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Packrafting Utah's Escalante River in Late March
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Addie Bedford
(addiebedford) - MLife

Locale: Montana
Packrafting Utah's Escalante River in Late March on 06/02/2009 19:15:46 MDT Print View

Companion forum thread to:

Packrafting Utah's Escalante River in Late March

Richard Nisley
(richard295) - M

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Packrafting Utah's Escalante River in Late March on 06/02/2009 20:52:37 MDT Print View

Cool trip... thanks for sharing.

Julian Watson
(JulesWatson) - F
nice ! on 06/03/2009 02:23:35 MDT Print View

Looks great, nice trip. I'm pretty sure the sandstone hollows are formed due to wind processes.

Charles Reneau
(charley289) - F

Locale: Cascades and Oregon Coast Range
Awesome on 06/03/2009 02:25:45 MDT Print View

Awesome report!!! I'm officially saving up for an Alpacka as of right now. . . the kayak can wait.

Larry Tullis
(Larrytullis) - F - M

Locale: Wasatch Mountains
Escalante on 06/03/2009 07:08:24 MDT Print View

That is a float I've always wanted to do, all the way to Lake Powell. Another option, that I have done, is I hiked up from the highway bridge and fished and explored my way up Sand Creek, which drains the Boulder Mountains plateau (also great hiking and fishing). There are lots of ancient american dwellings to gaze upon and abundant scenery to create much awe. The sight of a brown trout rising to a dry fly at the base of a 1000 foot red cliff is something that is etched on the mind of this flyfishing fool. Other side canyons like Calf Creek (a fun hike with much photographed Calf creek falls) also have good fishing.

Edited by Larrytullis on 06/03/2009 07:12:06 MDT.

Sam Haraldson
(sharalds) - MLife

Locale: Gallatin Range
Packrafting Utah's Escalante River in Late March on 06/03/2009 09:54:43 MDT Print View


You have a way with words. And just how you managed to make references to Desert Solitaire and Back to the Future in the same article is beyond me - - but it worked!

One of your chosen passages from Desert Solitaire hit home especially well with me as it's my favorite quote from the book:

...Anything rather than confront directly the antehuman, that other world which frightens not through danger or hostility but in something far worse - its implacable indifference.

Amy Lauterbach
(drongobird) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Escalante on 06/03/2009 16:09:56 MDT Print View

Bill - Very nice article and photos. Thanks for taking the time to share.

We recently hiked the Escalante River from town to the backed up Reservoir waters and had a terrific trip. Very special place.

For those interested in helping to make sure this river and its environs stay healthy, there are three efforts worth mentioning...
1. Bill Wolverton and others are doing heroic work to eradicate Russian Olive from the river corridor, including the entire stretch from Egypt to Coyote. Bill has been at it for ~10 years, working on his own, and hosting volunteer groups.

2. acquired the grazing leases in the area featured on this packraft trip and removed the cows. The canyon floors are now free of cow dung and the willows are recovering. Vegetation in the canyon bottoms is noticeably different than it was 25 years ago, however there are still cows grazing upriver from ~Choprock.

3. is steadily and relentlessly working for protection of the southern utah roadless areas.

- AmyL

David Linn
(davidlinn) - MLife

Locale: The foot of the Wasatch
Running the Escalante on 06/03/2009 21:48:40 MDT Print View

Having hiked the Escalante a number of times, this trip was always a much-discussed dream for me and my fellow hikers. Thanks for sharing your experience. It's reawakened my desire to do what we spent late nights along the river planning.

Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
Re: Running the Escalante on 06/04/2009 11:35:24 MDT Print View

Bill, thanks for the great story.

I think the upper Escalante from town is tough at 1.6 cfs and only mildly irritating down lower, due as much to slow speeds as anything else, especially if you are using it primarily as a means of traveling to explore the side canyons on a long trip, rather than an end unto itself.

At 2.5 cfs, you'd never know it unless you'd done it at low flows, but it's a regular rock concert, and at 5-10, well then you're talking about a more spring runoff like experience where the bigger stuff starts to get submerged.

. Callahan

Locale: Stoke Newington, London, UK.
Enchanting! on 06/04/2009 18:15:44 MDT Print View

Wow! That was fantastic, thanks for sharing! (o:

Julian Watson
(JulesWatson) - F
second read on 06/05/2009 02:53:19 MDT Print View

and after a second read, even better. Makes me want to get on a plane !

Sean Shealy
(Paleo) - F
Drift Awe on 11/23/2009 19:49:04 MST Print View

"Though exhilarating, the need to make good time in the shallow water prevented us from exploring beyond the main channel."

I call bullsh*t on this comment.

I've done the canyon from Escalante to Fence, and I know EXACTLY why you never left the raft: You're mesmerized. As the canyon walls slip past, you see a crack, an opening, and it towers above you and deep into the rock, and you literally don't breath for several seconds as you glide through, feeling tiny and awed, and by the time you snap the trance and think, "WOW! I WANT TO EXPLORE THAT!," you're on around the bend and entering the next twsit in your adventure ...

Been there.

Done that.

Lost most of my T-shirt to the A*shole Trees (as I called 'em. 'Russian Olives,' they say). 8<)

Thomas Turiano
(tturiano) - F
cfs vs. gauge height on 03/22/2010 10:14:05 MDT Print View

There seems to be a vast amount of confusion over runnable water levels on the Escalante. I've never run the river, but have been watching it for 10 years, waiting for the coincidence of good flows with time off.

I think many people are confusing cfs and gauge height. There are two graphs on the USGS water data for discharge (cfs) and one for gauge height. The BLM recommends a minimum of 50cfs on the Escalante gauge. This corresponds to a little over 2 feet on the river gauge. I suspect that this posting party and others squeaked through at 1.6 feet, rather than 1.6 cfs. Sheri Tingey ran it at 2 feet, not 2 cfs.

When I someday get to run the Escalante, I will be looking for at least 100 cfs (about 3 feet I would guess) on the Escalante gauge, counting on at least an additional 150 to 200 cfs coming in at Boulder Creek. There used to be a gauge at Boulder Creek, but there is no longer. But Boulder Creek does seem to run with twice as much volume as the upper Escalante during most of the runoff season.

It seems that April and early May are generally not the best times to run the Escalante, unfortunately. The best runoff appears to be during mid May to early June, heavily weighted toward the end of May and early June.

If anyone has anymore first-hand experience on Escalante river levels, I would be interested to hear.

Thanks, Thomas Turiano

Edited by tturiano on 03/22/2010 10:18:06 MDT.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
gauge v. cfs on 03/23/2010 16:40:38 MDT Print View

Thomas, I've hiked the Esc a good bit. Never boated it, so take this fwiw.

I think you're correct about the confusion over gauge height v. cfs. Looking back at historical data, I can recall one trip years ago where going upriver from Scorpion Gulch to Moody Creek we barely got our knees wet. That was in a late March, with a measured flow of 2.6 cfs at the bridge. Given the levels we saw that low down, I can't believe the upper part would have seen much floating.

On another trip I recall struggling across the river to get into Neon Canyon through a waist deep and fast flow. That was in April, with a gauge reading of about 80 cfs. That seems more likely to be good floating.

My wife and I once ran the Virgin River through the main canyon in Zion (not the narrows) in inflatable kayaks at 300 cfs, and that was about perfect. We butt-checked some gravel bars that we probably would have cleared in a packraft. Much more water and the pushiness would have made some of the rock gardens and sweepers substantially more hazardous.

Packrafting the Esca (and the Narrows) is a dream trip for sure.

Edited by DaveC on 03/23/2010 16:53:09 MDT.

Jodi Norris
(T_Next) - F
CFS and not gage height? on 04/28/2010 13:35:23 MDT Print View

The comments about whether it was cfs or gage height had me wondering too, but it was easy enough to check the record for the two months in question (March 2009 for this trip, and May 2008 for Sheri's trip).

The record from both months support that it was CFS being reported - here's an easy link to each months gage data on the USGS website