Straddling the eponymous river on the north side of I-70, Green River (pop. 952) makes a handy base for exploring southeastern Utah, but it offers little in and of itself. The town holds numerous 24-hour gas stations, a handful of motels, and a couple of good places to eat—try the Tamarisk (1710 E. Main St., 435/564-8109), overlooking the Green River.
Just south of Main Street, the most characterful place to eat and drink in Green River can be found under the unmissable neon sign at Ray’s Tavern (25 S. Broadway, 435/564-3511), with excellent burgers, a wide range of microbrews, a pool table, and dining tables made out of tree trunks.
Even if you don’t need fuel, food, or a place to sleep, Green River offers one compelling reason to stop: the spacious, modern John Wesley Powell River History Museum (1765 E. Main St., 435/564-3427, Mon.-Sat. 9am-7pm, Sun. 12pm-5pm summer, Tues.-Sat. 9am-5pm, Sun. 12pm-5pm winter, $6), above the east bank of the river. In 1869 Powell and his crew were the first to travel the length of the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. Though the legendary explorers started their epic adventure in Green River, Wyoming, not here in Utah, the spacious modern museum, on old US-50 along the east bank of the Green River, is the best single repository of artifacts relating to their feat. The collection concentrates on Powell in particular and on waterborne transport in general, but there are also displays chronicling the adventures of other early explorers (including Juan de Oñate in 1605 and the Domínguez and Escalante expedition of 1776), and of fur-trappers, miners, and Mormons—all of whom contributed to the exploration and mapping of the American West.
To get some sense of what Powell and crew experienced, take a raft, canoe, or kayak trip down the Green or Colorado River. Dozens of outfitters offer equipment rentals, shuttles, and guided trips, from all-day to weeklong tours.