Escalante River Runner Information
The length of the float season and cfs levels will depend on how fast it warms up this spring and the rate of snow melt.
With low water, river runners spend a great deal of time towing, pushing and portaging their boats. In recent years, Russian olive has become very dense and overhangs the river in many areas. River currents may push boaters up against overhanging branches. Boaters need to watch for branches and debris in the river. Helmets should be worn and lifejackets are a must.
This is not a normal river to run. The Escalante poses many problems and it is unique. Please read the following information so that you understand what you are getting into. The staff at the Escalante Interagency Visitor Center will be able to give you the most current and detailed information on running the river.
Time to Run
The window to run the Escalante River usually falls between mid-May and mid-June. It is a 70+ mile trip and usually takes a minimum of 7 days. The rate of snow melt and amount of spring rain fall ultimately determines how long and arduous your trip will be. Water flows can change greatly in the time it takes to run the Escalante River. Optimum flow for running the river must be at least 50 cfs when you start your trip. Click here to check current flow rates. Keep in mind that this water gauge is prior to significant tributaries and doesn't represent the amount of water that will be running below the bridge on Hwy 12.
Back country permits are required and can be obtained at any GSENM Visitor Center. The staff at the Escalante Interagency Visitor Center will be able to give you the most current and detailed information on running the river. It is recommended that you pick your permit up there.
Inflatable kayaks are recommended and pack rafts also work well. Full-sized afts are too wide for the narrow channels. Hard shell kayaks are harder to carry out if you choose to hike out the route at Crack-in-the-Wall. You must have a good quality boat or it may fall apart before the end of your trip. The river is rated class III with many miles of rocks to negotiate in fast water. Helmets are recommended. During your trip, conditions can change dramatically as water levels fluctuate. If you run in low water, you will spend much time pulling, pushing, and portaging your boat. Large Russian olive trees may be unavoidable in some areas, carry a patch kit.
The put in is on Highway 12 at the Escalante River trail head located 15 miles east of Escalante. Parking can be a problem at the small trail head parking area. You may need to make arrangements to get shuttled to the trail head and leave your vehicle in town. Parking is not permitted along Highway 12.
You can make arrangements to get picked up by a shuttle service out of Bullfrog Marina on Lake Powell. This entails paddling on flat water to a location where a boat can negotiate the Escalante arm of the lake. In low water it may be necessary to walk through mud flats to reach the lake. To make arrangements for a shuttle off of the lake, call 435-684-3062.
Many groups float the river to Coyote Gulch and then hike out on the Crack-in-the-Wall route. This take out is extremely challenging. It is a 5-mile trip one-way from the river to the trail head with a 1000 foot elevation gain, including hiking up a 600-foot sand dune. Crack-in-the-Wall, located just below the rim of the canyon, is a narrow slot. You will not be able to carry gear through the slot. Gear must be hauled up the final ledges to the rim, bring at least 30 feet of rope. Most groups require at least two trips to get all of their gear out. You are required to bring all of your gear out of the canyon . Prior to your trip, make sure you have the hiking route marked on a topographic map and understand this take out. The Crack-in-the-Wall trail head is located approximately 43 miles down Hole-in-the Rock road at the end of the 40-Mile Ridge road. A four-wheel drive vehicle is required to negotiate deep sand along the last 2 miles.
Emergency Take Outs
It is strongly recommended that you visit the Escalante Interagency Visitor Center to look at our master maps, and mark alternate exit routes on your maps in case problems arise during your trip.
There are many miles along the river canyon where there are no exit routes.