Escalante River Tips - Mountain Buzz

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Old 01-14-2016   #1
Lewiston, Utah
Paddling Since: 1997
Join Date: Mar 2014
Posts: 6
Escalante River Tips

A group of us are looking at a trip down the Escalante River from Hwy 12 to Powell this spring if snow packs are what they are shaping out to be now. I've done a lot of rafting on the Green and Colorado, but not much on smaller rivers in inflatable kayaks.

Has anyone done the run before, and what are your suggestions? My wife, who is not an experienced paddler would probably go in a tandem with me. What reasonable-priced brands could carry the load for a 7-day trip and still stand the shallow rocks and Russian olives?

Any tips for the trip are welcome. Thanks

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Old 01-14-2016   #2
6FEETandRISING's Avatar
Lardo, Idaho
Paddling Since: 1998
Join Date: Feb 2012
Posts: 103
The main problem with an Escalante trip is the take out, because there isn't one. You could hire a boat to pick you up on a certain date for a decent amount of money I imagine. Or you can do an IK trip and make multiple trips up Coyote Gulch and out the exit crack. This is doable but it would suck balls. You would probably want some ropes for the gear to get it up the crack. Or you can do a packraft trip which would probably be the easiest option as you could just hike out to a shuttled car. However the smaller craft size would limit the amount of gear you could take depending on how much time you wish to spend in the canyon.
When you spend your life in the rain, you learn to walk between the drops.
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Old 01-14-2016   #3
deadlizard's Avatar
peoria, Arizona
Join Date: Mar 2008
Posts: 174
2011 Trip report

Originally Posted by morbald View Post
A group of us are looking at a trip down the Escalante River from Hwy 12 to Powell this spring if snow packs are what they are shaping out to be now.

Has anyone done the run before, and what are your suggestions?

Any tips for the trip are welcome. Thanks
From a good feel for it.

Escalante River - May 13, 2011 - Calf Creek to Lake Powell - Part 1

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Old 01-14-2016   #4
Durango South, 4CRS
Paddling Since: 07
Join Date: Apr 2010
Posts: 201
I realize a ducky is the ideal craft, but for those who have done this stretch do you think an open canoe with competent paddlers would be ok for the rapids?
Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. - Helen Keller
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Old 01-15-2016   #5
Salt Lake City, Utah
Join Date: Mar 2008
Posts: 66
You'll be portaging the canoe across boulders and dragging across sand.

Packrafts are the way to go, as it allows you to hike down Egypt and spend more time on the lower section.
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Old 01-15-2016   #6
reno, California
Join Date: Aug 2010
Posts: 9
Been down E six times. 2x saw canoes dragging/ portaging back to the bridge after the 1st day.
Gone out to Lake Foul once. Carry up to crack. Bring boats and boating gear up to top of crack. Go back down have a great nite at Coyote and bring everything else up early next morning. Little bit of suffering but well worth it. Good way to go.
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Old 01-15-2016   #7
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Colorado Plateau Metropolis, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2006
Join Date: Jun 2010
Posts: 46
Exit out of Coyote Gulch. One trip with all the gear on my back. Heaviest pack i have ever hauled. Single duckie.
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Old 01-16-2016   #8
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 244
We did it in May of 2005, which is about as high as the water has been in decades, so bear that in mind and realize your experience will probably be different. We did it in IKs. Our group consisted of one experienced kayaker, one pretty newbie kayaker (me), one experienced rafter, and one newbie rafter. We also met a really cool guy at the put in named Mike who'd driven out from California to run it solo who joined us. Here are the things I think are worth pointing out.

The water in the creek was cold. Really cold. If you don't want freezing cold water nailing you in the crotch first thing in the morning, I'd suggest splash pants or some kind of neoprene. One of our crew ended up sitting on something to raise him up a bit, so that's also an option. The water is also pretty muddy, but the side streams were a lot clearer. We pumped water from the side streams.

There was one mandatory portage where it totally sieved out, but you can eddy out right above the boulders and it was an easy portage. There was a second spot where half of our crew portaged and half ran it. As I remember, it was basically a 3' or so drop, but that was about it (no lead in or run out). I don't remember any other rapids besides some small riffles.

The side hikes are awesome. Make sure you have time to do some. Lots of little slot canyons. Beware of flash floods. Seriously. It can be raining 50 miles away, blue skies where you're at, and flash the canyon you're standing in.

The hike out at crack in the wall is not really that bad. We did it all in one trip, and as I remember it took about 3 hours. I had the easiest time because I brought absolutely minimal gear. I'm not sure I even brought a tent. I definitely didn't bring a sleeping pad since I remember sleeping on my boat most nights. One of the other guys brought tons of stuff (finger nail clippers, ipod, a few beers for the first day, etc). Another guy brought a paco pad. All of us hiked all our stuff out in one trip, so it's a matter of what you're willing to live without during the trip to avoid hiking it out at the end. We all did Mountain House meals, and brought I think 4 bottles of tequila and packets of margarita mix for beverages. The heaviest thing is obviously the boat, so if you really are intending to bring a tandem kayak, you might want to think about how you're going to carry it (assuming you do the hike). We also had one guy who got a new backpack frame for the trip, and it ended up bending under the weight of the boat. Doing a short pre-trip hike with all your stuff might not be a bad idea to avoid running into problems like that.

The hike starts along a creek bed and is pretty easy hiking. It diverges from the creek and you start hiking up the dunes. This part is the worst since you're sliding back a bit with every step. Once you get to the cliff, there's a crack that's really easy to scramble up to the top where you can rope your gear up. From there you can see the sun glinting off the cars in the parking lot in the distance, and it's a pretty flat hike over sandstone to the parking lot.

Here are the pictures from our trip:

You can see pictures of the one rapid and the hike out, and also get an idea of what the rest of the trip is like. I guess I didn't take any pictures of the sieve.
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Old 01-16-2016   #9
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 244
I realized that was a shit ton of photos I just linked to, so here are the pertinent ones.

The one significant rapid:

Hike out along the creek:

Hike out, dune portion:

Hike out, crack in the wall:

Hike out, roping our gear up:

Hike out, looking back from the cliff:

Hike out, from the cliff to the parking lot:
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Old 01-16-2016   #10
Salt Lake City, Utah
Paddling Since: 1955
Join Date: Jan 2010
Posts: 47
The Escalante is on my bucket list for this year. I may like to try my Aire Puma. Either oars, paddle, or r2. These photos make it appear very doable. What are the chances? Thanks for the pics!
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