River Day 4

By Marc

Keeping cool in the water...as long as you play by the "Duke" Rules

After breaking camp just beyond the Kwagunt Rapids (Mile 56), we headed down the river.  I know that I was in Kyle's boat today along with Phil.  I believe that Michael paddled this day.  Not sure about where everyone else was.  After a short five mile trip, we stopped at a point where the Little Colorado river joins the Colorado.  The contrast in colors where the rivers meet was striking.  Along the way, we traversed the mild 60 Mile Rapid and saw, for the first time, the Tapeats Sandstone, which was tan-brown in color and amazing in the number of thin layers, eroded to different depths.

            The Little Colorado river is a brilliant blue with a touch of sea green, due to calcium carbonate, which is found about 10 miles up the river.  The water comes from springs, making it much warmer than the Colorado. We spent a good portion of the morning and early afternoon swimming in the Little Colorado.  After hiking about a quarter-mile upstream, we all took our life jackets off, stepped into the armholes and fixed them around our waists.  Then we swam a small rapid.  Although the rapid was tiny and the pace of the river slow, it was amazing to feel the sweep of the water as it reached the slight (maybe 1 foot) drop that formed the rapids.  Most of us swam the rapid multiple times - and some joined a chain of about 10 people who went down together, legs under the arms of the person in front.

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            Some people climbed up to a large rock and jumped approximately 12-15 feet into the water.  Kyle, not surprisingly, did a back-flip.  After all the activity, many of us spent some time lounging around in the water.  Many of the rocks were coated with a soft, grainy mud that was very slippery.

            Following our time in the Little Colorado (I think) we went a short ways downstream for lunch.  We (except, not surprisingly, the king of picky! [Michael]) feasted on Taco Salad.  As we left the Little Colorado, we turned from a SSE course to a more SW course, signifying that we were beginning to cut across the canyon.  At this point the rocks entered the Great Unconformity period (which I still don't understand) and, at around mile 64, we began to see the Dox Sandstone, which was reddish brown.  Along the way that afternoon, we also saw, on the left around mile 64, the Sacred Hopi Salt Mines, which the Hopi used to make long yearly trips to visit.  The salt crystallization was evident on the rocks near the water.

            Further down the river, around mile 65, we passed Lava Canyon and the rapids named for it.  Around this time, we could see, off in the distance to the right, the palisades, the undulating top layer of Kaibab limestone.  Further, off to the left, we could see Comanche Point, which appeared like a fist with the thumb apart and sticking up.  Approaching mile 71, we could see, on a ridge above the river, a small stone structure which was an Anasazi building.  No one is sure exactly what the building served as - it could have been a lookout (as you could see a good distance upstream from it) or a place for religious gathering.  The following morning we (though I was the only one from our group to go) hiked to this structure.

Best (and only) shower of the week here at Clear Creek. 

            Around mile 72 (just above the Unkar Rapid), we stopped on the right side of the river for a short hike up to some Anasazi ruins.  The ruins, located on a slight hill above the river, included stones laid as the foundation for various small structures.  There were pottery shards all around.  Further on the trail was a large rock that had several petroglyphs, including a spiral.

            Following the short hike, we returned to the rafts and went to the other side of the river to camp.  The day was hot and camp faced west, leaving us in the heat of the afternoon sun (before it receded behind the cliffs) for approximately 90 minutes.  To get some relief, Michael, Jeff, Philip and Lee took two buckets and the "ironing board" from the camp kitchen, placed them in the water as a table, and played hearts.

            The cliffs beyond our campsite were beautiful and it was amazing to watch the light change the colors of the rocks.  The Kaibab was a bleached white while the Dox sandstone burned a fiery red.  The shadows, as the sun set, only increased the beauty.  In the distance to the East (I think) was the glorious limestone Temple of Apollo.

            Dinner that night was steak and mashed potatoes after an appetizer of pesto cream cheese.

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The wind was a major problem all evening, it was blowing hot and hard upstream towards us.  We had the second of our three Scrabble games that night (and the only one Michael did not win).  I woke up covered in sand from head to toe.


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