Michael Smith knows Moab’s river history. And he knew it needed to be remembered with gathering of boatmen each year at a river rendezvous. He’s been guiding in the area for at least 26 years.
“The idea was Moab has somewhat forgotten as a heck of a river town,” Smith said. “We’re still heck of a river town. We have great history here.”
This weekend is the fourth annual Moab River Rendezvous.
“We have a solid core of 30 or 40 people that come every year,” he said. “It is a great gathering and it does bring together so many people, whether boaters or not.”
The rendezvous is full spectrum, and includes a river trips, films, readings, riparian restoration and several educational sessions that address flora, fauna, geology and history.
And there is simply time for river runners to spend time together celebrating the end of the year.
Plateau Restoration, a non-profit Smith founded in the mid-1990s, sponsors the annual event.
The rendezvous begins Thursday with a winter trip. Shortly after the trip, guests are invited to Plateau Restoration’s office and river warehouse for an early dinner and presentation on the history of rubber boats by Roy Webb. Both events are open only to participants who are registered for all four days of the event.
William DeBuys, author of “A Great Aridness” and Jack Loeffler, author of “Thinking Like a Watershed” will share portions of their books during a reading at the Grand County Public Library that evening. The public is welcome to the free event.
Friday is a work day.
The public is invited to spend the day at Jackson Bottom to assist in riparian restoration.
The 67-acre site is at the end of Hwy 279 and is owned by Intrepid Potash Mining Company. Plateau Restoration has been working in cooperation the land owners, as well as local and state agencies to rehabilitate a bottom land that had been invaded by tamarisk.
The site also includes the Potash boat ramp that is used for jet boat excursions into Canyonlands National Park, or as the put-in for Cataract Canyon boat trips.
“This project site gives us a tremendous opportunity to think-out-of-the-box and explore innovative techniques to restore wildlife habitat to this area. It is a site where our volunteers have planted and watered thousands of grass and tree transplants over the last two years,” Smith said. “We’ve seen near-record high water and near-record drought conditions over the last two years, so we are focusing on strategies that will ensure long-term success, in spite of projected climate change.”
Those wanting to donate their time and muscle are asked to meet at the Moab Information Center at 9 a.m. for a shuttle to Jackson Bottom. Lunch and tools are provided.
That evening is a historic river film festival presented by Roy Webb.
Webb is a river runner and historian. He manages the special collection archives at the J Willard Library at the University of Utah.
“He has all these amazing films at his disposal. We’ll be able to utilize Roy for many years because he’ll never have to bring the same movie twice,” Smith said.
Smith has relied on Webb throughout his career.
Smith was a river interpretative ranger on the Green and Yampa rivers in Dinosaur National Monument in the mid-1980s.
“I used his books for my basis of knowledge in my presentations,” he said. “I got a lot of compliments on my history portion. I was so pleased when we got to meet.”
Big Saturday at the MARC has sessions almost every hour from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Attendees can pay $50 for the day, or $5 per session. A day pass will get you a free lunch.
“Even if you are a seasonal boater and can’t afford the whole thing, you can go to one session,” Smith said.
The sessions include lectures on control of noxious riparian weeds by Dan Bean, zebra mussels and other invasive aquatic species by Mike Bolinski and ecological restoration and climate change by Dave Egan.
The final day is an archaeology, geology and ecology field trip with geologist Tasmin McCormick
“We’ve been trying to appeal to government agencies,” Smith said. “You can send your staff to this and have some amazing presentations. You can learn so much and it is so inexpensive,” Smith said.