as pro style. mine is literally old bedframes, top rail and salvage bearings.

im afraid with the falling lake levels, the Paiute falls / Pearce ferry thing will just be the norm. This is my 1st time witnessing a dying reservoir so i dont know what the heck to expect. Hey that rhymes...
Best big raft trailer I have ever seen, I put plenty of work into my small trailer but it's still a POS, by the way yardsells my blinking trailer lights were caused by the loss of ground when the tilt bed bounced, apparently the pivot point is insulated. Salvage bearings are the only way to go on a trailer, right? They are just gonna get wet anyway...

Ahhh, Howdy Rob.. been practicing up on the hula hoop? Lol
Howdy back atcha Marshall, I hear your snout is coming along nicely!

For the TL;DR crowd, let's look at the worst case scenario, assuming the Colorado drainage continues to have a below average snow pack, the reservoir is not gonna rise much and the river will continue to scour silt from the new channel until it hits rock. Any rapid or waterfall occurring at the "Possible First Waterfall Location" may be enough to shut down Cataract launches. Thanks again to the Returning Rapids folks for the research, I've beaten the horse enough...

Ecoregion Map Organism Slope World
 

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In 1964 we took out by rowing up White Canyon among flooded trees. I believe this was the vicinity of Hite Ferry. The road in could accommodate a school bus.

Circa 1968 - 1971 the takeout was on the downstream side of North Wash; the road across and down to it could carry trucks pulling pontoon trailers. That iteration of the ramp was a fairly smooth slope with the boat-ravaging traction that comes from covering with old CB interlocking metal landing-strip liners.

The Hite Marina Ramp was then extended out to the lake surface and had all the smooth convenience that comes from kowtowing to cabin-cruisers; a piece of cake for rafters, it was usable as late as 2001, though as the lake receded driftwood and exhumed wire fencing were a problem for motors and tubes respectively. It was not easy to keep desilted enough to use.

In its early form the present ramp was bad enough that you longed for a winch, to get the boats on the trailer and the units up the ledges. Other than the flocculate silt just subsurface, I think it's now a pretty good ramp for a single party, but the dismality coefficent increases with the third or fourth power of the number of parties trying to use it.

As to bringing the old ramps back to life, I think the most promising is the one downstream from North Wash, but the access road may not easily be resuscitated after 50 years under.
 

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As to bringing the old ramps back to life, I think the most promising is the one downstream from North Wash, but the access road may not easily be resuscitated after 50 years under.
Thanks Earl for some background.

They would likely also need to resuscitate the former river channel to use the former ramp. If the reservoir continues to drop, the current course of the river will soon(?) flow over emerging cliff bands creating possibly impassible waterfalls, hence, a perched river. The cliff bands are shown in orange on the map above.

To excavate/dredge and permanently maintain the former channel would likely require dropping the reservoir perhaps another 100+' which I doubt the higher powers are interested in committing to. If you did excavate you'd have the problem of 150'+' or taller silt banks. (Please don't check my math. Just throwing out numbers right now.)

Whatever the future I'm glad that someone is already defining it in detail such as the presentation that Shaft turned us on to. As the report concludes, "It is a complicated situation."
 
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