Off the Beaten Path: Green River, Utah

Off the Beaten Path: Green River, Utah

Patti and Tom Burkett

As you drive along Interstate-70 in Utah, it’s easy to put on a music playlist and blow through without looking left or right.  If you do, you’ll lose out. 

For example, the little town of Green River has several things we recommend (see interactive map at bottom of story).  If you happen to be there in September, you can spend the weekend at Melon Days.  This classic small town festival celebrates all things green and stripy.  Pancake breakfasts, seed spitting contests for all ages, a 5K run, and a parade are among the events.  Enjoy live music, brush up on your square dancing, or just sit back and watch the softball tournament.

What has this to do with hot springs, you’re wondering?  Well, the most underrated feature of the Green River area is a few miles out of town.  When we visited, it was five miles of driving down badly washboarded rural roads.  At the end we found Crystal Geyser

Several times a day, water spouts from the ground here along the banks of the Green River, sometimes rising more than 100 feet in the air. What makes this spot unique, one of only a handful in the world, is that it’s not geothermal. The eruptions are powered by dissolved carbon dioxide in the groundwater, and the erupting stream is cold. The water tumbles down to the river, and has left shelves of orange-colored travertine. (Story continues below video)

Amazingly, this wonder sits entirely unremarked on public agency land.  We came in after dark and parked 20 yards from the geyser.  By morning one other camper was sharing the large two-level undeveloped parking area with us.  As the morning wore on, a couple of families arrived in bathing suits, a few fishers ranged themselves along the banks, and a group of canoeists launched nearby. 

The geyser burbled off and on, water running down the shelves.  We enjoyed the wildflowers and chatted with the regulars.  We chose to move on before a major blow, but the locals assured us it would happen several times that day.

Green River also offers the John Wesley Powell Museum, with information about his river trips as well as local geology.  Slow down in those long stretches of seemingly barren country.  Look around.  You’ll be glad you did.