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Old 03-02-2011   #1
prescott, Arizona
Paddling Since: 1982
Join Date: Apr 2008
Posts: 276
Escalante River?

hi all,

we all got skunked on permits. looking for beta on escalante river run (below bridge at hwy 12). never run it and don't know anyone who has. haven't found much info with search on this site.

from what i've read: 71 miles, remote, remote, remote, take your time (7 to 10 days), great hiking, spectacular scenery,take out isssues, hard to catch the water, RiverMaps has a guide.

what would be good cfs for duckies and/or 12' raft?
potable water opportunities?
shuttle info and lake tow out possibilities (phone #'s, cost estimates)?
difficulties getting from river to lake at current lake levels?
which gages to watch for flow info?
probabilities of a run with current snow levels?
hazards (rapids of note, log jams, portages, etc.)

obviously any info would help. thanks,


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Old 03-02-2011   #2
reno, California
Join Date: Aug 2010
Posts: 8

No take out issues. Carry IK's out from Coyote Gulch. Strap to a back pack and make 1 1/2 to 2 hauls. Not bad except for one loose sand/steep section. Skip Lake Fowl!
Much easier shuttle. Would not really think about a raft IMO.

There are a few reliable springs and normally clear water in a few of the drainages.

Snow pack is good this year. It just depends how it melts. Need to have some flexability in schedule. Got to be able to go when the water is there!

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Old 03-02-2011   #3
Join Date: Apr 2005
Posts: 8
Need at least 50 cfs. Last i heard no permit is required. have hiked large portion of river, very remote. Would not even think of taking a raft. Be aware of russian olive also, bring lots of patches. Hike out at forty mile is brutal, steep sand dune about 800 vert. I believe the widstoe #3 is the snow gauge you want to use. Plan on taking at least a week on the water for hiking and etc and at least a day for the shuttle. A dream float for me, but never done it due to time. Hiked alot of the area.
Been trying to pull up the BLM page for running the river and it is down, was up about a week ago. Driving down hole the wall is slow and a bitch, unless they have improved it. Good luck.
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Old 03-02-2011   #4
Kanab, Utah
Paddling Since: 2005
Join Date: May 2010
Posts: 10
Escalante River

I've floated the Escalante twice, once in 2005 with monster snowpack/runoff and last year with just enough water to make it doable. I live close by and have seen people float it almost every year. Its more about timing than huge snowpack, really. You just have to be flexible enough to jump on the river when the melt starts and the snow comes off of the Boulder. Last year snowpack wasn't fantastic and we left a little late, June 1st, and still had a great trip. It would have been better in early May, though. Based on what I see at the Widtsoe snotel site, the river will definitely be runnable, just remain flexible on your trip dates.

Both times I've floated it, our group has gone all the way to Lake Powell and shuttled out, the first time to Wahweap, the second time to Bullfrog. Last year the delta where the river emptied into the Lake was pretty rough and very braided. However, it had to be better than the climb out at Coyote Gulch, it looks like a beast. We've always used duckies, rafts are out of the question. The river is way too narrow. I've seen canoes do it when the water was higher, and a few hard shelled kayaks, but I'm convinced the ducky is the way to go. I've seen quite a few of the packrafts do it in the last few years.

There are really no representative stream gauges on the river. There's one on a tributary, Pine Creek, but Boulder Creek is the largest contributor and there is no gauge on it anymore. It makes it kind of crap shoot as to flow conditions. Last year the Escalante was running ~20 cfs at the highway 12 bridge when we put in. It was a rough few miles to Boulder Creek, then the flow tripled with Boulder Creek's input and we did pretty well.

I know that there are a couple businesses in Escalante, Utah that will run a shuttle. They might have some additional info on conditions as well.

I felt like the most dangerous part of the float was the piled up Russian Olive that had been cut and piled in the river. Without a huge flood to wash that stuff down, it piles up and is a little scary.

What a great trip the Escalante is! The shuttle logistics and the runoff timing is a little complicated, but if you can pull it off, you will never forget it.

Here's a few pics of my two trips down...
Escalante River Trip 2010 - a set on Flickr
Escalante River Trip 2005 - a set on Flickr

Let me know if you have any other questions, maybe I can help.

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Old 03-02-2011   #5
reno, California
Join Date: Aug 2010
Posts: 8
Hiking out at Coyote is really simple. Carry your boat and paddle up in the cooler late afternoon to Crack IN the Rock. Come back down have a great nite camping at Coyote. Up early next morning with the rest of your stuff.
If your light you can make it to the car in one trip with everything. If not come back to Crack in The Rock for your boat. Two easy hauls on the flats from Crack. I am guessing 3-4 miles to your car and coolers and treats.

The sand hill is not fun but its only 700 - 800 feet. Whats the big deal?

Going to the Lake an extra day of pulling your boat in shallow water. Thats OK but then your in a blasted motor boat going to the Marina. To me that is so depressing after what you have just done for the previous 10 days.

Plus the drive from the marinas to Boulder is a bear. 2 times!!

Done it both ways several times. Always do Coyote any more.

Unless its been raining Hole in The Rock Road is quite pleasant. It can vary as any dessert/clay road can.

Hells Backbone Cafe in Boulder after your trip? Yes.
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Old 03-03-2011   #6
prescott, Arizona
Paddling Since: 1982
Join Date: Apr 2008
Posts: 276
thanks to all for the info.

guess we'll see what happens.

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Old 03-03-2011   #7
Bayou's Avatar
Denver, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2009
Join Date: Jan 2011
Posts: 198
Wow, those photos look amazing. I'd love to take my duckie out there for a week and a half.
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Old 03-03-2011   #8
Eloy, Arizona
Paddling Since: 1972
Join Date: Nov 2009
Posts: 7
may escalante

I'm looking at the Escalante in May, all the way to the lake. I may have a free boat shuttle to Bullfrog on the 10th or 11th with enough room for two to four boaters.

If the run-off hasn't started that early I can get free most of the month. Bob in Prescott, I'm about three hours south of you. Let me know if you want to get in touch.

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Old 03-04-2011   #9
Chip's Avatar
SE, Wyoming
Paddling Since: 1986
Join Date: Apr 2007
Posts: 1,098
We ran it from Calf Creek to the Sump in 2005. Trip of a lifetime.

But you can't schedule a time way in advance and expect enough water. You need to check the snowpack and catch the melt where the curve starts dropping off. May 10 might be too late. We went in April and hit it just before the peak. The pack looks excellent for this spring. Here's the relevant snowtel site:

NWCC - SNOTEL Water Year 2011 Graph

If you start out late, since it's a 7-8 day trip with inflatables, you can launch with plenty of water and end up dragging your boats the last half of the trip. I think you need about 40 cfs on the gage just upstream for a decent run.

Pack Cats and duckies are best, paddles, no oarframes since the channel's too narrow for oars. We had one oarframe Cutthroat and it kept getting stuck, pinned on boulders and down trees. (Take a couple folding saws for trees across the channel.)

We found plenty of water sources: springs and seeps. There aren't a lot of easily accessible campsites, like you see on Deso or the San Juan, so you have to stop often to scout and crash through the brush looking for a place to camp.

If you do the boat shuttle (better choice than a Coyote hike-out) make sure your pickup boat has good info on how far up the river they can go, and be sure you camp pretty close your last night, since the nearer you get to the Sump, the more shallow braided channels through silt and nasty upstream winds you can encounter.

Here are a few pics from our trip:

The logistics are a cramp, but the trip itself is a dream.
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Old 03-04-2011   #10
Denver, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1995
Join Date: Apr 2007
Posts: 2,239
We are thinking of doing an Escalante trip this spring.The logistics are kind of a hassle .Coyote carry out would shorten the trip and reduce expense, but most people seem to find it very brutal. If you packed light and bucked it as a Plan B we were considering the Dirty Devil.Does anyone know how the scenery[ and camping ,side hikes,etc.] rates compared to the Escalante? Our hope was that it is nearly as spectacular ,in it's own way.I wouldn't mind just spending a week or so doing one- nighters and day runs on scenic flats and whitewater in the San Rafael and eastern Utah area.

also if you do take out at Coyote, are you missing much unique scenery or ww wise?

Please Dolores run this year too!

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