Water questions - Escalante area

Janice

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We're working on plans for our Escalante backpacking trip April 17-23. Our goal is to start down Little Death Hollow, spend a few days exploring the other side of the Escalante (Cosmic Ashtray etc), then head back out Wolverine. We'll probably base camp in the Horse Canyon area unless there are reliable water sources on the south/west side of the river.

1) How high might the Escalante water be in the Horse Canyon area? Will we be able to cross safely? (I'm 5'4" and don't think I'm comfortable swimming with my pack to get across.) I've looked at the USGS data and it looks quite low, but I've read that the water level will be higher downstream of Boulder Creek.

2) Are there reliable, sufficient-for-filtering-without-worrying water sources on the south/west side of the Escalante in the Red Breaks/Spencer Flats/Cosmic Ashtray areas? If so, I'd love info if you think a loop is possible. I'm ok with one dry camp but can't carry multiple days' worth of water.

3) What is water like in the slots? How big are pools in LDH? If we dayhike Zebra/Tunnel or Bighorn (or make it there as part of a loop) what conditions might we expect?

4) If we head into the Gulch or Harris Wash, what are those like?

5) I assume we'll exit the river at the sand slide rather than trying the ladders. But have any of you done the ladders recently and think we should step out of our comfort zone and try them? (If so, how well are they bolted into the rock???)

I've studied ideas people shared from my query last Sept. If anyone has additional suggestions, I welcome your help!

Thanks so much.
 

priz1234

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Last year (funnily enough on April 17th), I did a loop combining The Gulch and Horse Canyon. It was a lower snow year last year but I don't remember the Escalante river between those two canyons ever being very much deeper than knee height. I'm 6'2 for reference.

The gulch had flowing water throughout the canyon. The downside of the Gulch was the cow presence up above the narrows that you have to climb around. There were also 3 recently deceased cows literally in the water last year.

Mid February this year I went and hiked up to the top of Peak 5932 and hiked through the canyon between peak 5932 and peak 5981 on the southwest side of the river. There was quite a bit of water in the potholes in that canyon. But was also two months ago so not sure if there would still be water there now and if so, how nasty it could be.
 

Janice

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Last year (funnily enough on April 17th), I did a loop combining The Gulch and Horse Canyon. It was a lower snow year last year but I don't remember the Escalante river between those two canyons ever being very much deeper than knee height. I'm 6'2 for reference.

The gulch had flowing water throughout the canyon. The downside of the Gulch was the cow presence up above the narrows that you have to climb around. There were also 3 recently deceased cows literally in the water last year.

Mid February this year I went and hiked up to the top of Peak 5932 and hiked through the canyon between peak 5932 and peak 5981 on the southwest side of the river. There was quite a bit of water in the potholes in that canyon. But was also two months ago so not sure if there would still be water there now and if so, how nasty it could be.
Thanks so much. I remember your info was super helpful when I first gathered ideas for this back in September. Good to know you hiked the peaks in February - that's on our list to try. If we don't do both, do you recommend one or the other?
 

priz1234

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Only did one of the peaks (5932). It is worth doing. It's a very nice view from the top and the ridgeline traverse is fun. There is nothing very difficult getting up to it either. The ridgeline on the western side has one short kind of climb and the narrow section of the ridge has some exposure but is easy walking.

The narrow section of the ridge
DSC00248.jpg


Not a great photo but the short 'climb'
DSC00260 (2).jpg


You could easily get to the top of the peak by staying on the eastern side and avoid this ridgeline as well. Still would be worth going to the top.
 

Janice

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Only did one of the peaks (5932). It is worth doing. It's a very nice view from the top and the ridgeline traverse is fun. There is nothing very difficult getting up to it either. The ridgeline on the western side has one short kind of climb and the narrow section of the ridge has some exposure but is easy walking.

The narrow section of the ridge
View attachment 108946

Not a great photo but the short 'climb'
View attachment 108948

You could easily get to the top of the peak by staying on the eastern side and avoid this ridgeline as well. Still would be worth going to the top.
Fabulous - thanks so much! :)
 

Titans

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Point 5), ladders, assume you have seen this TR below? see first photo. She describes a ladder bypass route too.

Also tagging @Ugly for info - but it might be next week!
 

Janice

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Point 5), ladders, assume you have seen this TR below? see first photo. She describes a ladder bypass route too.

Also tagging @Ugly for info - but it might be next week!
Yes, I have definitely seen this TR but it's been awhile - before getting the Wave permit when my focus shifted to Vermillion Cliffs! I need to spend time studying this and getting routes & waypoints into Gaia. Thanks for reminding me to go back and make use of all the info I had previously gathered. :)
 

Ugly

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Our goal is to start down Little Death Hollow, spend a few days exploring the other side of the Escalante (Cosmic Ashtray etc), then head back out Wolverine. We'll probably base camp in the Horse Canyon area unless there are reliable water sources on the south/west side of the river.

1) How high might the Escalante water be in the Horse Canyon area? Will we be able to cross safely? (I'm 5'4" and don't think I'm comfortable swimming with my pack to get across.) I've looked at the USGS data and it looks quite low, but I've read that the water level will be higher downstream of Boulder Creek.

2) Are there reliable, sufficient-for-filtering-without-worrying water sources on the south/west side of the Escalante in the Red Breaks/Spencer Flats/Cosmic Ashtray areas? If so, I'd love info if you think a loop is possible. I'm ok with one dry camp but can't carry multiple days' worth of water.

3) What is water like in the slots? How big are pools in LDH? If we dayhike Zebra/Tunnel or Bighorn (or make it there as part of a loop) what conditions might we expect?

4) If we head into the Gulch or Harris Wash, what are those like?

5) I assume we'll exit the river at the sand slide rather than trying the ladders. But have any of you done the ladders recently and think we should step out of our comfort zone and try them? (If so, how well are they bolted into the rock???)

I have some info that echoes the above, and I will answer what I can here.
Last week I was farther south, but a good rain had gone through and there was water in most sizeable potholes. Spent 6-7 miles in the Escalante and it is lower this spring than it was a few years ago. Some good pools in the rapids that we went around, but most of the time it was the normal calf-knee deep for our 6' -ish frames in the narrower spots. We swam in a pool down from a rapid that was neck deep, felt great, but Escalante was walkable and fordable easily.
(I guess that one ties into question 1 and your opening statement)

For more on that country:
@Titans gave a good starting point for the "Ladders"/ Spencer Canyon/Cosmic Ashtray area and gives you a couple exits out of the Escalante. There is a spring in Ladder Canyon, but I was there when it was frozen and did not go down to it.

For #2- There are potholes in that area, so depends on your route. While not guaranteed, some are sheltered and might still have water next week. The cows get to the easily accessible ones, but I can send you more info if you are still interested. Many of the potholes are visible in google earth.
You can also carry water, and still get up to Volcano and then back down to Harris or the Escalante, if you are doing it as a single night, or just a day trip (distance might be a little long for just the day though).

#3- Most slots farther south were knee-deep muddy messes. All depends on the slot as the rain was hit and miss, and some areas that I expected to be wet from the storm the night before I arrived, were bone dry. I would expect Zebra to have water, same with Tunnel, and then the little slot at the mouth of Bighorn and then some of the middle of Bighorn. With Bighorn there are a few times you can get out of the shallow slot, or just stay on the West side of the canyon and still enjoy the canyon even if there is mud and water.

#4- I was not in Harris or the Gulch, but other side canyons farther south had water, some deeper pools and expect to run into quicksand quagmires. Worth it though because the cottonwoods are just leafing out and mud on the shins and knees washes off.

#5- Ladders. I did not climb the ladder, but they did not look terrible for going up, if you can do the friction up to the ladder, then it looks the same for the friction scramble right after. You can also just take the alternate bypass and climb up just before Ladder Canyon. Otherwise you are in the Escalante less if you do the sandhill farther south.
 

Janice

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I have some info that echoes the above, and I will answer what I can here.
Last week I was farther south, but a good rain had gone through and there was water in most sizeable potholes. Spent 6-7 miles in the Escalante and it is lower this spring than it was a few years ago. Some good pools in the rapids that we went around, but most of the time it was the normal calf-knee deep for our 6' -ish frames in the narrower spots. We swam in a pool down from a rapid that was neck deep, felt great, but Escalante was walkable and fordable easily.
(I guess that one ties into question 1 and your opening statement)

For more on that country:
@Titans gave a good starting point for the "Ladders"/ Spencer Canyon/Cosmic Ashtray area and gives you a couple exits out of the Escalante. There is a spring in Ladder Canyon, but I was there when it was frozen and did not go down to it.

For #2- There are potholes in that area, so depends on your route. While not guaranteed, some are sheltered and might still have water next week. The cows get to the easily accessible ones, but I can send you more info if you are still interested. Many of the potholes are visible in google earth.
You can also carry water, and still get up to Volcano and then back down to Harris or the Escalante, if you are doing it as a single night, or just a day trip (distance might be a little long for just the day though).

#3- Most slots farther south were knee-deep muddy messes. All depends on the slot as the rain was hit and miss, and some areas that I expected to be wet from the storm the night before I arrived, were bone dry. I would expect Zebra to have water, same with Tunnel, and then the little slot at the mouth of Bighorn and then some of the middle of Bighorn. With Bighorn there are a few times you can get out of the shallow slot, or just stay on the West side of the canyon and still enjoy the canyon even if there is mud and water.

#4- I was not in Harris or the Gulch, but other side canyons farther south had water, some deeper pools and expect to run into quicksand quagmires. Worth it though because the cottonwoods are just leafing out and mud on the shins and knees washes off.

#5- Ladders. I did not climb the ladder, but they did not look terrible for going up, if you can do the friction up to the ladder, then it looks the same for the friction scramble right after. You can also just take the alternate bypass and climb up just before Ladder Canyon. Otherwise you are in the Escalante less if you do the sandhill farther south.
This is so helpful - thank you very much!

And I hope you had a great time on your recent trip. :)
 

Janice

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Also, are bugs an issue? I assume not but am realizing I don't really know.
 

Ugly

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Also, are bugs an issue? I assume not but am realizing I don't really know.

Bugs were starting. It was surprising there were some cedar gnats last Sunday and some big flies interested in our dinner. Seems early, but the temps were very warm into the high 70s.
We stayed on the benches and not down in the side canyons, but I got a single mosquito bite and there were three mosquitoes on the bug netting one morning- the same morning I think I was bit. So not bad, but just starting.
 

Janice

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Ah - glad I asked. Thanks for the info. As I described in that thread awhile back, I am a mosquito magnet, so if they're around I'll get bitten. I will bring bug spray and hope I don't need it!
 

fossana

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We're working on plans for our Escalante backpacking trip April 17-23. Our goal is to start down Little Death Hollow, spend a few days exploring the other side of the Escalante (Cosmic Ashtray etc), then head back out Wolverine. We'll probably base camp in the Horse Canyon area unless there are reliable water sources on the south/west side of the river.

1) How high might the Escalante water be in the Horse Canyon area? Will we be able to cross safely? (I'm 5'4" and don't think I'm comfortable swimming with my pack to get across.) I've looked at the USGS data and it looks quite low, but I've read that the water level will be higher downstream of Boulder Creek.
I'm planning to head to the area the week after you. The ranger station told me that a good rule of thumb is to double the flow rate from the Escalante to estimate the rate below the Boulder Creek junction. They stopped reporting on the Boulder Creek gauge.

By bugs I would be more worried about cedar gnats in southern UT. I have become desensitized to mosquito bites, but cedar gnats leave welts on me for days. I've been hiking around the same elevation as where you are going, but in SW UT. We have similar temps, and the cedar gnats have hatched (but are not yet horrible). You might want to peruse this thread, since what works for mosquitoes in some cases did not seem to work for cedar gnats.

Lastly, we're about to get a little more snow in southern UT at elevation over the next few days, so the flow rate may increase.
 
Last edited:

Janice

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By bugs I would be more worried about cedar gnats in southern UT. I have become desensitized to mosquito bites, but cedar gnats leave welts on me for days. I've been hiking around the same elevation as where you are going, but in SW UT. We have similar temps, and the cedar gnats have hatched (but are not yet horrible). You might want to peruse this thread, since what works for mosquitoes in some cases did not seem to work for cedar gnats.
I remember that thread from awhile back and just reread it. If anyone has come to conclusions about ways to mitigate cedar gnats, I'd love to hear. Should I bother with the vanilla extract??? We'll definitely bring our head nets.

Does anyone know if the gnats tend to be more active at certain times of day or certain locations (by the water)?
 

Bob

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I remember that thread from awhile back and just reread it. If anyone has come to conclusions about ways to mitigate cedar gnats, I'd love to hear. Should I bother with the vanilla extract??? We'll definitely bring our head nets.

Does anyone know if the gnats tend to be more active at certain times of day or certain locations (by the water)?
Cedar gnats were out at slickhorn the... Late afternoon to dark
 

piper01

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I hope you had a great trip! I’m looking at possibly doing the LDH/Wolverine loop this week. Did you end up encountering water in LDH?
 

fossana

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I've been watching the Escalante River monitor since we'll have to do a few river crossings next week. We got a decent amount of precip in SW UT yesterday, and to me it looks like Escalante got at least some to supplement the spring melt since it leveled off at a higher height/rate as the temps cooled off last night. I would be surprised if there's not at least some water in the springs and shadier potholes.

Screen Shot 2022-04-23 at 8.11.15 AM.png
Screen Shot 2022-04-23 at 8.11.00 AM.png
 

John Morrow

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Funny, I spent the night of Wed 4/20 on camped on the river just upstream from Death Hollow confluence. At 0600 the river had a mini flash (I thought it was wind at first). It went from a boulder hoppable trickle to a foot deep of chocolate milk in about 20 minutes.
Over all, we crossed the river multiple times between Harris and Fence Canyons and it was mid calf deep and could see bottom between April 8-11, 2022. On Tuesday and Wed this week it was a trickle until Death Hollow where most of its flow originated.
I asked the Interagency Visitor Center about those repeated rapid pulses on the graph and they had no rationale. I wondered if the State Park reservoir was doing releases, if they ever do such a thing. Most important takeaway I got was it is a low flow spring overall. Maybe hot days will cause rapid snowmelt pulses?
 
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