High water in Paria Canyon, UT! Alternative routes?
Mar 14, 2023 at 3:27 pm #3775751
I am a leader of a group of moderately experienced mostly teenage backpackers. We scored Paria Canyon permits – yay! But the ranger station has informed us that conditions are currently dangerous due to high water – boo!
Can anyone suggest a Colorado plateau itinerary in the 40-mile-ish range that would be of comprable advenurousness? Preferably one that does not require permits.Mar 14, 2023 at 4:16 pm #3775753Mar 14, 2023 at 6:45 pm #3775784ArthurBPL Member
Several years ago, we had a permit for Paria river. I called the ranger’s office. A young employee answered the phone. I told her that we had a permit in 3 days. She stuttered, got a big excited, and said I should talk to her boss. The other ranger got on the phone and he asked if we could swim. I said yes, that were actually all competitive swimmers in the past. He asked what are times were for 14 miles. We went elsewhere. PM me for a suggestion.Mar 14, 2023 at 7:07 pm #3775786
Grand Gulch is likely full of water also… does require a permit, but not hard to get in March… er… did you say March? Or when at all? With the amount of precip in the west this year, I would think all the canyons out that way will be wet… or… worse… a chance of flash floods…. I know that is ‘usually’ a summer thing, but this does not seem to be a ‘usual’ year…
DWRMar 14, 2023 at 8:01 pm #3775787
Trip is the last week of March. Looking at routes accessed by Hole-in-Rock road near Escalante. Will routes that go along the Escalante river be hikeable?Mar 14, 2023 at 8:37 pm #3775788
Best to call the Escalante Grand Staircase Ranger/Visitor Center…
That road can be washed out at times…
Honestly, if everything is wet out there, best to look for open/wide canyons than the narrow ones… And if it’s been raining… many, if not most of the roads will be muddy with access very questionable… depends on how much sand is in that clay… When you have lemons, make lemonade… go to open canyons or mesa tops that would be too hot in most years… Judging by the forecasts, it’s pretty cold weather out there right now too… March may not be the best time this year…. I usually go early April but my current thinking is late April… I will watch the weather before going… could be May this year… go with ‘the flow’ ha…
DWRMar 14, 2023 at 9:43 pm #3775792
Read your post again… you wrote, “Will routes that go along the Escalante river be hikeable?” If you are asking about the Escalante River itself and not the side canyons, much of the hiking down the Escalante River is IN the river itself… varies… it’s a very long river… but would be hard to imagine that water levels are not high this year. Again… call the ranger/visitor station and ask. And or call one of the local outfitters. My sense (without actually knowing or calling) is that March may be too early this year. You may be trying to force yourself into a bad situation for the sake of getting some ‘bucket list’ hikes in… Call and find out the situation from the locals… and be prepared to go with a plan B C or D… maybe no canyons at all… though I bet the Grand Canyon trails re hikeable… and paved roads right up to the trailheads… they often have unreserved passes available if you are flexible… call them… Or… lower elevations off the Colorado Plateau…
DWR…Mar 15, 2023 at 5:06 pm #3775871Rex SandersBPL Member
One dead, one missing after Buckskin Gulch floods
The helicopters extracted 11 other people from that (in)famous slot canyon in southern Utah, too.
— RexMar 15, 2023 at 5:21 pm #3775873Jon Fong / Flat Cat GearBPL Member
@jonfongLocale: FLAT CAT GEAR
I am pretty suprised that people would be hiking Buckskin Canyon at this moment.Mar 15, 2023 at 5:24 pm #3775874
Thanks for suggestions, everyone. Glad we are skipping Buckskin!
Not interested in a bucket list hike, just one that does not require (sold out) permits, not accessed by 4wd roads, not technical, not zero water sources or problematic water levels. That eliminates most options.
Still, I have one great idea from this thread.Mar 15, 2023 at 9:36 pm #3775898
Unbelievable that people would enter those narrows given the weather forecast… Good Grief… Many years this canyon is still too wet and flooded in May !!! And cold down in there until June… very sad that people die unnecessarily when out trying to have fun…Mar 19, 2023 at 1:21 pm #3776293Rex SandersBPL Member
Havasu Canyon hikers and stuff evacuated by helicopter
“Some hikers had to camp in the village. Others who weren’t able to get to the village because of high water were forced to camp overnight on a trail.”
FYI: Permits are very hard to come by. Ironically, visitation re-opened this month after three years of pandemic shutdown.
— RexMar 19, 2023 at 4:15 pm #3776304
People often think of the canyons as dry, hot deserts… which they are in the summer… but many are on mesas 6 to 8,000 feet high… and the weather generally moves west to east… in other words, those storms flooding California head on over to the canyons. And at 6 or 8,000 feet, it can be as cold as the Lake Tahoe ski resorts… just less precip, but cold.Mar 20, 2023 at 4:35 pm #3776407
You might look at some options in canyonlands needles districtMar 21, 2023 at 4:24 pm #3776677JeffPodBPL Member
Don’t write in forums too much…but might be worth checking out Coyote Gulch – its an option down Hole in the Rock Rd. You could enter from Hurricane Wash TH or Red Well TH. Doesn’t look like there is a permit quota you would just need to stop by and grab a permit at the ranger station. Its beautiful down there, especially the confluence of the Escalante and Coyote Gulch…..definitely worth a trip to see Steven’s Arch if it is safe to do so.
I walked through this area on the Hayduke in 2020 and then again last year in late April and it was beautiful. I bit later in April there is some heat…..so it make walking in and out of the water enjoyable – whereas when I walked through there in 2020 it was late October and my toes were soooo cold. If I remember correctly, there are a few loops you could put together that climb out of Coyote Gulch via a few known routes.
Good luck with planning!Mar 21, 2023 at 5:22 pm #3776684
Almost all the hikes in the Escalante region are in drainages. The Aquarius plateau is an 11’000 foot plateau that feeds all of the drainage’s of the Escalante. Things could magically dry out but highly unlikely this year as its been one for the record books. I kayaked the Escalante from highway 12 down to lake Powell in May 2005 and the river was pumping with lots of whitewater. It was an epic 7 day trip. There are a few overland routes that might minimize the water crossings but you’d want current data from the rangers. Jeff pod might be able to give input as he mentioned he did the hayduke.
There are some great dry loops in the needles district that go through really cool short slots, past arches and overlooks down to the Colorado River. Highly recommended.Mar 21, 2023 at 6:49 pm #3776695
Could be wrong, but I believe the permits for Coyote are limited. It is a VERY popular hike. And best to check on the roads. I would not be surprised if they are muddy and potentially impassable. Best to always check with the Ranger/Info Center in Escalante…Mar 25, 2023 at 8:57 pm #3777193
Looks like we will be headed to the Needles District of Canyonlands. Thanks for all the suggestions.Apr 11, 2023 at 9:03 pm #3778677
I was hoping to re-open the discussion about hiking Paria from White House to Lees Ferry.
My group has permits for April 18th.
We’ve been closely following USGS flow, SWE, weather, and other blogs. Also chatting with the contact station (although I’m not confident with the skillset of the person I spoke with there). So far, about a week ago, groups have made it just before the confluence and then had to turn around due to high water levels and cold water with quicksand.
What I seem to be picking up from the flow data is that the water levels (and flow) seem to change VERY quickly and with the temps right now, it sounds like Buckskin flooded Sunday and Monday with higher temps in the low 80’s from the snow melt.
My group is thinking about bringing lightweight dinghy’s (Klymit) if we thought that it was slow moving (aka lazy river) conditions for stretches when levels were not rising above around 8.2 ft (and less than 40 – 50 cfs; measured at Kanab station) during NON-FLOODING conditions.
In studying the hike, it seems like around mile 4 that the canyon starts to close down and this of course can dramatically change the water conditions. Watching videos of packrafters who floated (mind you, during flash flood conditions of typically 150+ cfs) there seems to be a few “chutes” before the confluence and perhaps a few after.
Ultimately, safety is the number one priority. We don’t want to get into a situation where we go past what I call “a point of no return” meaning that you’re over-committed with limited choices.
Looking for feedback from others who have hiked the canyon to offer thoughts on things like water conditions, quicksand, dangerous areas and also where some of the “safer” areas are past the confluence.
We want to make a safe decision, consider the measured experience of others, and combine this with the data before us.
Also, does anyone have that route previously suggested for the Needles District handy? :)
Thank you in advance and appreciate the expertise.Apr 11, 2023 at 9:49 pm #3778678
I think a lot of times when people get in trouble is trying to do trips by permit dates and/or vacation windows when those dates do not correspond to good, safe conditions. Unless you get some very good reports from people who are there, then maybe best to look for someplace with better conditions. Your post about concerns for ‘safe’ places is in itself an indicator that you might want to look elsewhere…Apr 11, 2023 at 9:57 pm #3778680
The needles route takes off from the trailhead at needles campground. If you look at a map you’ll see the trail network. I basically went out to chessler park and the joint trail (interesting dry slot) then out to devils kitchen and back over elephant hill following the outer loop of trails with a side trip to druid arch. Every trail and cross connector is really interesting. You could hike every trail and connector in that area in a meandering loop and it would add up to about 30 plus miles or so. I did this as a clockwise loop in the fall back in the nineties and we carried most of our water. We ended up finding several water sources in the 1st couple days on the southern leg so if I were to do it over, I’d go counter clockwise and cover the drier northern section 1st carrying water. This spring there may be lots of potholes filled with water. Hopefully the rangers will be helpful with that info.Apr 11, 2023 at 10:13 pm #3778682
Thank you for the Needles info. With the snowpack concerns are there any risks of flooding/high water along the route you described?Apr 11, 2023 at 10:17 pm #3778683
Thanks for your reply.
What I was referring to as “safer places” is that we are considering doing the hike in reverse and starting from Lees Ferry. If the water was moving fast or deep then it’s much safer/easier to turn back around and then go downstream then to get over-committed on a down river route and not be able to turn around heading back against the current.Apr 11, 2023 at 10:59 pm #3778687
Danielle, It’s possible the the joint trail might have some remnant pools but it’s not a creek bed. It’s more of a mosaic of cracks or joints that you can explore in. Its a side trip. If you found any water you didn’t want to travel through you could just reverse course.Apr 23, 2023 at 12:12 pm #3779567
Update for White House to Lees Ferry:
Our group of four made it through.
Dates: 4/18 – 4/21
Day 1: 10 miles to Wall Spring.
Day 2: Wall Spring to mile 20.
Day 3: mile 20 to finish (finished around 1am on 4/21).
We chose to take Klymit’s Light Water Dinghy’s with us (about 5#), inflatable vest, and emergency paddle with the idea to float some sections if deep/slow enough.
Overall, lots of water in the Upper and Lower Narrows miles 4 – 16. Max depth encountered was about mid abdomen on a hiker 5’6″. Knee length Seal Skinz and waist high 2mm Neoprene used. Water is COLD but the neoprene and Seal Skinz made it so I barely noticed the temperature. Careful on the neoprene: it can dehydrate you easily when trekking in sun-exposed segments so be mindful of hydration.
There’s a fair amount of mud and quicksand all throughout the Upper and Lower Narrows. Use trekking poles to scout it.
Miles 16 (start of Boulder Alley) to mile 33 are, in my opinion, the most dangerous. The scrambles through this section are with fast flowing water and some scrambles with rock debris akin to chossy rock (very unstable and crumbly) that go right up to cliff edges (one had a ledge of only about a foot that went straight over a cliff). Lots of climbing/elevation gain. Change out of neoprene if hot (but it also cushions your bottom as you’ll be on it to slide down some of the embankments). Boulder fields in this section that are extensive and easy to lose the trail so watch for the cairns to help guide you in this section.
Wilson Ranch around mile 33 had a few decent ground springs flowing.
Easily the most beautiful, yet most dangerous hike I’ve done to date.
WATCH THE WEATHER. There was evidence strewn through the narrows of people who got caught up in flash floods recently. Sobering and a reminder to NOT GO in these canyons if rain is in the forecast (rain on snow creates a high likelihood of flash flood events with the current snowpack situation).
Bonus treat: stop at the bridge over the Colorado near the beginning of Lees Ferry Road (the visitor center/bathrooms)….17 California Condors are hanging out there thermal soaring. A rare and beautify site.
I appreciate all the help and advice offered by the group.
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