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Aeriel Green River

Green River: A History of Booms & Busts

Green River has traditionally been known as a way-station, a crossing-point, a pit-stop, but this unique village is more than just a place to pause. Like most towns, it has been shaped by many events that have dramatically impacted the shape of the city and its residents. Green River has a rich past full of booms and busts.

The history of Green River begins before the settlement era since it was the most accessible crossing point on the Green River south of the Uinta Basin. The Old Spanish Trail forded the river about three miles upstream from the present town, as did the 1853 railroad survey under the direction of Captain John W. Gunnison. The site’s accessibility also made it a natural staging and supply point for travel on the river. the City of Green River started as a river crossing for the U.S. Mail. Settlement began in the late 1870’s in the form of Blake Station on the overland mail route between Salina, Utah, and Ouray, Colorado. The first permanent settlers of European stock were the families of Thomas Farrer and Matthew Hartman. The Farrers played a leading role in the community for several decades, operating a general store, a bank, and a ferry service.

The railroad has played a major role in Green River’s history. In 1880 this small town of three families boomed into a tent-and-dugout town with workers coming to build the bridge and the road bed for the railroad. The completion of the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railway in 1883 made Green River a shipping point for livestock and mining equipment and supplies. Green River became a fueling and watering stop for the railroad with switching yards and engine sheds. Since there were no dining cars in those days a hotel (called the Palmer House) was built, and it became the scheduled meal stop for trains from both directions for many years. The influx of railroad workers gave the town 375 residents by 1890, in addition to a fluctuating population of cowboys, sheepherders, and prospectors from the Book Cliffs and the San Rafael Desert. The town’s location on the “outlaw trail” between Robbers Roost and Browns Park also contributed to its “wild west” reputation during that period. Green River enjoyed the railroad boom until 1892 when the railroad transferred most of its operations to Helper, Utah, cutting the population in half. Today, only the Amtrak passenger train stops in Green River, Utah.

An oil boom in 1901 brought a rush to locate claims and some drilling activity but no commercial production. In 1906 a land developer named E.T. Merritt began promoting Green River as a fruit-growing area comparable to the Grand Valley of Colorado. Several hundred acres of peach trees were planted on both sides of the river, but problems with the irrigation system and harsh winter temperatures killed most of the trees before they could come into production

In the late 1940’s through the 1960’s (when the uranium boom ended followed by a brief recovery in the 1970’s) uranium dominated the economy of Green River. Several trucking companies based in Green River hauled the ore from the mines in the Four-Corners Mining District, the San Rafael Swell, the Henry Mountains, and near Lake Powell.

The U. S. Air Force built the Green River Launch Complex (the new Area 51?), just outside of Green River, in 1964. It was an annex of the U.S. Army’s White Sands Missile Range. From 1964-73 the U. S. Air Force launched 141 Athena and Pershing Missiles from the Green River launching area, near the Crystal Geyser. From those firings research was done to improve nuclear missiles. The Launch Complex brought the town’s population to a high point of almost 2,000 before the closing of the complex in the 1970s led to yet another economic downturn.

Each of these boom cycles had some lasting impact upon the community. The “Farrer Subdivision” that makes up the southeastern portion of the town was a product of the railroad era. The “upper town” to the north and west was developed during the peach boom, a period that also saw the incorporation of the town in 1906 and the building of a high school in 1910. The Community Presbyterian Church was also established during this period. A Latter-Day Saint ward was organized in 1904, disbanded in 1915, and reestablished in 1923. During the uranium boom, Jim Hurst developed an innovative flying service to carry workers and supplies to remote mining locations. The successors to Hurst’s operation now carry on an active business flying river running parties. The “missile base” era brought new schools and civic services and saw the Community Church become the Green River Bible Church. Catholic and Baptist worship services were also instituted during this period. Unfortunately, these booms and busts have put the city into the mindset that it has to wait for something to come along in order for things to change. So, what will the next boom be… the nuclear power plant?

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Information taken from: Emery County Daughters of Utah Pioneers, Castle Valley: A History of Emery County (1949); Emery County Historical Society, Emery County, 1880-1980 (1981) and the City of Green River website.

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Dinosaur Diamond Prehistoric Highway

States: Colorado and Utah
Length: 480.0 mi / 772.5 km
Time to Allow: Take ten hours to drive or ten days to enjoy the byway.

The Dinosaur Diamond runs through the best land in the world to learn about dinosaurs. Numerous sites are available to the public where bones and tracks are still visible in the ground. Many museums along the way add to the opportunities to see and learn about dinosaurs. Read more

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Native American Rock Art

As far back as 7000-9000 B.C., Paleo-Indians hunted large mammals such as Mastodons and Mammoths across southwest Utah. Later inhabitants included the Desert Archaic culture, the Fremont culture, and Ancestral Pueblo People.

Due to rich Native American history and culture in the area there are plenty of places to find and to be found that include pictographs and petroglyphs. Read more

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Green River Missile Launch Complex

The U. S. Air Force, built the Green River Launch Complex, just outside of Green River, Utah, 1964. It was an annex of the U.S. Army’s White Sands Missile Range. From 1964 to 1973 the U. S. Air Force launched 141 Athena Missiles from the Green River launching area, near the Crystal Geyser as part of research to improve nuclear missiles. The site has since been decommissioned. Pershing and Athena rockets were fired from here to White Sands, NM, some 400 miles away.
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Colorado River and Trail Expeditions

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RUN WILD! RUN RIVERS!

In 2011, Colorado River & Trail Expeditions (“Crate”) will be celebrating its 40th year in business. Dave and Vicki Mackay founded the company in 1971, because they loved being on the river and wanted to make it their life’s work. It was their intention then, as now, to outfit rafting trips of exceptional quality for folks who longed to escape from the hubbub of everyday living. With the support of smart, fun, and experienced guides, Crate has enabled thousands of people from all the world to travel down the Green and Colorado Rivers through Utah’s magnificent canyon country.

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Holiday River Expeditions

Holiday River Expeditions

Green River Daily

This section of the Green River runs through Gray Canyon which is the last day of our 5-day Desolation Canyon trip. Fun Class I to III rapids will be encountered on this 8 mile stretch. More of a Wilderness canyon, this pristine section of the Green allows viewing of petroglyphs and is home to the occasional big horn sheep, birds of prey and migratory birds. Perfect for floating, kayaking, paddling and water play. Children 5+ welcome!
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San Rafael Swell

San Rafael Swell

The San Rafael Swell is Utah’s fastest growing tourist destination. Most of this huge area is open to the public and adventures are left only to the visitor’s imagination. The Swell is 2,000 square miles of public land, known for its scenic sandstone formations, deep canyons, desert streams, and expansive panoramas. The Swell is a massive maze of winding canyons, broken fins and buttes in the heart of Utah.

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Ripely’s Believe It Or Not

A citizen of Green River was given this newspaper clipping from a family member from a Philadelphia newspaper. Ripley’s Believe It Or Not was able to be contacted and they found that it was published on December 30, 1990. The caption reads, “In Green River, Utah, there is a 25-ft-long wooden building shaped like a watermelon that is center point to the annual Watermelon Day festival.

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Book Cliffs

Book Cliffs

Stretching nearly 200 miles from east to west, the Book Cliffs begins where the Colorado River descends south through De Beque Canyon into the Grand Valley (near Palisade, Colorado) to Price Canyon (near Helper, Utah). The cliffs are largely composed of sedimentary materials. The name comes from the cliffs of Cretaceous sandstone that cap many south-facing buttes that appear similar to a shelf of books. The Book Cliffs are within the Colorado Plateau geologic province.

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Sego Canyon

Sego Canyon

Sego Canyon is a great adventure the entire family will enjoy. The canyon contains rock art from three different Native American cultures and a very well preserved ghost town. The company store and a boarding house still partially stand in the center of town. There are ruins to many houses scattered through out the canyon along with remnants of the coal mine.

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The Green River

History

The Wild West folklore, legend and history is a rich part of Green River’s past. If outlaws and gunslingers interest you, Green River is a good place to start tracing back the fascinating lore of the region.

Green River is the location of the official John Wesley Powell Museum, chronically the famous explorer’s historical trek down the river. Many artifacts and relics can be viewed in the museum. This collection honors the rich history of the area, and offers the visitor an indepth look into how this land looked during the early days of the west.

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Swasey’s Beach

Twelve miles north of Interstate 70, a developed BLM campground at Swasey boat ramp includes vault restrooms, trash disposal and fire rings. The white sand beach spans a long bend in the river and is shaded by cottonwood trees. Shallow water gives children plenty of opportunity to frolic in the river, and bighorn sheep frequent the water’s edge. Rapids upstream from the campground provide a kayaking playground. Designated as recreational access with no permits or fees for camping or boating, Swasey’s Beach provides barrier-free access for those with disabilities.

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Dead Horse Point State Park

Dead Horse Point State Park

Utah DNR LogoDead Horse Point State Park is about 63 miles from Green River.

Dead Horse Point is one of Utah’s most spectacular state parks. Towering 2,000 feet above the Colorado River, the park provides a breathtaking panorama of Canyonlands’ sculpted pinnacles and buttes.

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Friendship Cruise

Friendship Cruise

2012 has been cancelled due to water levels being too low. Look for us next year!

The Friendship Cruise begins on Memorial Day Weekend from the Green River to Moab, UT. See firsthand the river country of southeastern Utah as Major John Wesley Powell did over 100 years ago!

The 2012 Friendship Cruise promises to be an exciting holiday weekend for its participants.

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Green River State Park

Green River State Park

Utah DNR LogoRest under a canopy of cottonwood trees or accept the challenge of a nine-hole golf course on the banks of the Green River. Annual events include the 184-mile Friendship Cruise and Melon Days.

The park is also a popular starting point for boaters adventuring through Labyrinth and Stillwater canyons. There is information about Labyrinth Canyon that you should know if you’re planning a float trip; you will also need the Labyrinth Canyon Non-commercial River Trip Permit.

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Green River Golf Course

Green River Golf Course

Utah DNR LogoGreen River State Park golf course is a golf oasis on the banks of the Green River, with the Book Cliffs towering in the distance. The elevated tees and greens add character to a leisurely round of golf. The course offers fairways lined with mature cottonwood trees and water hazards from the meandering Green River. Surrounded by natural wonder, this nine-hole classic was designed to challenge the experienced player, but remain playable to newer golfers.

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