Escalante Canyon


By: Gene Andreason


If you think that carrying a backpack while walking in a fastflowing river is fun, then you should have come on the Escalante River trip. There were never-to-be-forgotten vistas such as the high vertical walls of red-brown Navajo sandstone, the weathered layers of sandstone and shale, the natural arches and bridges, and the afternoon sun shimmering on the leaves of the cottonwood trees.

Eleven persons assembled at the post office in Escalante, Utah on Sunday at 8 a.m. We caravaned south for 5.1 miles, turned right onto a dirt road which we followed for 17.2 miles to the sign reading "County Road, Garfield/Kane." At this point we turned left and followed another dirt road about 9.5 miles, which was as far as passenger cars could go and was the trailhead for 25 Mile Wash. We took all of the cars back to the County Road, Garfield/Kane intersection, turned south, and continued an additional l4.0 miles. We turned left on the road to the Coyote Gulch tralihead, where there was a register, and left all of the cars but one which brought the drivers back to the 25 Mile Wash trailhead. All roads were OK for passenger cars.

On the way to Escalante we saw a sign in a gas station that read "DON'T BURN COAL, BURN ENVIRONMENTALISTS." Escalante residents are unhappy about the loss of potential income from the proposed power plant on nearby Kaiparowits Plateau. Moreover, they fear that conservationists would like to revoke grazing privileges on the surrounding public land. Gene Andreason, who led the trip before, had advised us to remove Sierra Club identification from our cars. We did and, happily, all cars were in good condition when we returned.

We hiked about 8 to 10 miles each day, except for a short final day. We always found enough wood for a campfire. There was always water but it was unsafe to drink except as noted. We purified our water by boiling it or adding Halazone, and no one got sick during the trip.

Sunday we hiked 10-1/2 miles down 25 Mile Wash. Monday we hiked about 2 miles to the Escalante River and then started our first of many stream crossings. The water usually was no higher than our knees, but occasionally was almost hip deep. Monday night we camped at East Moody Creek.

Tuesday we explored the interesting rincon (a bend where the river had once flowed but has since been blocked off) about one-half mile below East Moody Canyon. Later we hiked up Scorpion Gulch, a beautiful side canyon. We camped at the bend. of the Escalante River at app. coordinates 496.OE-4l53.7N, where there was another rincon to investigate. This is sometimes called George's Canyon, but it is not named on the map.

Wednesday we made many stream crossings and camped at app. coordinates 500.l-4147.8. A pretty canyon there, which flows into the Escalante River, had good water.

Thursday we hiked up the spectacular dry waterfalls of Fools Canyon, where there was good water. To this day we had seen only four other people during the trip, so we were surprised to meet a geology professor and 19 students from UC-Santa Cruz hiking up the Escalante River. We saved 1/2 mile of river walking and got a panoramic view by hiking over the neck of a meander at app. coordinates 501.6-4144.4, and camped about 3/4 mile beyond it.

Friday we left our packs at the Junction of Stevens Canyon and the Escalante River and hiked up Stevens Canyon. We walked through a shoulder-deep pool with everyone holding his camera over his head and hoping he wouldn't fall into the water. No one did. We climbed a short wall to a ledge (some people needed a belay)and then walked up a narrow, colorful canyon to a beautiful grotto. After lunch we made camp at the confluence of Coyote Creek and the Esoalante River. In the afternoon we hiked up to Stevens Arch, took pictures, and loafed. Peter Preston sketched the spectacular view from Stevens Arch (see accompanying picture).

Saturday we started a leisurely trip out by way of Coyote Creek, with time for photographing Cliff Arch, Coyote Natural Bridge, and Jacob Hambliri Arch. About a mile above the Escalante River on the north side of Coyote Creek is a seep where we filled our canteens, and. we filled them again at the seep near Jacob Hamblin Arch. We camped a short way above the intersection of Coyote Gulch and Hurricane Wash and arrived at the cars at 10:30 a.m. Sunday.

The following maps were used for the trip (all Utah):

15 minute:
Moody Creek
The Rincon

7-1/2 minute:
Sunset Flat
King Mesa
Big Hollow Wash

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