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Backpacker Magazine – April 2004

Glen Canyon Adventure Guide

An exclusive guide to five hikes that have been under water for 40 years

by: Annette McGivney, BACKPACKER Southwest Editor

©Elias Butler
Wading the Escalante: UTM 12S; 05046294140486
1Escalante River
Barefoot Hiking At Its Best

During the construction of Glen Canyon Dam, Wallace Stegner wrote to Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Floyd Dominy suggesting a dam be built at the mouth of the Escalante River to keep its wonders from being submerged. Stegner's dam never happened, but dropping reservoir levels have exposed almost 7 miles of river bottom at the mouth of this Colorado River tributary, allowing hikers to rediscover alcoves and side canyons that have been underwater for 40 years.

This hike drops into the Escalante just downstream of Stevens Arch, a stunning photo op and the world's seventh-largest natural arch. The lush canyon is a half-mile wide in places, with stained walls of Navajo sandstone that rise 600 feet over the ankle-deep brown water. Springs and shady campsites are plentiful, especially between Coyote and Cow Canyons, as are opportunities for exploring the serpentine slots that open to either side. Shoes are an insult; the sandy floor and even the last muddy mile to the reservoir are perfect for barefoot wading.

The Way Follow Hole-in-the-Rock Road to Fortymile Ridge Road, which dead-ends at Fortymile Ridge trailhead. Head east across the slickrock to Crack In The Rock, a 3rd class descent to the Escalante. Allow 4 to 5 hours one way.

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