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The Perched River, or could the end of Cataract Canyon become not navigable with nowhere to takeout?

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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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I didn't have time to read everything above, however, in case no one mentioned it: My understanding is that on the San Juan below Clay Hills, there's now an unrunnable waterfall where the river channel shifted when Lake Powel water levels fell after silting up when lake levels were high.
 

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Paiute Falls. Seem to recall a boat or two getting away at Slickhorn or Grand Gulch camp and running it a few years back. Think there was a post here w/photos - not pretty, but was basically totaled.

I read the article, think improved takeout for Cat in 2022 is wishful thinking. Late October I ran on out to Bullfrog w/4 boat flotilla rather than deal with slippery yuck at North Wash (rained hard the night before our takeout). 5 gallons gas using Honda 5, about 12 hours total running time to cover the pretty close to 50 miles. Beautiful. No one there until 5 miles from Bullfrog. Takeout was clear water and hard "sand," a couple houseboats launched while we were packing up...
 

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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.
A VERY interesting post, JEPerry. You say the "The Hite Marina Ramp was then extended out to the lake surface ... " This is the 'new' Hite Marina, right?

What year are you talking about and what year was the 'new' Hite Marina concrete ramp first poured?
 

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I don't know exactly as I was out of the country from 1986-2012 (mostly, returned for Cat and Grand trips every couple years...), but pretty good guess is the long ramp at "New" Hite was built in late mid- to late-90's to accommodate houseboats and power boats. (The NPS office and visitor center went in same time just upstream of the ramp - all this stuff is still there, just not in use...). I know I used the ramp in '98 for a takeout and I believe it was extended in the early 2000's. I'm talking about the way long ramp built upstream from the marina, where the docks and gas pumps remained. The marina goes back to the 70's when it was re-located from across the river at North Wash.
 

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I was on an NPS science trip in 2002 or 2003, using a snout.

We took out at the concrete Hite ramp, but as I recall, the paved surface already was short of the water. However, the terrain beyond the ramp was such that trailer could still be backed into the water to retrieve the boat.

Rich Phillips
 

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The marina goes back to the 70's
Right ! That's what I thought. 1973 probably, although I don't have any definite proof of that.

The reservoir level was hovering around the 3600 mark at the beginning of that year and by March 1974 had risen to 3650 which is, pretty much, the elevation of the bottom of the ramp at Hite. By July '74 the elevation was 3665 (remember that?) which meant the end of the ramp was 15 feet under water.

I reckon they poured that, now iconic, slab of concrete through the spring/summer of 1973.

I'd be fascinated to hear from anyone who has pictures, memories, anything to do with the early days of the 'new' Hite Marina.

Was the 'first' marina, on the opposite bank in Glen Cove, still in use as late as 73/74? I haven't found any photographs of that area later than 1969. I'll have to do some more digging.

Cheers. Bob.
 

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Yes, the river used to run over on the right against the bank at the mouth of the Dirty Devil, now there is a large and gooey silt bar that pushes the river over to the left. I know because I eddied out in the lee of it (downstream end) to see how the crowded the takeout was on the morning of October 28, 2021 - and then decided to run on out to Bullfrog.
 

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Looks like something is emerging from the muck starting last October...
View attachment 73097 View attachment 73096

Here

EDIT:
Probably just the Dominy sediment pushed out of the mouth of the Dirty Devil mentioned in the "1921 USGS Survey through Cataract 100 years later" trip report here.
The only significant difference in those 2 pictures is water level. You can actually see the sediment bar at the DD in both. That’s the alluvium from the big flood last September. There may be minor changes, but there haven’t been any significant events since then, and the rate of change is slowing now that the gradient has moved well downstream. It will work it’s way back up but it’s a multi stage process.

The game changer will be the runoff this year (if there even is one). A decent runoff year (maybe next year, sight) will really rearrange things.
 

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'The game changer will be the runoff this year (if there even is one).'

The runoff last year raised the reservoir level by less than twenty four inches.

So far this year, the Upper Colorado snowpack had a promising start but has flatlined since early January:

Rectangle Slope Plot Font Parallel


The weather is fickle - anything could happen between now and April - but, to be honest, it's not looking good for Powell in 2022.
 

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'The game changer will be the runoff this year (if there even is one).'

The runoff last year raised the reservoir level by less than twenty four inches.

So far this year, the Upper Colorado snowpack had a promising start but has flatlined since early January:

View attachment 73106

The weather is fickle - anything could happen between now and April - but, to be honest, it's not looking good for Powell in 2022.
And don't forget, they're going to put some of this year's runoff water and all of the upstream reservoirs that they drained to keep the turbines spinning and the cash flowing in Powell last year..
 

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Discussion Starter · #35 ·
The photography from the same trip is great, worth a read too:
 

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Discussion Starter · #36 ·
Some interesting reading: https://wayneswords.net/threads/good-conversation.7238/
Paladin at Waynes Words said:
Most recently I had the honor and privilege of a conference call with Superintendent Shott regarding the current state of affairs at Lake Powell and the Glen Canyon Recreational Area.
<snip>
Hite will be rebuilt to support a massive influx of floaters, rafters, paddle boarders and kayakers.
He stated clearly that an RFP was issued and the vendor accepted and that they will start construction in the very near future.
 

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Wow. I call bullshit on most if not all of paladin's post, Hite rebuilt ? yeah, when the levels in the reservoir raise another hundred plus feet. Not a thing that is in his "report" is economically feasible, I can't fathom that the agency has a spare trillion dollars laying around to invest in infrastructure that if their, BuWreck and WAPA's wishes come true, will be underwater in a couple years. And his estimation of snowpack, well if wishes were horses, beggars would ride.

It's my understanding (from the guy that was the captain of the boat I rode on on our memorial day trip) that they are only looking to rebuild / lengthen the "executive" ramp at Bullfrog this year, and while they are looking at options with an engineering firm, I'm betting there's not a great deal of $$$ available, especially with inflation at 8%, diesel fuel at +$5.00 a gallon, to do any of it.

My 2 cents, YMMV
 

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Wow. I call bullshit on most if not all of paladin's post, Hite rebuilt ? yeah, when the levels in the reservoir raise another hundred plus feet. Not a thing that is in his "report" is economically feasible, I can't fathom that the agency has a spare trillion dollars laying around to invest in infrastructure that if their, BuWreck and WAPA's wishes come true, will be underwater in a couple years. And his estimation of snowpack, well if wishes were horses, beggars would ride.

It's my understanding (from the guy that was the captain of the boat I rode on on our memorial day trip) that they are only looking to rebuild / lengthen the "executive" ramp at Bullfrog this year, and while they are looking at options with an engineering firm, I'm betting there's not a great deal of $$$ available, especially with inflation at 8%, diesel fuel at +$5.00 a gallon, to do any of it.

My 2 cents, YMMV
From what I can tell, the gentle folks over at Wayne's Words are mostly shills for the BoR.

They, like their paymasters, have their heads firmly stuck in the sediment.

Schott spouts BS to anyone who will listen. He has a clue wtf is about to hit him but chooses to lie through his teeth in the hope the Spring runoff will cover his arse - which it won't.

Even I can see that from here in London.

There's going to be access to Lake Powell for a few short weeks via one, hastily extended, ramp and then what?

What about the upstream reservoirs that are being drained to prop up Powell? The boat owners there are going to be livid that they've lost another season.

Regarding Hite: There will never again be enough water to launch there - the ramp extends down to ~3650, 130 feet above the current elevation of the reservoir and over ten miles from it.

If there's any new development there it will be to do with giving floaters the facility to get off The River in an orderly fashion - ie blading a path from the existing concrete ramp down to the Colorado as it now sits.

This simple nod to the floaters wouldn't cost a bean compared to the money being thrown to ensure some rich dork's floating gin palace can launch at Wahweap, Bullfrog, whatever.
 

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I recently did a backpacking trip in southeastern Utah and on route, we stopped at Hite to check it out. The last time I was there was probably back in 2001 after running Cat. The place is surreal now-an eerie site with the river 1/4 mile from the ramp and then a huge silt cliff-inaccessible, to the river far below.

Meanwhile, the Colorado continues to reemerge as the reservoir continues to drop. The Returning Rapids project is doing a great job of documenting the return of Glen Canyon and it is a very interesting time-when a man-made folly is obviously becoming defunct and nature is coming back.

The "Fill Mead First" initiative emphasizes the logic of draining Powell and putting the water into Mead. It's a deeper, narrower reservoir that would not loose as much water to evaporation. Of course, all the yahoos w/house boats will argue that idea till the very end.
 

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I recently did a backpacking trip in southeastern Utah and on route, we stopped at Hite to check it out. The last time I was there was probably back in 2001 after running Cat. The place is surreal now-an eerie site with the river 1/4 mile from the ramp and then a huge silt cliff-inaccessible, to the river far below.

Meanwhile, the Colorado continues to reemerge as the reservoir continues to drop. The Returning Rapids project is doing a great job of documenting the return of Glen Canyon and it is a very interesting time-when a man-made folly is obviously becoming defunct and nature is coming back.
We floated by Hite 2 years ago, there was every bit of a 30 foot tall silt cliff between the "top" and the river, and Hite was a TINY little spec in the distance. I think your 1/4 mile estimation is off by about 2-3 miles from what I saw on the water.. It's a LONG way away, and many feet below "Ground level" to the water.

The returning rapids project is most cool.
 
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