Paria River backpack I

Tuesday 27th September 2016 Our first backpack of this trip was to follow the Paria River down its lower section for about 40 miles or so to it’s confluence with the Colorado River. This was supposed to be one of the most spectacular canyon hikes around and we were so looking forward to it!

After an enjoyable morning hike in Snow Canyon state park near St George Utah, we drove east over to Kanab Utah to shop for food and then carried on about 40 miles east to the small Paria Visitor Center to pick up our permits for the hike.

We were told that a recent flash flood down the canyon had made hiking difficult with more water in the river, mud, quicksand and flood debris. Also that our intended start along a super narrow canyon called Buckskin Gulch for 14 miles before joining the Paria might not be possible due to deep pools and mud! We decided to still go for it but amended our plan to avoid the Buckskin start.  However we still hoped to be able to explore a part of Buckskin from the main Paria river.

The dirt road  was also closed a  mile short of the start trailhead, as it had been washed out by the flood, so we parked our car by the closed signs and sorted our gear for the hike out on the dirt road. We then set off in lovely low light at about 5.30pm for a short evening hike and soon reached the trailhead with a register…..

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At the Paria River trailhead

We dropped down to the river in a wide basin and followed it down making many pleasant splashy ankle deep crossings. The bed was sandy and mostly easy although there were some soft patches of mud where we sunk down into its squelchy depths!

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First of many Paria River crossings in the evening

The river basin soon steepened to rocky canyon walls…..

0927-img_0857-pariaAfter an hour or so we found a petroglyph site and soon after a sandy bench to set up camp. A grand start and it was great to back in canyon country!

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Wednesday 28th September 2016 We had some rain overnight so we both dashed out to put the outer tent on for shelter- other than that there was a clear sparkly sky to enjoy. We awoke at 6.30 and after a fine muesli breakfast we both were up and keen to hike down the canyon. After a few miles the canyon walls constricted and we were in the famous ‘narrows’.

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The ‘Slide’ in the Paria above Buckskin Gulch

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The scenery was splendid with huge twisting rock walls of ‘Navajo’ sandstone with lovely alcoves, holes and towers. The river occasionally reached both sides of the canyon but was never more than knee deep. Soon we reached the confluence with Buckskin Gulch and we decided to drop our backpacks and hike up Buckskin for a while to explore.

Buckskin was beautiful with it’s own character- narrower and darker than the Paria with only a tiny flow of water but mostly an easy flat sandy bottom. In 2014 we had hiked down from the other side of Buckskin 14 miles upstream for about an hour. We need to come back and complete the full traverse – it is unique and amazing!

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A snake in Buckskin Gulch…it didn’t look bothered by us thankfully

Back at the Paria we hiked down more great canyon to ‘Big Spring’ – some lovely clear water gushing out of the canyon walls. We picked up water here and hiked on a bit to find another scenic camp on a raised sandy bench above the stream and under some cottonwoods. Today had been both successful and scenic. We both had injury fears before starting but the tremendous scenery, the warm weather in the 20’s C (but not too hot) and the variety of intermittent crossings of the river, sandy benches and occasional trail seemed to work wonders for us!

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Thursday 29th September 2016 More rain with distant thunderstorms overnight so again we scrambled out to put the outer tent on! The river level was up and flowing faster in the morning as we headed down river to an area called the ‘Goose-necks’ – a particularly winding steep walled canyon section. This was one of the most dramatic hiking locations we have ever been in! We stopped at an old 1930’s cast iron pump ‘Adams Pump’ for a break- it was intended to be used to transport water from the river up a pipe onto the plateau to provide water for cattle. It never went into operation, and looked remarkably well preserved!

[Click here or the image below for a short video clip]

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Adam’s Pump

After lunch we left our backpacks again and explored another side canyon – ‘Wrather’ which had lush vegetation, deep red walls and a stunning arch higher up- it was definitely worth the trip.

After more, deeper splashing down river, we came across another petroglyph rock art before a good dripping spring. We filled up our water bottles then waded across the river to camp across from the spring. Spanish rice, tea and biscuits for dinner with canyon wren song, bats overhead and glistening stars – another great day!

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Datura in Wrather Canyon
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Wrather Arch
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Climbing up above the cottonwood trees in Wrather Canyon

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Go to part II of our Paria river hike here…..

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