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Old 02-23-2014   #11
cedar city, Utah
Join Date: Mar 2008
Posts: 1,928
I am sure it was posted here but the NPS mandated through policy a minimum CFS to boat the narrows a few years back, I believe it is 400 CFS but you will want to search their site to verify.

The character and friendliness of boating in the park has been tenuous for a few years now. Please be thoughtful of this fact.

The chance of a run this year is VERY LOW. The main feed for the narrows comes from Deep Creek which flows the southern end of the Markagunt and which is epically dry. Its like late March up there right now as far as temps and snow depth (maybe worse in that category).

If it flows....Each of the sections of the Virgin are different in character.

Never done the Narrows myself and it will likely stay that way I have known of too many qualified people to have epics in there. I am not a qualified enough paddler. If you run in there PLEASE be self sufficient and be prepared for walking out or major repairs. Zion NP does not need any further regulations and rescues have been common in the past.

The section from Temple parking lot to just above Satan's staircase is fun but extremely swift Class II-III. Every time we have done there have been considerable #s of strainers. The eddies are odd down there as well.

Never done Satan's Staircase as its consistently rated Class V. Looks nasty from the road with plenty of undercut rocks and possible sieves that are obvious at lower water. Important to chat with locals about the entrance as it was blocked by a neck/head high fallen tree a few years back (last time we ran the Virgin) that was a major hazard. It was located just below the footbridge so it should be scout able ahead of time.

Below there to Virgin has small dams and fences.

There is steep creek section between Virgin and the old hot springs (out of business again). Plenty of small waterfalls in the canyon there.

From the Hot Springs to HWY 12 Bridge is Class III-IV that is swift with very few eddies. Beware of major strainers that change from year to year as well as man-made obstacles (kids play in there at low water and build swings and use rope to build all sorts of odd contraptions) that could be extremely dangerous. First major rapid is less than a mile after start (just downstream of major bridge). This is our favorite run on the Virgin and I have missed it the last few years.

Below HWY 12 bridge are mandatory portages and major diversions that need to be scouted from satellite imagery.

Bloomington to Rec Area Campsite along I-15 is mostly Class III that changes in character multiple times. Often distant from road access. There is one low head dam of concern and the portage is easily missed (I was surfed for a while at this because there were too many people at the portage trail and I blew by it looking for an alternate=FAIL). An oft ignored hazard is the overgrown nature of the canyon. When we did it a few years back we had several close calls with the vegetation as it has grown directly into the watercourse. It was a jungle and dangerous. We had to bend way down and even then we got caught and hung up. Its like boating through shrubbery tunnels (we got bloody from it as the desert vegetation is less than friendly). Its a fun section but I can't overstate the above issue.

The Gorge is Class IV(possibly+) and has one fish dam of concern. This the classic run in this region of the Virgin so there will likely be others if it runs. Runs along I-15 most of the time and you are never far from the road. Takeout is after it exits the canyon.

All this is helpful on good years but I would say everything in this part of Utah is DOA this year. We are wearing shorts in town here and the ski resort I work at hasn't had snow again in 2+ weeks, and before that big dump it has been 45+ days of drought. This part of Utah and all the way into California are just epically dry and warm. I would be looking elsewhere....that is what I am doing and my gas budget sucks this year.


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Old 02-23-2014   #12
Durango, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1996
Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 807
Originally Posted by jpwinc View Post
Contact the ranger station in Zion for updates on the run through the narrows, and be sure to check out the rapid at the start of the trail up the narrows down by the visitors center. I recomend caution at that location, but I would also ask if there is anything like that up in the narrows.

Zion NPS people are extreemly helpfull in this regaurd. They want to see the stream used in this manner. So do not be shy. They can tell you when the best time to run is, and how to get to the put in.

we sold them this rescue ribg propbably 10 years ago, and they purchasesd another one last year.

My experience on the virgin river goes way back to 1978 when we destroyed 2 sport yaks in the section below Virgin Ut. There is a diversion dam there now for Quail creek resavoir. Too bad. It was extreemly fun, and I thnk my lucky stars that there was low water. We should have gotten a clue when we portaged a 30 ft cliff right off the bat.

My sister (no water Nancy ) does the san Rafael a lot, but not the black box section.

In 1979 we had One hell of a year on the Virgin Under I 15 in Ariz. That is a unique place to go. Especially for Engineers. What a view of the freeway from below.

Email me if anyone wants more information

The NPS may have been helpful in 1978 but more recent they have made the Narrows essentially unrunnable by not issuing permits if the flow was over 600 cfs in the previous 24 hours. This policy is unfathomably stupid, and will likely lead to more incidents as people try to do this run without enough water. Your tax dollars at work...

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Old 02-24-2014   #13
cedar city, Utah
Join Date: Mar 2008
Posts: 1,928
Originally Posted by jmack View Post
The NPS may have been helpful in 1978 but more recent they have made the Narrows essentially unrunnable by not issuing permits if the flow was over 600 cfs in the previous 24 hours. This policy is unfathomably stupid, and will likely lead to more incidents as people try to do this run without enough water. Your tax dollars at work...
Thanks for the correction on the flows.

Zion NP has an interesting history with recreational policy. Canyoneering opened a major can of worms in the past and led to major permitting regulations. They do not permit canyoneering parties above an abysmally low 120 cfs. Its an arbitrary # that makes no sense other than one for litigious reasons. The randomness of the 600 cfs figure is equally difficult to accept.

That said....part of the issue is the# of deaths and population the park has attracted. Not only did the kayaking community have some major epics but young local yahoos led to a highly covered death when they jerry-rigged a Tom Sawyer style wooden raft a few yeas back and died. For canyoneering the park has never relented after the major boy scout deaths in Kolob decades ago. National attention from the kayaking community came late in the game (always kayakers there but relatively rare in comparison) and their recent epics just exacerbated an existing problem.

Not sure how to facilitate better outcomes. Until the national zeitgeist changes to one in which the NPS is not liable for accidents that happen from accidents in the park I am not sure they will relent.

Also, I doubt it will lead to more accidents than we saw in the recent past. It was a crazy couple years down here. Should have made anyone cringe. But really there is no way to predict the creative ways people will get themselves hurt in the side and backcountry (and my principle argument would be to get the NPS out such decisions if there is limited resource damage).


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Old 02-24-2014   #14
Paddling Since: 96
Join Date: Feb 2009
Posts: 1,373
Its about time for Cmartin to show up and threaten some ass kicking...

Phil U. is online now   Reply With Quote

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