U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIORBUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT
|Muddy Creek - Know Before You Go|
FLOATING MUDDY CREEK
"The Muddy," a low-flow desert creek slices through the San Rafael Swell revealing a cross-section of rock strata from Mancos Shale at I-70 to the sensational cliffs of the Coconino Sandstone in "the Chute." During spring runoff "The Muddy" provides an exciting floating excursion. Proper planning is essential for a safe and enjoyable experience.
Your outing will be enhanced if you know...
The biggest dilemma one faces when planning a float trip on Muddy Creek is timing a trip when flows are sufficient for floating. Because farmers take water from the Muddy for irrigation downstream from the gauge at Emery, we recommend that you cautiously wade into the Creek at the bridge over I-70 and measure how high it is flowing. If the Creek is at least 2 feet high, it is minimally floatable in small craft (such as inflatable kayaks or hardshells). On average, May and June are the only months that the river is potentially floatable.
Note that although there is a gauge at the I-70 bridge, it has not been operable since 1986. Therefore to avoid disappointment always be prepared for an alternative activity should you arrive and find insufficient flows. For example, if the flow is ankle deep or lower, the Tomsich Butte to Hidden Splendor Mine section of the Muddy is an exciting and challenging hike.
This chart divides Muddy Creek into floatable sections based on road access. Each section is classified for difficulty. Classes are to be used only as a general guide. Classes will change with flows (cfs). For example, the first part of the float between I-70 to Lone Tree Crossing can turn into a Class III run with complex hydraulics during high water. Alternatively, it can be a rocky nightmare to negotiate with low flows. In addition, hazards such as strainers (e.g. fallen trees), dead livestock, new rock falls, and wall shots change constantly. All visitors must float with caution.
The normal peak is about 150-300 cfs in May or early June. Past history is no guarantee of current conditions. Floaters should obtain current flows by calling: 801.539.1311.
We highly recommend purchasing BLM Surface Management Status maps (1:100,000 scale) sold for $4 each at most BLM offices in Utah. These maps show the complex of non-paved roads which lead to the put-ins and trailheads. The more detailed USGS 7.5 minute quads should also be carried. They are available from the U.S. Geological Survey directly on the internet or by telephone: 801.975.3743 and at some private outlets, and the visitor centers of government offices. The Price BLM office does not sell USGS maps, but does sell the BLM Surface Management Status maps.
The put-in off I-70 is not sign-posted; one must pull of the east-bound lane onto a clearing just after crossing the Muddy Creek Bridge on the Interstate. The Lone Tree Crossing is signed and there are signs in the San Rafael Swell to Hidden Splendor mine area and Tomsich Butte (Hondo Arch). The “Crossing” is not signed; drive to the Muddy via the road to Goblin Valley/Little Wild Horse and proceed past the Little Wild Horse signed parking area until you reach the Creek. Crossing the Creek by vehicle can be hazardous.
Motorized craft such as jet skis and motorized vehicles such as ATVs and motorcycles are etiher not permitted on Muddy Creek or their use is inappropriate due to its rocky, shallow nature. Below Hidden Splendor Mine, motorized vehicles including jet skies are not permitted in order to protect natural resources such as riparian vegetation, soils and wildlife.
Proper outdoor ethics are expected of all visitors. These include using a portable toilet when camping near a vehicle, using existing, impacted campsites, carrying out or burying toilet paper, using camp stoves in the back country, never cutting or tearing live vegetations, carrying in your own firewood and using a fire pan for all open fires. Carrying out more trash than you carry in will help keep the canyon clean. Please be courteous to all users. This means not blocking launch sits with vehicles or equipment, not leaving litter, including organic waste, and traveling in small, quiet groups.
From Lone Pine Crossing to below the Chute, Muddy Creek runs through the Muddy Creek Wilderness Study Area (WSA).
During high spring runoff, visitors with small craft can float sections of the San Rafael and Price Rivers, the two other low-flow desert rivers in the BLM’s Price Office Area. This office also manages the Desolation-Gray Canyons and Labyrinth Canyon, on the Green River.