SEASON: From mid April to the end of May. The river typically peaks around the beginning of May.
FUN FACT: The best way to experience Zion National Park
PERMIT: Entrance fee to the park and a free backcountry permit are required to float this reach through Zion National Park. It's a good idea to double check the park's river-running policy before heading out.
LOGISTICS: A shuttle road parrallels the run and park users are required to use the bus system which provides a convenient shuttle. From the last bus stop it's an easy walk on a paved trail to the put-in.
The North Fork of the Virgin is a fun river that provides the best means of experiencing one of our country's most beautiful national parks. There's some good whitewater on this run along with absolutely stunning geology.
From the put-in at the Temple of Sinawava the river starts out as mostly class II for the first 5 miles, although it can push class III at higher flows. Stay alert for wood hazards. Those who are looking for the easier trip can take out above the Birch Creek Bridge at the Court of the Patriarchs parking area. Those looking for more action can continue through Satan's Staircase which starts just downstream of the Birch Creek Bridge.
The action through Satan's Staircase kicks off with Corral Falls and then you encounter over a mile of fun boulder garden rapids which push class V at higher water but drop down to III/IV at the lower limit of flows.
2012: At higher flows it may not be possible to get under the riverwide wood right after Corral Falls. Watch out for other sweepers a mile below there.
The action tapers off a bit at Flannigan Diversion and calms down to class III, but the run continues for another mile and half to the bridge at the visitor center near South and Watchman campgrounds. There is some potential boating below this point but you need to be aware of private property when selecting your access point.
for additional information see:
Virgin River Runners Coalition web site which includes detailed descriptions of the different sections
Nichols, G.C. 2002. River Runners' Guide to Utah. University of Utah Press, includes an excellent and comprehensive description
National Geographic's Trails Illustrated Map 214 of Zion National Park is a good map of the river
Zion National Park
4 friends and I did this run may 23rd 2019. We went in 12 foot Aire 2 man kayaks. It took 4 hours at 480cfs and was a ton of fun. We got out at court of the patriarchs (near the horse stables) and we're super thankful we did. The rapids past that blind turn we're super scary. After the 1.5 mile portage we dropped back in for the lower part. It was considerably more difficult if you struggled on the top half pull out and don't do the portage. We were able to raft into the watchman campground. Found the exit by looking for rv's. River temp was 38°f air temp was 55°f and we were comfortable in 4/3 wetsuits, wool socks + neoprene socks. Biggest lesson learned is that Zion will not allow inflatable kayaks on the shuttle despite what the wilderness desk says. Ask for a car permit to drop off your kayaks.
Fun run at 300 cfs. A little more water would make things more fun.
hello all, I ran this run on Sun, may 11th. it was a blast! however, this is my review: The river is very easy from the temple of Sinwava for 5 miles then at the 3rd walking bridge get out if your a rookie.... I should have but I'm really good at making bad decisions. Haha. I took my Seahawk sport 400 raft the whole way down, and it was exciting to say the least. So From the 3rd walking bridge (the court of the patriarcs) you will go over a super fun diversion dam its a 20 ft slide to a 3 ft. drop from that point on its a different river. After the dam are a ton of boulders to manuver around and non stop action for quite a while (lots of 3ft drops and shutes) I guess this is Satans Staircase. Be sure to portage after the first left after the first dam, there is a huge tree blocking the only path. After that it was all clear as my girlfriend and I thrashed this pretty durable 10ft raft, the cfs was 230 and thats the biggest craft you'll get down this run at this level. Watch out for Landslide Rapid! This is man made and designed to slow the river, it is a 5 ft drop and a nasty hole. I fell out of my raft and got recycled for a min. I was pretty shaken up and I'll steer clear of this in the future. The river will make a bend to the right And there is a 30ft man made wall on the left, get out here on the left to scout go up on the road to check it out, you'll here it. If you go over it get some damn momemtem!! After that is a bunch of fun rapids until you reach another diversion dam about 1/2 mile after landslide rapid. Get through that and is pretty much smooth sailing down to camp. Super fun day and best scenery ever!! Thanks for reading about my weekend warrior adventure. Joe Dematzzzzzzzzz
8 years ago
by Rob Gauss
Letter from American Whitewater to Superintendent Jock Whitworth, Zion National Park
Flows above 250 cfs are best, but 140 cfs is the minimum allowed.
We have no additional detail on this route.
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Virgin River boulders
Zion scene 2
Zion near Emerald Pool trail
Zion scene 1
Bottom Corral Falls
If someone gets hurt on a river, or you read about a whitewater-related injury, please report it to
American Whitewater. Don't worry about multiple submissions from other witnesses, as our safety
editors will turn multiple witness reports into a single unified accident report.
American Whitewater staff traveled to Green River, UT in late March to meet with private water users and state agencies, and to participate in the official opening of the new boat passage through the Green River Diversion (Tusher Dam). Completion of the boat passage has freed the Green River from its last in-stream obstruction between the Flaming Gorge Dam and the confluence with the Colorado River – over 400 floatable river miles through iconic canyons and historic landmarks. It has a been a long process, and our work isn’t over yet! As your boating representative, American Whitewater will continue to work closely with the dam operators and Utah’s Division of State Lands (FFSL) to ensure that the boat passage meets the needs of the public during its inaugural year.
Springdale, Utah - Zion National Park has released the Final Virgin River Comprehensive Management Plan, which provides protection for 144 miles of designated Wild & Scenic Rivers within the Park. The Park’s management strategy, as outlined in the plan, does not adjust current flow limits for paddling.
Utah - American Whitewater is asking paddlers to report flows that support whitewater boating opportunities for the main stem and tributaries of the Virgin River in southwestern Utah and northwestern Arizona. Help decide the future management of the Virgin River by participating in our online flow-evaluation.
Utah - The National Park Service and the Bureau of Land Management are developing a Comprehensive River Management Plan for the Virgin Wild and Scenic River. As paddlers, our input on what makes the Virgin River and its tributaries outstandingly remarkable will help protect this river system for the benefit and enjoyment of future generations.
Between now and December 6th, we need your input!
The US Forest Service is conducting a statewide suitability study to determine which of the outstanding rivers in Utah’s National Forests should be protected as Wild and Scenic Rivers. The Forest Service is recommending that 24 of the 86 rivers that have been identified as eligible for designation should be formally recommended for Wild and Scenicdesignation. Let them know what you think by February 15th.
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