Green River, Utah, population 968, is not high on anybody's route except for longhaul Pipe at Crystal Geyser The Crystal Geyser site truckers, whitewater rafters, wilderness explorers or people traveling from New Mexico to Salt Lake City. Right now the water is low in the Green, and covered with thin slices of ice which break off from the shore and float along, sometimes looking like great table tops. With sunny skies and afternoons in the 40s, it's a great place to find uncrowded areas to explore.

There is one small grocery, a couple of mini-marts, quite a few motels, and the pleasant Tamarisk restaurant overlooking the river just across the street from the Green River Museum, which we first visited in 2002. The museum is dedicated to the boatmen who explored the river in a variety of craft, from ancient woven baskets to modern elaborate special-purpose boats.

The scenery near Green River Rocks near Green River Nearby, there are quite a few trails to explore by truck or car (depending upon the weather -- most feature dirt roads or driving down a wash). On this trip we took advantage of the weather and went in search of Crystal Geyser (not to be confused with the water company of the same name). As soon as we left the main highway and began to wind back up into the rocks, the scenery became more varied and interesting. Fantastic shapes and combinations of rocks, balancing on each other precariously, kept us watching. There is almost no vegetation except right at the riverbank, but the rocky formations are beautiful and otherworldly.

Travertine formed by geyser eruptions Travertine About seven miles in, following the excellent directions in the local guide, we found the Crystal Geyser. "Crystal" is a definite misnomer because this geyser is a cold-water geyser, powered by carbon dioxide deep underground, which leaves salt traces each time erupts. The eruptions occur irregularly, about every 12 to 16 hours, and we believe one had occurred only a short time before our arrival. A metal pipe had been placed at the entrance long ago. The surrounding ground was covered in puddles of clear water, with bubbles slowly subsiding. Standing near the pipe, we could hear the water underground gurgling and bubbling.

But the most intriguing sight was the ground between the geyser and the river. As the water evaporates, rippled by the desert breeze, the minerals solidify into a delicate web of travertine in a variety of colors. Lacework created by the eruptions Tracery For several hundred feet near the well, a large (and growing) mound of this travertine, colored mostly in shades of rust and ochre but including patches of white and black, has formed what looks like a watercourse of running rock down to the icy Green River.

After we admired the geyser's surroundings, we detoured past an abandoned Air Force missile launch pad, once used in connection with New Mexico's White Sands Missile Range. Unfortunately, as happens all too often, when the government leaves a place they do not receive extra money to restore the land to its natural condition, before the government had used it. In this site there was a perimeter fence with barbed wire, old padlocks, strips of torn 'Evidence Tape' inadequately suited to prevent intrusion, power lines cut by wire cutters, and a number of tumble-down buildings. The abandoned base Abandoned base No signs indicated this had once been government property, but red spray paint in front of the gate read, "KEEP OUT."

We found the Crystal Geyser in a leaflet we picked up at our motel. It describes five additional excursions, some of them featuring Native American petroglyph panels and dinosaur bones and fossils. Just farther on, starting at 14 miles from Green River, the San Rafael Swell is described as "one of the last great American wilderness areas yet to be discovered by the masses." We believe it. A party of dirty and rugged-looking men in our hotel looked like they had been in that wilderness for days.