The town of Green River and the namesake river that runs through it are historically important. Early Native Americans used the river for centuries; the Old Spanish Trail crossed it, and the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad bridged it in 1883. Some say the "green" refers to the color of the water; others claim it's named for the plants along the riverbank. And yet another story gives the credit to a mysterious trapper named Green. Whatever the etymology, Green River remains a sleepy little town, and a nice break from some of the more "hip" tourist communities in southern Utah.
Green River has some less expensive—but also less noteworthy—dining and lodging options, and the excellent John Wesley Powell River History Museum. Each September the fragrance of fresh cantaloupe, watermelon, and honeydew fills the air, especially during Melon Days, a family-fun harvest celebration held annually on the third weekend of the month. As Moab hotels have become more expensive and crowded spring through fall, many park visitors have taken to staying farther south in the small southeastern Utah towns of Blanding and Bluff, and even 110 miles away up in Grand Junction, Colorado, a city of about 63,000 that's come into its own in recent years with a quaint, historic downtown and close proximity to gorgeous Colorado National Monument.