Maidenwater Canyon

Discussion in 'Backpacking' started by Nick, Apr 24, 2012.

  1. Nick

    Nick Post 'em if you got 'em!

    This is going to be the first of three trip reports from a backpacking trip I took to the Lake Powell/Bullfrog area this past weekend. We covered so much terrain and saw so many unique sections of canyon. It would just be too much to stuff into one trip report, instead I'll do one on Maidenwater Canyon, one on Trachyte Creek and one on Swett Creek.

    Part 2: Trachyte Creek
    Part 3: Swett Creek

    April 2012

    This trip got bumped around a bit leading up to it. We had originally planned it for the weekend of the April 15th but nasty weather forced it back a week. Luckily, a big high pressure moved in just as the trip began and we had perfect weather all the way through. Unfortunately, DOSS and some things come up at the last minute so it ended up just being myself and my old friend Nate with his dog, Sonny.

    We made it down to The Swell a little before sunset and decided to camp at Uneva Canyon for the night before heading on to Maidenwater. It was a little windy and I was hoping being right up against the reef would keep us sheltered. It did. We had a bit of time before dark so we hiked up and checked out the Uneva Mine.


    We didn't bring a light with us so we used my cel phone light and hiked in a hundred feet or so.


    As we started hiking back out, I realized I was missing a killer sunset so I stepped it up and practically ran most of the way out of the canyon.

    The view of the sunset from camp at the mouth of Uneva Canyon.

    The last of it as Venus makes it's appearance.

    We were up so late that night. I don't get out with Nate often and when we do, it always seems to end in a late night. But we made pretty good time and started heading back down the nasty road to from Uneva Canyon.

    We made a quick stop for gas in Hanksville and were on our way with the exception of a quick stop to do a favor for a friend. Jamal over at (@Jammer here on backcountrypost) had just started an epic backpacking trip from Bryce Canyon to Moab and we were lucky enough to help by stashing a cache of supplies for him along the way. If you haven't checked out Jamal's videos from his long backpacking trips, you are missing out!

    We made it to Maidenwater where we dumped the packs, myself and Sonny while Nate took the truck over to the trailhead at Swett Canyon where we would finish the hike. We threw in my wife's bicycle for him to pedal the 4 miles back.

    So while Nate was cruising through the desert getting weird looks from passing cars, Sonny and I sat under a small Juniper, out of sight from the main road and waited. After about an hour Nate was back, the bike was stashed and we were on our way down into Maidenwater Canyon.

    The first thing we noticed was the impressive bridge construction where SR 276 goes over the top of the canyon.

    I totally figured it was just a culvert with a ton of debris on top but they had actually filled the canyon with debris and tunneled all the way through a bend in the canyon.


    The first half hour or so was nice. Basically just a shallow slot with an occasional bit of narrows. There was one spot with a small dryfall that is easily bypassed on the left. A while after that, and downstream from the confluence with North Fork Maidenwater, we encountered this very large dryfall. I would guess it at about 50-60 feet. Fortunately there was a nice trail on the left that you can see in this photo.

    That trail led to this slick rock down-climb which was a little sketchy with big packs but otherwise fine.

    Below the dryfall, the canyon started to get deeper and more narrow.

    There were occasional obstacles but nothing major.




    Soon we got to a point where cottonwoods were everywhere. This was soon followed by the first flowing water in the canyon.




    One of the deeper pools. I don't think we were ever forced into anything deeper than about waist deep.



    Check out this amazing Cottonwood that has managed to grow in this dark section of the canyon.


    We didn't see anyone else in the canyon this day but we there were a couple sets of footprints. About 2/3 of the way through, we came upon a message in the sand that read "Hi :) on weed". Particularly amusing as it was April 20th. :)

    The best narrows in the canyon were all above the wet portion but it was still a beautiful and very pleasant hike.

    Towards the end of the canyon, we came upon a side canyon called Blushing Bride. It ends at a large, incredibly deep pot hole. This one looked like it was at least 15 feet deep. We dare each other to take a dip but it was in the shade and looked kinda hard to get back out of.

    Looking up at the final slide in Blushing Bride

    Lower Maidenwater was loaded with springs, seeps and hanging gardens.


    Sonny at a waterfall

    Sonny splashing into the pool below that waterfall. :)

    Further down, we got to a section where water was pouring down from all around the river. It was very cool but also very slippery.

    Finally the canyon widened up and the river flattened out for the final stretch before reaching Trachyte Creek.

    Looking back up at Maidenwater Canyon from Trachyte Creek

    It was already getting pretty late in the day at this point. We were waiting to see the water quality in Trachyte Creek before deciding how much further to hike. If it was really silty like it often is, we would need to camp nearby Maidenwater or much further down at Woodruff Canyon, the next reliable source of water. But to our surprise, Trachyte was crystal clear. So we decided to just start heading down canyon and land where we land. The best way to backpack.

    This was part 1/3 of this trip. Keep an eye out for my trip report on the Trachyte and Swett Creek sections in the next few days.

    Continue reading parts 2 and 3:

    Part 2: Trachyte Creek
    Part 3: Swett Creek
  2. Nick

    Nick Post 'em if you got 'em!

    A quick video clip of some of the amazing reflections we found in the canyon.

    pixie1339 and mattvogt7 like this.
  3. IntrepidXJ

    IntrepidXJ ADVENTR

    Grand Junction, CO
    Great report....looking forward to the rest!
    ibenick likes this.
  4. Yellowstone 1

    Yellowstone 1 Blah!

    Eagle Mountain
    Definately can't wait for the remaining 2/3! Love the greenery on the canyon walls.
    ibenick likes this.
  5. mattvogt7

    mattvogt7 Member

    Fort Defiance, AZ
    Awesome, that video of the reflections is soooo cool! Well done.
    John Fowler likes this.
  6. DOSS

    DOSS out

    So sad I missed this :(
  7. Waynee-ack

    Waynee-ack Member

    This looks like a lot of fun. I like the Uneva Mine, I have never been there but need to make a trip and check it out. Looking forward to the other 2/3.
    ibenick likes this.
  8. pixie1339

    pixie1339 Desperately Seeking Sandstone

    Draper, UT
    Looks amazing Nick! I'm excited to see what the rest of it looked like.
    ibenick likes this.
  9. wes242

    wes242 This one time...

    That looks like a nice place to take a hike for sure! Sweet pictures!
    ibenick likes this.
  10. Nik

    Nik Member

    Laurel, Maryland
    Nice trip report!
    ibenick likes this.
  11. FourisTheNewOne

    FourisTheNewOne Member

    This canyon looks sick -makes my "must do" list.
    ibenick likes this.
  12. Nick

    Nick Post 'em if you got 'em!

    Wait til you see the rest of the trip. ;)
  13. Yvonne

    Yvonne I lava it!!!

    Pahoa, HI
    can't wait to see the rest of it. What an amazing trip and such glorious weather :)
    ibenick likes this.
  14. Philippe

    Philippe Member

    Very nice report and a lot of great pictures, Nick, thank you for sharing !

    As you encouraged me to post on your thread my own experience about a short hike in Maidenwater canyon that I did in June 2009, here it is.

    I was travelling all alone and my plan was to do a loop through Lower Maidenwater Canyon and Trachyte Creek during the morning.
    From Hwy 276, I hiked down to the eastern entrance of the tunnel under the highway. I wanted to take this picture of the western entrance of the tunnel from inside :

    Maidenwater Canyon -Tunnel ME.jpg

    To get there, I had to walk in the dark tunnel but as I could see the light at the end I was confident that my eyes would progressivly be used to the dark and that I could walk cautionoulsly without using the headlamp that was deep inside my backpack. That worked well for more than a half of the tunnel when suddenly I felt in a big hole that was as tall as I am (6 feet) and partly filled with cold and dirty water. That was not fun to be alone in that totally dark hole with water until my breast and I was upset about my stupidity for having let my headlamp in my pack instead of using it. Fortunately, I was not injured, I had just several hurts, some scratched skin and a quite painful twisted finger (that I could not use for several days) so it was not too difficult to get out of the hole.

    I took my picture and at the western exit of the tunnel I found this note written by a guy named Dave (maybe a member of this forum ?) :

    Maidenwater Canyon - Warning ME.jpg

    Thank you Dave for this warning, but unfortunately it was too late for me as I was coming from the opposite entrance of the tunnel.

    On my way back in the tunnel, I didn't fall again in the hole and I hiked the pleasant Lower Maidenwater Canyon until I was blocked by a shocked stone overlooking a big pool about 8 feet below.

    Maidenwater Canyon - Pool ME.jpg

    I didn't know how deep was this pool, I didn't want to jump in it with my camera equipment in my backpack, I knew that I couldn't climb up this obstacle in case of necessity because it was a difficult overhang and one of my finger was twisted, I couldn't find an easy way to circumnavigate it, It was not a lucky day for me, so I decided to get back to my car by the same way that I came. Here are some pictures that I took during this short hike :

    Maidenwater Canyon - Mud ME.jpg

    Maidenwater Canyon - Greenery 1 ME.jpg

    Maidenwater Canyon - Stones ME.jpg

    Maidenwater Canyon - Reflected light 1 ME.jpg
  15. Nick

    Nick Post 'em if you got 'em!

    Beautiful shots, Philippe! That is crazy about the tunnel having a big hole in the floor like that! We thought about walking through it but didn't and now I am glad!
  16. moose droppings

    moose droppings Member

    nicker-diddle and phillipe, nice tag-team photo action.

    i'm more stoked on the canyon now than when i was in there last weekend, partly due to the fact that our party had to turned around after the first set of narrows.
    we invited some desert "rookies" along for trip and their youngest kid ended up folding on the "false" promise of there being water around the next bend. if we had only gone around one more bend beyond the cottonwood trees. nobody wants to hear the wails of a 4 year old in such a serene place of beauty...

    my dog ended up taking a header into that pothole. for those keeping score, its bone-dry as of last weekend. the sound of her falling in echoed throughout the tunnel making it sound like she fell down a mineshaft. of course we had no headlamp with us. i had to use the camera flash to figure out what happened. that is one serious hazard sans headlamp.
    nick likes this.
  17. Nick

    Nick Post 'em if you got 'em!

    Oh that sucks about your dog! Was it tough to get him back out of the hole? Seems like this is one case where scratching something into sandstone might actually be appropriate. That tunnel looks so innocent as you start walking through....
  18. Philippe

    Philippe Member

    I hope that your dog is doing well, a fall in that hole without water could have hurt him.

    A warning at both ends of the tunnel could be a godd idea.
  19. moose droppings

    moose droppings Member

    she alright, no serious injuries, maybe a bruised ego i'd imagine.
    yeah, it took a one-ring circus clown act to get her out. she was scared stiff, which made it all that much more difficult for extraction. so yeah, always have a headlamp stashed in the daypack. the glow of the AF beam won't cut it.
  20. Michael

    Michael Alien from over the pond...

    We did this hike in June 2010. The water in that pool has had 1 meter of depth and was refreshingly cool. A lot of amphibian life was inside - size up to table tennis ball.
    A wooden piece of debris, gave us access to the pool.

    BTW, very nice TRs and pictures, Nick and Philipe. :twothumbs:
    THX for sharing.