Virgin, N. Fork, Utah, US
|Usual Difficulty||III-IV (varies with level)|
|Avg. Gradient||87 fpm|
|NORTH FORK VIRGIN RIVER NEAR SPRINGDALE, UT|
|usgs-09405500||150 - 650 cfs||III||01h07m||45.8 cfs (too low)|
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.
|Mile||Rapid Name||Class||Features (Legend)|
|1.0||Barb wire fence|
|7.1||Slide to rock||IV|
|16.0||Temple of Sinawava|
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.