Water availability next week in Cedar Mesa & Escalante areas


Mar 21, 2018
HI all
I have been heading down to southern Utah from Idaho pretty much every spring break since my kids were little. Last one this year since my oldest is heading off to college...bittersweet.

Anyhow, I have heard that there has been drought down there and that water is very difficult. Was thinking about doing something a little out of the way in the Grand Gulch area, such as Pine, Step, Dripping canyons or Slickhorn Canyon . (We did Polly's canyon a few years ago and loved it). Also considering Arch Canyon. Another one, we have never done is Harris Wash over in Escalante. I'd really appreciate any recent info that anyone can provide with respect to water especially

Any other ideas welcome. 3 nighter, non-tecnical.


I'd imagine the water sources across the area will be adequate. I just got back from Cedar Mesa yesterday, and there was a good amount of water in Sheiks Canyon and Bullet Canyon. They got a pretty good snow storm Sunday. The other canyons' water sources are probably similar right now.
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While I didn't visit the Grand Gulch area, I was in the greater Cedar Mesa area and Needles area over the past few weekends and found plenty of water in all the canyons I was in.

Have you spoken to anyone at the Kane Gulch Ranger Station about conditions?
Before we headed down there I contacted the local BLM office and got this response (although its probably out of date now)

"Hello Mr. Gordon,

There was some snow on Sunday, 3/4, but that has likely mostly dissipated below 7,000 feet elevation as the week has progressed.

Most of our roads in Cedar Mesa are two-wheel drive accessible with moderate vehicle clearance under dry conditions. But they are clay-based so if it gets saturated, even high clearance four-wheel drive may not be enough when it gets sticky, so best to avoid those roads if you encounter those conditions.

Laura Lantz, one of our Kane Gulch rangers, said that Todie Canyon was impassable as of Sunday 3/4 due to icy conditions. The Kane Gulch Ranger Station is currently open 8 am to noon each day, and it would be a good idea to check in with them before embarking on any day hike, and it is required to check in with them for any overnight camping trips in the canyons.

Comb Wash Road and Butler Wash Road are currently described as being sandy, I do not have any other road reports.

There have been reports of water being available now in Shieks Canyon, Owl Canyon, and Fish Canyon, and the area of South Mule.

Here is the only detailed water report I have gotten (Feb 9 - 11) from within Grand Gulch. But the situation could change significantly in the coming weeks and months. I would definitely check in with the Kane Gulch rangers when you arrive to get the latest reports.

We backpacked the Kane>Grand Gulch>Bullet route on Thursday-Saturday. Here's what we found waterwise. Numbers pertain to Nat Geo Grand Gulch/Cedar Mesa Map.
Kane: There were a few small pools in the vegetation channel in the upper 1/3 of the canyon. No flow velocity, just stagnant small pools. Then dry all the way to the confluence with Grand Gulch. Did not see any water or seeps at the Junction spring (#2) at the Kane/GG confluence.
Grand Gulch: Spring at confluence with Todie Canyon..(# 7) Did not find any water there-dry. Pour-Off Pool (#8): Wet sand but no pooled water below pour off. Lion Tracks Spring (# 9): Dry, no seeps or pools. About 1.5 mi above confluence with Sheiks Canyon there were a couple of small pools in the bedrock channel. The pools were about 2-3 ft in diameter and about 6 inches deep. We filtered about 1/2 gallon from the pool.
Sheiks Canyon: We did not go up Sheiks to check the spring but there was no flow or even wet sand at the confluence with Grand Gulch.
No more pools between Sheiks and Bullet/Grand Gulch confluence.
Bullet Canyon: According to the map the Junction Spring (#16) is at the Bullet/GG confluence. I looked around the confluence and did not see any seeps or green vegetation. Maybe the spring is below the confluence? Going up Bullet there was stagnant water at Jailhouse spring (#17). Only about 20-30 feet along channel and there was no flow velocity and the water surface had an oily sheen, not inviting as a water source. There were some muddy/snow patches along the trail but nothing filterable. About 1-2 mile above the Perfect Kiva there were some small pools in the bedrock channel were you might be able to filter some water. Then dry all the way to the Bullet trailhead."

As of last week when we were there we found good water in Lower Sheiks canyon, water in upper Polly's Canyon, 2 potholes at GG/Polly confluence, no water in GG between Deer and Cow Tank Springs Canyons (besides to 2 potholes at Polly's Island). Since then they have gotten some precipitation so conditions are probably better now. With that being said we were able to do a 3 day trip into GG and just brought lots of water bottles to fill up when we came across water. You should be fine.
I appreciate the info. The ranger station does not take phone calls. I talked to the Monticello BLM office. Very friendly but no real recent info from them.
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