Forums Outta Bounds Escalante Packraft Trip
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  • #573232
    356 Posts

    My wife and I just got back from a 9-day hike/packraft down the Escalante River (Utah). WOW it was fantastic. Prehistoric desert geology, endless psychedelically varnished sandstone walls, the desert in bloom, solitude, and a playful class II stream meandering on through it.

    We started from Egypt trailhead, hiked down Fence Canyon to the river, floated down 40 miles, hiked up Coyote Gulch, out Hurricane Wash, to Chimney Rock. The packrafts were the perfect craft for this river.

    I estimated the flow to be constant in the 50 to 100 cfs range. My feeling is that the gage here bears little resemblance, in terms of volume and daily fluctuations, to what the flow is like downstream from Fence. (I see on the interwebs here that the reported gage cfs during the time we were on the river fluctuated from under 2 cfs to 40 cfs, but there was no such fluctuation throughout the days we were on the river.) The gage is just too far upstream and above several large tributaries to be of any significant use. It is more instructive to just visually check the river at the Hwy 12 bridge.

    At Fence we met folks from a couple different groups, who had started floating at the Hwy 12 bridge, and by Fence, were giving up and hiking out due to time constraints. Apparently the Russian Olives and low water above the Choprock/Fence area were problematic. I recommend hiking your gear down Fence, rather than putting in at Hwy 12.

    The camping was awesome. We saw no one for 5 days on the river. Check out the flood wood, 15 feet above the river, prolly from the 2006 flood:

    Stefan’s tale of the flood:

    Here’s a sketchy loose slab of Wingate boulder a couple hundred feet up the wall next to our camp:

    Here’s the mandatory portage at the boulder jam – easy to deal with at these flow levels:

    We did a couple other trivial portages, and in several spots had to drag the rafts for a few feet through some shallow spots. Pretty easy with the buttboats.

    Getting a fresh drink from the paddle-up spring at Scorpion Gulch:

    Wildlife encounters included toads,



    and tons of bats.

    Also saw tracks of turkey, coyote, beaver, large and small cats. Also something stung my finger but I dunno what it was.

    We had time to hike up Neon, Fold, Fools, Beryl, and Stevens Canyons. Beryl was particularly intriguing, as we could see several elongated mini potholes around the corner where our upcanyon progress was halted due to an overhanging ledge.


    Stevens Canyon:

    Stevens Arch:

    Alcove in Coyote Gulch:

    Jacob Hamblin Arch:

    Seeking shade during the slog out.

    My pack was 42 lbs back at the car, probably was ~52 lbs when we hiked down Fence.

    BIG UPS to Aaron R and/or Stevee B for dropping our car off at Chimney Rock! Glad you had success in Long Branch!

    And shout outs to Jenny for her return to Kaleidoscope, and to Stefan and Ram, et al, good to see yall down at Fence! Hope to see you all again soon.

    225 Posts

    So Awesome Bucky! I’m sold, I’d love to do this into Beryl / Fold area. I was bummed I didn’t get to see you down there but it was nice just knowing you guys were around. Let’s get into more trouble soon!
    p.s. check out our TR of XX canyons in Kings Mesa over on the canyons group.

    242 Posts

    Unreal. You are the adventuringest of them all.

    Rico in AZ
    559 Posts



    I just got back from that same area, spent a few days hiking and driving around GSENM. Judging by the parking at the trailheads there were alot of folks in the Escalante canyons this weekend. Though, we hiked down Willow Gulch past Broken Bow Arch, and saw no one. Love it up there. My wife should have some nice photos from her DSLR, I’ll get them up too.

    Thanks for posting!

    2068 Posts

    Holy shit, awesome. This needs to be in the trip report section, folks would love to see it.

    830 Posts

    You are my hero. I hiked to the Escalante via cCoyote one year, that thing was really moving so it must have been spring, looked way more mellow in your pics. Why I wonder? How much further to hole in the rock? Keep em coming, Bucky.

    356 Posts

    @utah wrote:

    I hiked to the Escalante via Coyote one year, that thing was really moving so it must have been spring, looked way more mellow in your pics. Why I wonder?

    It was high when you saw it either cuz it was bigger snow year, or had it recently rained the last few days? It had a wall-to-wall 100-year flood event in spring of 2006. The Escalante River only runs strong enough to reliably float for a few weeks during snowmelt, and not all years. It’s still a good bet if you can put in over the next few days!

    How much further to hole in the rock?

    Hole in the Rock is a long way further from Coyote Gulch – a few more flowing miles, then the Reservoir for like 50 miles. The similarly-named Crack-in-the-Wall is the exit route that gets you up out of the river to the road quick. I’ll probably use that in the future as it saves a day vs hiking Coyote Gulch.

    Keep em coming, Bucky.

    Packrafts are fun. Stoke from yesterday, Jordan River:

    THere’s no good photo-postable packraft forum so I’m gonna keep posting here, though it’s off topic. But I mean, just think of riding the rivers as shredding the tailend of the snowpack…

    1 Posts

    silly kid, spragging is for spragers………

    its getting harder and hard to hide…….

    501 Posts

    Holy shiz! You are inspiring. I’ve gotta get my wife and I a pair of those. How much do they cost/weigh deflated (Including oars)?

    356 Posts

    breadbox said: I’m sold, I’d love to do this into Beryl / Fold area.

    Yo! I may want to go back next year! Perhaps start a multi-day float trip from Moody Creek trailhead with a top-to-bottom Neon descent and take it from there?….

    mgk said: silly kid, spragging is for spragers………

    Guilty as charged, but:

    silly Todd, internet whining is for internet whiners………

    Fixed it for ya.

    mgk said: its getting harder and hard to hide…….

    Um, if you think the Escalante River is your secret spot that I’m blowing up or something, be advised that there’s been beta all over the place for years, at the library, on-line, map/guides at the boat shops, etc. This float trip is even covered in the Gazetter map atlas, available at every quickie mart in the state, fer chrissake! I know – you wanna hide? then go hide back under your bridge on ttips ya damn troll. PS, great first post! PPS Bet you don’t even splitboard either.

    PhishermanPhil said: How much do they cost/weigh deflated (Including oars)?

    They cost and weigh the same deflated as they do inflated, har. The Alpacka boats I have are like $800 new. The boats weighs 5 pounds. A daypack loaded with boat, paddle, inflate bag, patch kit, pfd, throw bag, is like 12 pounds. More affordable and less rugged packraft options include FlytePacker and Sevylor.

    501 Posts

    I took my first trip down to the monument over Labor day weekend. Its a beautiful place and it was surprisingly super green still from all the rain southern Utah had been getting. We couldn’t go much past Egypt road since all the flash flooding destroyed Hole-in-the-rock road but we had a great time in the hanging out around Fence, Neon and Choprock canyons. We also did a fun long slot called Egypt 3 which was the most narrow in sections that I’ve been in. If you were over 200 lbs you’d probably have a miserable time. Had my first experience with a keeper pothole too. And since I was the tallest I was volunteered to be the human stepladder.

    I’d love to try a packraft sometime. I search for all the brands you mentioned and couldn’t find info on them. Except for the Sevylor. I’d love to combine backpacking, rafting and canyoneering at some point though.

    726 Posts

    I see this thread is super old but I’m glad I found it. I had a buddy who packrafted the Escalante year before last so it’s cool seeing more photos of it and hearing another person’s tales of adventure down there. Thanks for sharing.


    1 Posts


    Did you happen to see a group of people doing chainsaw work while you were on your trip? I worked for an americorps crew removing Russian olive with chainsaw and we ran into a cpl pack rafting. We just hollared as you both floated by but as I was researching a future backpacking trip in escalante I saw your post. Just thought it you would be neat if it happened to be you and your wife we saw on the river. Looks like such an amazing trip regardless.

    Best regards


    1 Posts

    Wow! Thanks for the details, I plan on doing this in May 2018 if weather permits. I have a question for you… I know this was a long time ago, however I plan on doing the same part of the river as you (although will park a little closer by Jacob Hamlin Arch)… do you think this will take 9 days? Or did you just have 9 days off and explored some side canyons? Just trying to get an idea of how much food to pack… Thanks! Larissa

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