The Escalante is one the iconic wilderness complexes of the Colorado Plateau. Much of the year, the only way to traverse this labyrinth of sandstone canyons is through complex routefinding over technical terrain. The canyon floor is a jungle of willows and cottonwoods and box canyons. But on above average snow-years, the tiny Escalante swells to something almost resembling boatable flows. And in 2017, we thought it was our year.

We set out over Memorial Day hoping to float from Highway 12 to Crack in the Wall. As our launch date neared, it became obvious there was not enough water in the Escalante, and we would be relying solely on the Boulder to get us to floatable levels. With a quick change of plans, we descended to the river at Fence Canyon, hoping to catch the last wave of snowmelt and get to Coyote Gulch before the flows evaporated entirely.

I’ve visited this zone for years, almost always in search of technical canyons. To be able to float through this on a packraft almost feels like cheating, especially when you don’t have to tangle with the invasive Russian Olive that used to choke this river. Being able to see the lower canyon nearly free of Russian Olive is truly awesome, and it is an incredible tribute to Bill Wolverton who has dedicated his life to restoring the canyon.

If you would like to help protect this zone for future generations, please support Grand Staircase Escalante Partners.