Riparian Canyon Hikes

Overlooking a riparian canyon - the lifeblood of the desert.

Overlooking a riparian canyon – the lifeblood of the desert.

The canyons are the arteries that transport water – the desert’s life blood.  Many canyons are dry washes only carrying water when it rains.  A few, however, are fed by springs that allow for perennial water flow.  This perennial water creates the riparian zones that support much of the life in the desert.

Water slowly and patiently carving bends in a canyon.

Water slowly and patiently carving bends in a canyon.

The water is a strong force that winds its way through the canyon floor patiently carrying small amounts of the canyon away; daily changing the canyon ever so slightly.  Water always searches for the path of least resistance, thus a boulder in the water way may be all it takes to change the course of the river.  Over time this path of least resistance causes enormous overhangs to be carved away from the cliffs, natural bridges and arches to be created that span great distances or ox bow bends to be formed and as the course of the water changes towers of rock are left behind along the canyon floor.  The water sculpts many  interesting features to explore.

One of the many life rich areas in the Escalante River riparian zone.

Cattails flourish in this spring fed life rich area along the Escalante River.

Water also brings life to the canyons to create the riparian zones.  Lush green ribbons of life that meander through the desert creating a stark contrast between the slickrock and and sand dunes above the rim and the river below.  Where there is water, the web of life expands – the water brings the plants, the plants bring the animals and all three bring the people.

This massive overhang provides  ideal habitation condition.  The woman on the right is going to view four pictographs on the wall just above her head.

This massive overhang provides ideal habitation conditions. The woman on the right is going to view four pictographs on the wall just above her head.

It is the riparian zones that sustained the ancestral cultures of the area for 10,000 years.  The canyons hold a treasury of clues that help unravel the mystery of these people.  The story of their way of life, whether hunter/gatherers or early agriculture is told on the walls of the canyons.  Their rock art is an open air gallery that has been viewed and appreciated by many thousands of generations of travelers through these canyons.

The riparian canyons provide plenty of opportunity to relax and refresh during summer hikes.

The riparian canyons provide plenty of opportunity to relax and refresh during summer hikes.

The Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument has several riparian canyons to explore.  Many of these are mild hikes with very little if any scrambling, however simple water crossings are to be expected.  These hikes are quite pleasant in the late spring as the plants come to life and in the fall as the canyons prepare to sleep for the winter; likewise, since it is easy to cool off with refreshing dips in the water, the summers are also quite enjoyable.  We will design a hike that meets your interests and your desired level of hiking.  Where ever our wanderings take us, the Riparian Canyon Hikes offer a multifaceted land to discover – entomology, botany, zoology, geology, anthropology or simply hiking for the pleasure of hiking.

Let’s Hike, Explore, and Discover!

Information on dates, rates and reservations is available on our Hike Reservations page.