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.
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.
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.
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 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.