Paris River Canyon - Buckskin Gulch March 2015

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Devin Ashby

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In March 2015 for one of my required classes at UVU for the Outdoor Recreation Management Major, we took a 6 day backpacking trip down the Paria River Canyon. I know a lot of people have done this route before and it's super popular, but the conditions of this trip are what made it so memorable and awesome.
A week before leaving on the trip, the water level at Lee's Ferry had spiked at 300 CFS, basically flash flood status, and held that level for about 4 days. Driving down to the trailhead, the water level had leveled out at about a consistent 80-90 CFS. This eventually made for some difficult and interesting hiking.

Because there was so much water, mid shin to mid thigh most of the hike, the mud was incredibly difficult to navigate and stay out of. On top of that, the water temperature was in the 30's. All that negative stuff aside, it was to this day one of the best backpacking trips i've been on.

Day 1 was probably the most difficult day we had on the trail. There were a total of 8 in the group. The class was the final for Outdoor Leadership, a 4000 level class at Utah Valley University. We took turns leading the group each day and practicing group leadership. Definitely learned a lot as we did have one student who was not as strong as everyone else, and it made for some hard decisions in order to keep the groups moral in tact and everyone healthy.

As we left the Whitehouse Trailhead, our feet were wet in the first 10 seconds of the hike. The water was cold, but the beauty of the area was totally worth it. We hiked from Whitehouse to the confluence of Buckskin that first day, which was a big accomplishment, because it was so cold, and we had a lot of navigating and dodging sink holes to do. The narrows section of the canyon is one of the most amazing things i've been able to walk through.

We approached the confluence about 7 hours after leaving the trailhead, but this wasn't until we had waded chest deep in water and a couple of use tripped and fell in the water. Our plan was to camp about 1/8 of a mile up Buckskin Gulch at a camp site up a large sand bar. Really the only camping spot near the confluence.

The next morning we made an attempt to hike up Buckskin, but didn't make it more than half a mile due to the water flowing through Buckskin reading at 33 degrees. We turned around after hitting a section that was impassable and just plain dumb to try and get through, as it was a hole that was deeper than our trekking poles and full of water.

The next few days of hiking were awesome. I loved being able to watch the sandstone layers change as we got lower and lower in the canyon. Camping was great, and we experienced very few other parties in the canyon with us.

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The water in Buckskin Gulch was just too cold!
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Wrather Arch
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So, I am unclear on the route you ultimately took. If I understand correctly, you abandoned the Buckskin Gulch route and continued down the Paria toward Lees Ferry? Sounds like a logistical nightmare. What were the air temps? 30s is some pretty dang cold water.
 

Devin Ashby

Don't Bust The Crust!
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So, I am unclear on the route you ultimately took. If I understand correctly, you abandoned the Buckskin Gulch route and continued down the Paria toward Lees Ferry? Sounds like a logistical nightmare. What were the air temps? 30s is some pretty dang cold water.
I guess I made it sounds a lot worse than it was. The plan from the beginning was to hike from Whitehouse to Lees Ferry, with a side hike up Buckskin on day 2. The high water level made for a really interesting trip but overall it was really great.
 

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