While this 16 mile stretch of river is certainly a class III run at some levels, it is about as committed of a run as you can have, and is not for beginners. Solid class IV boating skills with a reliable roll, rescue skills are a must. While at lower water levels, taking a class III boater down the Narrows in a ducky may be appropriate, more skilled boaters should be on the trip to insure safety.
Also, all boaters should be in good enough physical condition to drag/carry their boats for 8 miles down to Deep Creek (see flow info.) Fatigue can definitely be an issue. An overnight trip would be one way to allow for this, although the permit office has not always allowed for this, possibly due to flash flood potential.
The only way out of the canyon is down. You'll need a boat for that, unless you want to swim for a couple miles or wait a few weeks for the water to drop. If you lose your boat, you'll be waiting for Search and Rescue or if your lucky another groupwith a ducky you can jump onto. This could take 2, 3 or even more days. Keep the possibility of this happening as low as possible by being completely comfortable any rapids you might confront. This is not the place to test your boating skills. DO NOT attempt to hike out of the canyon. It may look possible from the river, but after the first 2 or so miles, it is not. Your route will cliff out on you if you attempt to hike out.
Be prepared. Bring break-down paddles, boat-patching material, lots of food, water filter, plenty of extra dry clothes in a dry bag, extra throw rope, a pin kit extra food, fire starting material, first aid gear. Plan on spending the night, just in case. Even if you don't need any of the gear, you very well may meet a group of boaters that does, or helping another group out may lead to you not being able to get out before dark.
Flash floods may also be a concern in this river. Flash floods through the narrows can carry flows of several thousand cfs, and despite being in a boat, you would not want to be in the narrows for this. The backcountry desk should be able to provide information about flash flood danger.
Permits are required. They are free at the backcountry desk at the visitors center in the Park (permit information). Be sure to get a red pass so you can park your car at the takeout. It is 25 dollars to get into the park per car. Plan on getting your permit the day before. During late april/early may when the Narrows runs, the backcountry desk is open from 8am-5pm. Getting your permit at 8am will not provide you with adequate time to do the run that day, and the flows for the first 8 miles will suck even more.
It would be a bad strainer if there was any water. Portage through the gate on the right, be sure to close it behind you.
River wide log jam. Definitely a problem if there was for some reason a lot of water. Be careful while portaging as some of the logs move around and could cause some bad injuries.
One of the highlights of the run. A fairly clean 15 foot waterfall into a cool slot. Some rocks and a small cave could cause issues, but there likely won't be enough water to cause concern. Do make sure there is enough water to get over the log that forms the lip of the drop. At low enough flows you could stall out and pencil into the drop. Avoid penciling in, as the pool is apparently not super deep. There is a little slot up and to the left of the river that works great for portaging or lapping the waterfall.
Look for a horizon line.
5 foot slide directly into a rock. You should be able to make it by staying far right, where there's not much flow. Might as well get out and scout, because it would really hurt.
Celebrate, eat some food, and get ready for the fun part. Make sure everyone is still feeling confident after the hike in.
First rapid in a series of boulder garden rapids. Look for it around a right hand turn. This one is the steepest, most difficult, and will likely have the most dangerous wood. Scout river left.
After one boulder garden rapids, the river should disappear behind wall to the right. Head far left, taking a chute between the wall and a rock that will put you in an eddy with a small beach. Scout the rapid from there. The river sieves out into a log jam, although probably not fast enough to be particularly dangerous. At levels around 500cfs a slot should open up river right of the log jam making the rapid runable.
Careful seal launching below the log jam in a hard boat. The rocks are undercut and could flip you. Consider seal launching off of the large boulder to the right instead.
Cool side canyon to check out coming in from the left. You can paddle up into it to check it out. From a little before here, and down the rapids should be fairly easy until hitting the concrete path.
4 or 5 drops in a boulder garden, most likely with some significant wood. Get out and scout as tourists stare and take pictures. One of the best rapids on the run, and you'll probably have an audience.
Cool rock formation on the right. Takeout on the left.
Packrafted this 5/15&16/17 at 220-240 cfs. Hiked to Deep Creek which about tripled the flow. Would have been a tough, tough hike with hard boats - in and out of the water, squeezing thru vegetation, slippery, too shallow to float. I'm not sure at what level you could float from the ranch - maybe 400 cfs? The 15 ft waterfall is above Deep Cr and mostly blocked by a river-wide log about 3 ft above the water. Might be runnable with the right flow, but you'd launch while hunched over underneath the log. Easy obvious portage. Pretty easy paddling after Deep Creek with a handful of portages due to river-wide wood. Spent about 8 hours paddling from camp at Kolob Creek to Springdale, including a hike in Orderville and lots of scouting in the mile or so of class 4ish boulder garden near the park entrance. I'd call it a class 2 float at that level, but pretty unforgiving of lost of damaged gear or an injury. Getting out without a boat would be really hard. Logistics: You need a permit, which can be picked up from the backcountry permit office beginning at 7 am. Special floating rules: no hiking if the flow is over 150 cfs, and boating only if the flow has been between 150 and 600 for the last 24 hours. You can start your trip the day you pick up the permit if you are boating. There is good camping between Chamberlain Ranch and the park boundary and at 12 designated sites in the first half of the canyon within the park. It looks like the log jams come and go - be alert. You don't need to select or reserve a campsite. At the flow we had, you could pick up your permit, drive to the take out, hike in, and float the whole thing in a day, I think, but it would be close and rushed at best, and misses some of the point of being there.
Ran the narrows 6/19/2011. Run was in great shape, wood at kolob creek rapid was runnable. no portages necessary. this think is a gem, world class canyons, decent ww in spots, but the I-II sections are better anyway so you can look around. If you go, plan to overnight just in case. it's too great a place to blitz anyway. don't have an epic, and if you do, please self-extricate.
If you can't paddle it, do hike it. One of the most unbelievable hikes you'll ever take. You can do the full 16 mile hike (you need to get a permit the day before) or you can do it as a "bottom up" from the Temple of Sinawava. You'll need a sturdy walking stick and shoes you can traverse the river in. Be ready to be hiking in the river more an half the time, but that's half the fun.
9 years ago
by Curtis Martin
Letter from American Whitewater to Superintendent Jock Whitworth, Zion National Park
150-250 cfs III
250-500 cfs III+
500-650 cfs IV-
650+ cfs ?
These flows apply for the last 8 miles of the river only. The majority of this flow in the river comes in from Deep Creek at this point. A "one third rule" has been suggested saying that around 1/3 of the flow comes from the North Fork of the Virgin and the rest comes from Deep Creek. This is not a reliable rule of thumb. The Springdale Gauge provies little information about the flow for the first 8 miles of the run.
Also note that this flow fluctuates throughout the course day. The peak is around 5am in Springdale, which means its probably sometime in the early early morning in the Narrows. Because of this, throughout the afternoon flows should increase. Be prepared for 100-150cfs more than the gauge reads at the ranger station in the morning.
Due to the narrow constricted nature of the canyon, small variations in flow can change the character of the canyon significantly. At levels above 500cfs the river becomes pushy which can make avoiding numerous logs more difficult. Most descriptions will consider this run class III, but at higher flows class IV moves are required to avoid dangerous wood. More water in the canyon can not spread out horizontally, so the river will only become deeper and faster. Carefully consider the ability of your group before putting in at high flows.
For the first 8 miles of the run, you will get a visual when you get to the put-in. Look at the amount of water in the river, that is the flow you will have to work with for the next 8 miles. It won't be much, so you'll likely be scraping/dragging/pulling/carrying your boat for this stretch. This flow drops throughout the course of the day. Putting on as early as possible is the best way to insure the most flow for this stretch, looking at gauges probably won't help. Getting to the put-in at sun up is highly recommended. Putting in an our or two earlier with headlamps would not necessar ily be a bad idea. DO NOT get your permit the morning of and end up putting in at 10/10:30. You likely won't even have enough water to run the waterfall, one of the highlights of the trip.
A flow forecast is here:
Utah SNOTEL SWE:
Permits are not required for this reach.
Hopefully when the flows on the Virgin are up, the road to the put-in is dry. It is sometimes snow covered this time of year making it impossible to get to the put in. After significant rains the clay/mud on the road is slick enough to make it impassible. 4WD is recommended although if the road is dry it is not required. Shuttles can be arranged through several guide services in Springdale.
Take out: When you get a permit from the backcountry desk, be sure to get one of the special red passes to allow you to park your car at the takeout at the Temple of Sinawava. The Park does not want you to take boats on the shuttle busses. From the Visitor Center, go right following the road up the Virgin River until it ends at Temploe of Sinawava. You can park your car there and take the shuttle back into town. Probably best to do this the day before your trip when you get your permit, to make sure you can put in as early as possible.
Put in: Head into the park making a left towards the East entrance of the park (through the tunnel). 2.5 miles from the gate, turn off on North Fork Rd. Bear left at 5.5 miles following signs to the Zion Narrows trailhead and Chamberlin Ranch.
Water falling into the Narrows
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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!
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.
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.
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.
Colorado Stewardship Director
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