Canyon Point, Marble Canyon
By: Greg Roach
We met Saturday morning at the edge of a large broad wash 8.3 miles west of State Highway 190 in Stovepipe Wells. The driving instructions are in the D.P.S. guide for Canyon Point. The road conditions past this point have changed due to the big winter rains of 1997-98. There is a good flat camping place here right before the road enters the wash some of us camped here Friday night.
There is a steep drop-off on the Cottonwood - Marble Canyon Road here as it enters the broad wash.
We consolidated into 4 wheel-drive vehicles before going up the wash to the Canyon Point Trailhead. I had climbed this peak 5 years ago and the road used to be fairly smooth in the wash and clearly defined. A regular passenger car could drive all the way to the trailhead as described in the D.P.S. Guide, not anymore. The road is completely washed out. We followed tire tracks in the wash and orange painted rocks that were placed on top of "ducks" to mark the way.
The sides of the wash narrow in about a mile as you pass through the limestone cliffs which separate Cottonwood Canyon from the Death Valley floor. After passing through the narrows the canyon opens up into a broad valley. This is were the guide says, "you'll turn sharply left (S) up Cottonwood Canyon." After driving 2.3 miles from our meeting place we came to a large wash coming in from the west. There is a street sign on a pole here with no lettering. This is Marble Canyon.
Continuing south up Cottonwood Canyon Wash we came to the start of another narrows 4.9 miles from Marble Canyon. The second narrows is about 2 miles long and we drove just passed the end of it to were the road became impassable 6.8 miles past Marble Canyon. Here we parked the cars and started hiking. Just before the end of this narrows the track turned into a deep wash were low range 4-wheel drive and much maneuvering was needed to get through the rocky wash. It might be just as well to stop before the road gets bad as no time was saved by driving. Although, we did have the fun of seeing if we could get our vehicles up to the flat area past the deep wash.
The end of the second narrows is about 1.4 miles north of the old trailhead the D.P.S. guide says you can drive to. The trailhead is 8.2 miles from Marble Canyon. At the trailhead there are many cottonwood trees and a large flat turn a round area with vegetation growing in it that is what remains of the old road. There is also a large wooden sign still standing saying something about no camping restoration sight. This is the correct trailhead for the D.P.S. guide route.
I had a little trouble judging distance without an odometer, or I was trying to navigate by memory, or something. Anyway, we went up one canyon north of the guide route were there is only one or two trees in the wash just past a large wooden sign that was lying in the wash. I guess I remembered signs and trees near the trailhead. I soon realized we were in the wrong canyon. However, the route went well. We continued west up over point 4594 to the saddle between Canyon Point (5890') and point 4594, then climbed the northeast side of the mountain on the ridge trying to avoid the sandy areas. We reached the summit at 1:30 P.M. After a lunch break on the summit we started back down. We descended off the summit on the fine scree descent route to the east and were soon back in the canyon on the D.P.S. guide's route. This 1000 foot scree run down into the canyon is one of the best parts of this climb. The group seemed to like our loop trip route it adds about 500 feet elevation gain to the D.P.S. guide route, and the washed out road adds about 3 miles. Total round trip stats would be 3600 feet gain and 8 miles, time 5-6 hours.
When we got back to the cars I discovered my right rear tire was flat. After changing the tire we drove back to the junction with the Marble Canyon Wash. This is were we camped Saturday night. We had a great potluck dinner and happy hour that night. Many thanks to everyone or the items they brought to share especially Elaine Baldwin for her homemade chile. Other members of our group included: Dave Baldwin, Daniel Bleiberg, Michelle Cunningham, Burton Falk, Rich Gnagy, Justin Pohl, Mirna Roach, and Neal Scott.
Sunday morning we met up with the members of the Jamison/Tidball party who had climbed Telescope Peak Saturday and were now joining our group for an exploration of the Marble Canyon narrows. The route up Marble Canyon was rocky and not as well defined as the track up Cottonwood Canyon. There were faint tire tracks up the wash and soon we saw more orange "ducks" marking the way. We only drove up the wash about 0.8 mile and parked in the shade of some limestone cliffs. I figured we could walk as fast as we could drive and also, it would be good for us in a good many ways to walk.
It is 2.4 miles from Cottonwood Canyon to the point where Marble Canyon starts to narrow in another 0.2 mile there is a constriction and it is impossible to drive any further. The first narrows lasts for 1.3 miles and ends at a large chockstone which is easily passed on the west side up a side canyon. The second narrows starts above the chockstone and is most impressive. Walls over one hundred feet high narrow the canyon width down to only about 10 feet in places.
There are petroglyphs in the second narrows some old and some new. Look high up on the west side of the canyon. The second narrows is only about 0.4 mile long but very beautiful and worth the hike. At the next constriction about 0.33 miles above where the second narrows ends are the best petroglyphs we saw in the canyon. We hiked a total of about 4 miles up canyon from where we left the cars then had lunch in the shade of the canyon walls. More time could have been spent exploring side canyons after lunch however, we returned to the cars in order the arrive home at a reasonable hour Sunday evening. I would like to take this time to thank everyone who joined us on this trip we enjoyed your company.
I got the idea of leading this trip from a fairly new guide book on Death Valley published in 1997. The title is Hiking Death Valley by Michel Digonnet. The book is divided up into sections based on the mountain ranges in the Death Valley area. There are route descriptions to (including both hiking and driving) many slot canyons and historic mining sites. The book also includes good
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