Most people just pass through Green River, Utah, some maybe stopping for gas or a bite to eat while heading east or west along Interstate 70. But the small town with a population of less than a thousand is more than just a highway rest stop.
For one thing, there’s the melons.
Strangely, in the middle of the Utah desert, Green River farmers are famous for growing delicious melons. In fact, the town hosts a melon festival every September, a community event that goes back 116 years. Local growers produce several varieties including watermelon and cantaloupe.
Green River‘s history begins in 1876 when a ferry crossing was established. It’s now home to the John Wesley Powell Museum and is not far from places like Canyonlands National Park, Arches National Park, Goblin Valley State Park, and the San Rafael Swell.
Another draw is the Green River itself. Swaseys Beach, a few miles north of town, is where many epic multi-day rafting trips end, having just floated through miles of untouched Utah canyon wilderness. The campground at Swaseys Beach is fantastic, situated amongst mature cottonwoods and steps to the sandy beach.
One reason for Green River’s relative obscurity is its isolation. To the west on I-70, the closest town is Salina, 110 miles away. There isn’t even a gas station or restaurant between Salina and Green River. To the east, it’s 90 miles to the first real civilization – across the Colorado state line to Fruita and Grand Junction.
JOHN WESLEY POWELL RIVER HISTORY MUSEUM
Visit this fantastic museum devoted to the history of the river, the town, and Powell, who led two expeditions in 1869 and 1871 down the river while being the first to map the area for the United States government. The 1969 Powell expedition was the first to successfully boat the Grand Canyon stretch of the Colorado River.
A few miles north of town, this is where many Green River rafting trips end. There’s a wonderful white sand beach and a campground with day-use facilities to enjoy.
Green River is less than an hour’s drive from Canyonlands National Park and Arches National Park. Staying in Green River as a base camp for seeing these two national parks is a less expensive option than Moab, just a little farther.