The Moab River Rendezvous is this weekend.
However, founder Michael Smith said that you don’t have to be a river runner to go.
“It’s great to get together with people who are interested in these kinds of things,” he said.
The fourth annual Rendezvous will host field trips, films and lectures celebrating the river on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 7, 8, 9 and 10. A 4-day pass to all the events is $80, but there are rates for those who want to pick and choose and show up at the door.
“Moab has always been a river town,” Smith said. “We’re still heck of a river town. We have great history here.”
Smith has been guiding for 27 years. He chose to organize the River Rendezvous for river runners to spend time together celebrating the end of the year. It’s also a chance to visit with authors, review history and learn more about the local geology, archeology and ecology.
Plateau Restoration, a non-profit Smith founded in the mid-1990s, sponsors the annual event.
Jocelyn Buck isn’t a river runner, but she loved the River Rendezvous.
“What terrific speakers and interesting topics. Every one complemented the one before it,” Buck said. “I will recommend it to all concerned with the environment and learning about the outdoors.”
One of the highlights this year is Kevin Fedarko, the author of “The Emerald Mile.”
The book chronicles the story of the fastest boat ride through the Grand Canyon.
“I bumped into the book and asked him out of the blue to come,” Smith said.
The book chronicles Kenton Grua and crew’s trip on a flat-bottomed fishing boat named “The Emerald Mile” in 1983. The three-man crew took the fastest ride through the Grand Canyon; 277-miles from Lee’s Ferry to the Grand Wash Cliffs.
Due to a record snowfall in the Rocky Mountains, the highest volume of snowmelt recorded flowed through the Grand Canyon at more than 100,000 cubic feet per second. Grua used the swollen river “as a kind of hydraulic slingshot” to pitch them as fast as possible.
Fedarko’s book records more than just the single trip. He wrote about the season and how it affected other river runners.
Smith worked as a river guide in the Grand Canyon that summer.
“I did a lot of trips in the high water in ’83,” Smith said. “Some of the flips and swims he wrote about were me.”
The book also addresses the worries and mistakes made by Bureau of Reclamation regarding Glen Canyon Dam, which had difficulty holding back the record flow of water.
Smith said that this is a great year to remember the trip, on the 30th anniversary of high water in Grand Canyon and 60th anniversary of the Glen Canyon Dam.
“How they were trying to save the dam was the most interesting part,” Smith said. “He’s a pretty sharp guy. I’m interested in what he has to say.”
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 and is the put-in for Cataract Canyon whitewater trips.
Smith said that riparian restoration is a “study in patience.”
Plateau Restoration has a 10-year agreement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife to restore the area for wildlife, and is now nearing its fourth year at the site.
Smith said that he sees more deer, big horn sheep, lizards and snakes in the area.
“The bird populations have skyrocketed,” he said.
He said eventually predators will move in.
“There are three coyote dens out there now. We follow the tracks to see where they are bedding down,” he said.
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.
Friday 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.”
Saturday is a field trip to Canyonlands National Park with Colorado Mesa University geology professor, Dr. Andres Aslan. That evening there are presentations by authors Dan McCool and Bob Keiter at Star Hall.
On the last day of the rendezvous there is another field trip into the Colorado River corridor to discuss archeology, geology and ecology with geologist Dr. Tamsin McCormick and others.
“We tend to focus on the national parks when it comes to geology around Moab, but there are numerous other curiosities that can be explored from roads along the river corridor, if we know where to look,” McCormick said.
She referred to a quote by John McPhee, who said, “Rocks are records of events that took place at the time they formed. They are books. They have a different vocabulary, a different alphabet, but you learn how to read them.”
McCormick said that one can “read” the events that created the landscapes.
“On the field trip along the river corridor we’ll read this story with participants and share insights on how this has molded human history of the region,” she said.