Escalante River / Calf Creek Falls Current Conditions

Ryan Lambert

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Dec 9, 2016
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I am looking for any recent information concerning conditions along the Escalante River from town to the Highway 12 bridge, and / or along the Boulder Mail Trail. I'm taking a group of 12-13 year olds on their first backpacking trip next week (June 24-29, 2019) and am concerned about the state of the river. It is currently running at 70+ cfps.

I had originally planned to hike from the Highway 12 bridge upstream to lower Death Hollow and back. I am worried the river, Sand Creek, and Mamie Creek will be running too high to allow that. Alternatively, I could take them on the BMT, but I've never taken that trial and am worried that crossing Sand Creek might be an issue. Has anyone been there in the last few days that can offer advice? (I am also interested in any word about insects and poison oak conditions).

Also, any word on what Upper and Lower Calf Creek are like right now? I imagine the falls are impressive, but doubt that swimming is very enjoyable.

Thanks,

Ryan
 

Janice

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Dec 5, 2017
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I can't speak to current conditions but wanted to comment about the BMT since you're considering that. Even though I loved our trip along the BMT and Escalante River, I would be a nervous wreck taking other people's precious children along the part of BMT that descends into Death Hollow. Other people might disagree, but that was the scariest thing I've ever done as a backpacker. Probably the kids would be ok, but since it's their first trip they might not be used to the feel of the pack on their back and if any of them aren't careful enough or trip, the results could be tragic.
 

Ryan Lambert

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Dec 9, 2016
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Thanks for the response. I had heard that the descent into Death Hollow was precarious. I was thinking that if we did go that route we would camp near Sand Creek and do a day hike without packs to Death Hollow, but even that would depend on how things looked once we got there.
 

Janice

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Dec 5, 2017
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Thanks for the response. I had heard that the descent into Death Hollow was precarious. I was thinking that if we did go that route we would camp near Sand Creek and do a day hike without packs to Death Hollow, but even that would depend on how things looked once we got there.
Sounds good. When we did this in April 2018 crossing Sand Creek was a non-issue - I barely even remember that - so you'd want to find out what that's like now.
Another option is to go the other direction on BMT, starting in Escalante. We didn't go that direction and didn't go all the way to town, as we connected with the Escalante River instead, so I'm not exactly sure what the beginning part of the trail would be like for you. But we really liked the BMT west of Death Hollow (Mamie Creek, slickrock expanse, etc.) so it might be worth seeing what others think of that idea.
 

Spiderwoman

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Jun 14, 2019
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Hi Ryan, Lucky kiddos. How neat for them!

We started on the BMT out of Escalante in late May. It had been, and continued to, rain and snow. Water was everywhere.

We crossed both Sand and Maime Creeks and they were fine. Don't know if it makes a difference, but we didn't cross the creeks on the BMT (after coming up out of Death Hollow, we left the BMT and went xcountry from Slickrock Saddle across to Calf Creek).

There was definitely poison oak in Death Hollow. Unless someone in the party is intensely sensitive, it struck me as a noteworthy nuisance. It is possible in theory to avoid it by wading - it was a bit too deep/cold when we were there.

Bugs were a nonissue.

The descent into Death Hollow didn't strike me as overly dangerous. It's short enough that if someone in the party wasn't feeling comfortable, they could drop their pack and have it shuttled to the bottom by an awesome teammate!...and then figure out what their particular strengths are so they could someday pay the favor forward. Ahhhh.

This was the first time I've seen Lower Calf Creek Falls, so nothing to compare it to, but they were pumping out some serious volume. Got damp from the spray while standing on the shore admiring them. There was quite a pool of water at their base. Brrrr.

Have so much fun!
 

Ryan Lambert

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Dec 9, 2016
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Hi Ryan, Lucky kiddos. How neat for them!

We started on the BMT out of Escalante in late May. It had been, and continued to, rain and snow. Water was everywhere.

We crossed both Sand and Maime Creeks and they were fine. Don't know if it makes a difference, but we didn't cross the creeks on the BMT (after coming up out of Death Hollow, we left the BMT and went xcountry from Slickrock Saddle across to Calf Creek).

There was definitely poison oak in Death Hollow. Unless someone in the party is intensely sensitive, it struck me as a noteworthy nuisance. It is possible in theory to avoid it by wading - it was a bit too deep/cold when we were there.

Bugs were a nonissue.

The descent into Death Hollow didn't strike me as overly dangerous. It's short enough that if someone in the party wasn't feeling comfortable, they could drop their pack and have it shuttled to the bottom by an awesome teammate!...and then figure out what their particular strengths are so they could someday pay the favor forward. Ahhhh.

This was the first time I've seen Lower Calf Creek Falls, so nothing to compare it to, but they were pumping out some serious volume. Got damp from the spray while standing on the shore admiring them. There was quite a pool of water at their base. Brrrr.

Have so much fun!
Thanks for the info, especially about the poison oak. It looks like river flows are starting to drop off now too, so the outlook is improving.
 

Bob

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Mar 3, 2013
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BMT into Death Hollow isn't anymore dangerous than slickrock elsewhere....
I have seen lots of young kids on that portion. No going either way very far in Death Hollow itself may be iffy for new ones on large groups
 

Janice

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Dec 5, 2017
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473
Ryan, hope your trip turned out well. I'm curious to know where you ended up going and how the kids enjoyed it!
 

Ryan Lambert

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Dec 9, 2016
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Ryan, hope your trip turned out well. I'm curious to know where you ended up going and how the kids enjoyed it!
Janice,

Thanks for asking. There is a saying that no plan survives contact with the enemy, and that has generally been my experience with these kinds of trips. I've learned that it is always best to be flexible and have alternatives in mind. That being said I feel it was a very successful trip and that everyone had a great time.

Instead of going to Death Hollow via the river (original plan) or via the BMT (plan B), I decided to try the Little Death Hollow - Wolverine Canyon loop as a two day backpack trip. We drove out the trail head, planning on spending the night nearby and starting the trip early the next morning. Unfortunately, when we got there the gnats were swarming. While they disappeared once the sun went down, they were quite irritating to everyone, especially to two boys in our group with autism. Then during the night another boy started complaining he was sick (turned out to just be anxiety / homesickness). So, when morning came we decided that it was probably best not to attempt the LDH/WC hike.

Instead we drove back to the Deer Creek campground on Burr Trail Road, and spent the day hiking down Deer Creek, which was a fantastic day hike. The boys loved hiking in the creek and there were no insects at all. I am already contemplating a future hike from the Deer Creek trailhead to the Escalante River, then up to the Hwy 12 trailhead. Hopefully the lower end of the creek is passable. Anyone know if this is possible or worth while?

The next day we went to Lower Calf Creek and got a campsite, which was part of the original plan and spent the rest of the week hiking to the falls, going up the Escalante River as far as the Natural Bridge, up around 100 Hands, and downstream as far as Phipps Wash. The Escalante River was running about 20cfs at that point, which would have been difficult for some of the boys in the group to hike in / cross while wearing a pack, but was ok otherwise especially since they enjoyed getting wet. The last day of the trip we drove out to Peekaboo Canyon, which while fun was maybe not worth the cumulative four hour drive up and down Hole in the Rock road.
 

Janice

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Dec 5, 2017
Messages
473
Janice,

Thanks for asking. There is a saying that no plan survives contact with the enemy, and that has generally been my experience with these kinds of trips. I've learned that it is always best to be flexible and have alternatives in mind. That being said I feel it was a very successful trip and that everyone had a great time.

Instead of going to Death Hollow via the river (original plan) or via the BMT (plan B), I decided to try the Little Death Hollow - Wolverine Canyon loop as a two day backpack trip. We drove out the trail head, planning on spending the night nearby and starting the trip early the next morning. Unfortunately, when we got there the gnats were swarming. While they disappeared once the sun went down, they were quite irritating to everyone, especially to two boys in our group with autism. Then during the night another boy started complaining he was sick (turned out to just be anxiety / homesickness). So, when morning came we decided that it was probably best not to attempt the LDH/WC hike.

Instead we drove back to the Deer Creek campground on Burr Trail Road, and spent the day hiking down Deer Creek, which was a fantastic day hike. The boys loved hiking in the creek and there were no insects at all. I am already contemplating a future hike from the Deer Creek trailhead to the Escalante River, then up to the Hwy 12 trailhead. Hopefully the lower end of the creek is passable. Anyone know if this is possible or worth while?

The next day we went to Lower Calf Creek and got a campsite, which was part of the original plan and spent the rest of the week hiking to the falls, going up the Escalante River as far as the Natural Bridge, up around 100 Hands, and downstream as far as Phipps Wash. The Escalante River was running about 20cfs at that point, which would have been difficult for some of the boys in the group to hike in / cross while wearing a pack, but was ok otherwise especially since they enjoyed getting wet. The last day of the trip we drove out to Peekaboo Canyon, which while fun was maybe not worth the cumulative four hour drive up and down Hole in the Rock road.
Sounds wonderful! Great to hear about all the places you went, and it seems like your flexibility was perfect for ensuring a successful trip. How nice that the boys enjoyed hiking through the water - so memorable for them!
 

Artemus

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Alternatively, I could take them on the BMT, but I've never taken that trial and am worried that crossing Sand Creek might be an issue. Has anyone been there in the last few days that can offer advice?
Sand creek while crossing on the BMT is not even close to an issue. Ever. Well, I shouldn't say that but I can't imagine it would ever be. Typically an adult can step across it with one normal stride and it is only 6" deep. It has little or no high water mark. The only exception would be during a flash flood which would last probably 20 minutes before subsiding.
 
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