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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Canyoneering Cold Water

The canyoneering season has been slow starting this year in many Utah locations. Some of our more popular routes involve wading and so far water has been high, cold and swift.

I enjoyed a great hike today through Kanara Creek Canyon, on the edge of Zion Park near Cedar City. As canyoneering goes, Kanara is fairly mild. We had kids with us and they really enjoyed the hike.

Usually by now the water has warmed up considerably but today it was surprisingly cold.

We've also been having afternoon thunderstorms in many areas and they are bane for canyoneers. We watched the sky and conditions looked good in the morning so we entered the slot. By afternoon, dark clouds were building on the mountain above us. As we reached the canyon mouth at the end of our hike, raindrops were starting to fall.

Our timing was perfect and we had a great hike. That pattern is repeated on many summer days. Usually we get "monsoon" afternoon thunderstorms in August, but the weather has been crazy this year and one area or another has been getting hard rain almost every afternoon. Capitol Reef washes flashed a couple days ago, so it is definitely important to watch the weather.

Kanara Creek is mild, but we saw several groups taking risks that make me nervous. As we reached the mouth of the canyon and raindrops were falling, some hikers were just starting into the canyon. Kanara has some very beautiful, tight slots but they are not particularly long and so the danger was moderate. Still, I would not have entered the canyon with rain falling. I've seen a flash flood or two and I choose to avoid them.

Two waterfalls are key attractions in Kanara Creek. They are only about 10 feet high, but you've got to climb up them to proceed up the canyon. Most kids under about age 12 will need considerable help getting up and down these waterfalls.

Near the waterfalls we caught up with what looked like three young mothers leading groups of kids down the canyon. There were probably 15 kids ranging in age from 4 to 8. Some of those kids were freaking out as they faced the climb down the lower waterfall. I stopped and helped some of them, and they did need serious help.

An adult can reasonably help a child or two as they navigate the canyon. But five kids per adult, that was too many in my humble opinion. They were having a hard time.

Still, we enjoyed a great hike.

In Zion Park, The Narrows are finally open for top-down hikes. The water is still high and so the hike is more difficult than usual, but groups are making the trek successfully.

Other canyon routes in the park are also finally open.

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