Playing The Slots
This twisting tributary offers some of the best canyoneering in the region and the finest example of natural restoration in a newly exposed canyon. If you approach by boat from Lake Powell, you can explore Bishop Creek, where flash floods have already scoured silt from a mile-long stretch of sandstone. On a clear afternoon, sunlight creates dazzling reflections in the creek and pools.
Back in Willow Creek, walk upstream through quicksand (it’s safe) to a mile of resurfaced canyon streaked with desert varnish. The walls close in then, and several undercuts form tunnel-like passages. At Fortymile Gulch, gardens of fern, monkeyflower, and moss hang from the walls, dripping into hip-deep pools. The narrowest stretch is only 6 feet wide; you’ll need to stem (see photo) and swim. Small waterfalls add music to these tight chambers, but there may be too much grunting and laughter to hear it.
The Way By boat, follow the Escalante 9 miles from Lake Powell to Willow Creek. Very quickly, Bishop Creek will open to the north. Allow 3 hours to explore Bishop and 4 hours to visit the Willow narrows. By foot, drive south on Hole-in-the-Rock Road 44 miles to Carcass Wash. Walk downstream in the wash to Fortymile Gulch Narrows and then Willow Creek (about 2 hours).