Overview: The Paria is the ultimate ephemeral desert river. Boatable flows on the Paria are so fickle that some groups have had to hike out after the water dropped on them overnight. While hard to catch, the Paria is worth the effort rewarding any paddler with 20 miles of beautiful, committing slot canyon paddling followed by another 20 miles of class III-IV boulder gardens (V at high flows). This is one of those runs where calling in sick or driving through the night will be worth your time or you might wait years for your next shot.
What Boat?: At high flows this run would be great in a hard shell. There would be a few scrapy sections near the beginning and end of the run but in general it would chanalize quite well. Packrafting this run has become the popular option with the primary upside being an easier hike out if you were to wake up to a de-watered river (very possible). For a strong group you could catch the surge and just paddle the 42 miles in a day to avoid that possibility. That said, I can’t see any reason why you wouldn’t want to linger in such a jaw-dropping canyon and doing the run as an overnighter is worthwhile. There will likely be some scouting to do on your first trip so factor that in as well. The primary downside of this run is the water quality. If there is water it will be a thick mud slurry. This run will be hard on your packraft stowfly zipper and this is enough of a reason to paddle a hardshell if flows permit.
Flow: The most challenging part of this run is catching it with water. There is a USGS gauge on the Paria at Lee's Ferry. This is about 12 hours downstram of where you put in so keep in mind flows could be wildly different than what you will be paddling. A heavy rain on snowmelt mixture is what will be most effetive at bringing the Paria to a runnable level. During a good snowpackyear between February and April keep your eyes on the forecast and just wait at the put-in for the surge. People have paddled this run as low as 150 with lots of scraping. 350-500cfs would be a nice medium. 900 was fast and continuous with some stompy rapids but would be excellent in a hardshell. At low to medium flows this run in primarly class III-IV in difficulty with a few portages around sieves. Expect class V at high flows.
Logistics: If you plan to do the Paria in one night you need to obtain a permit which can be done online on the BLM site, over the phone (except on Sundays), or in person at the ranger stations in St George or Kanab. If you are planning to paddled the Paria in a huge one day push you would just need a self issue permit. The shuttle from Lees Ferry to the put-in is 1 hour and 20 minutes. You can leave your vehicle in the Grand Canyon overnight parking lot, a short walk from the takeout. I recommend paddling out into the Colorado to rinse off the mud and walking back on the fishing trail.
Check out the AW Archives for an article from Sept/Oct 1995.
I just spent a week hiking down the Paria. It looked very possible to creek it if you could catch the water levels right. I hiked in through Buckskin Gulch, no way to take a kayak in that way. I don't know what it looks like if you go in through White House. The upper part of the canyon would not have much in the way of rapids and would be extremely dangerous if rain was a possibility. The flash floods are deadly. The lower part of the canyon opens up more and has some areas that would make for some good creek boating. I will be posting a lot of photos from my trip to my Flickr account, look for Paria Canyon and Boilerblues.
Look for floods.
Take-out: At Lee's Ferry at the confluence with the Colorado. You can leave your vehicle in the Grand Canyon overnight parking lot, a short walk on fishing trail from the confluence of the Paria and the Colorado.
Put-in: To reach the put-in drive through Page and continue north on U.S. 89 until you reach the bridge over the Paria (120 minutes). To avoid a few miles of shallow braids turn south onto a dirtroad signed for the Paria Contact Station and Whitehouse Campground. Put-in at the campground or at any other pull out along this road.
on Paria @01. Highway bridge to Lee's Ferry
Paria River? well a river with no water
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