Friday 30th September 2016 The next morning we were up before 7am but as we were moving around we noticed that the river had started roaring! The river had increased in height by more than a meter and had turned chocolate brown with silt. Branches were coming down with the river and the flow rate had massively increased with standing waves where we had crossed yesterday evening from the spring. It looked like a flash flood had come through and we thought ourselves lucky with our tent perched on a sand flat a few meters above the river level. The river looked impossible to cross and, as our intended route was to continue down the river itself we were a little trapped!
[Click image to see the video]
We sat watching the roaring river and set sticks up at the waters edge to monitor the height of the flow. After an hour or so the river level went down a little which gave us hope.
The river valley looked to widen out with a trail marked on our map starting about a mile downstream . If we could bushwhack down the south bank of the river for a way to stay out of the water, we could perhaps make it to the trail and continue downstream for a while before having to cross the river. So we decided to give it a go….
After some scrambling through willow, tamarisk and under some boulders we did hit an intermittent trail of sorts and we kept hiking.
We soon hiked onto the ‘Chinle’ rock layer which here was colourful and soft providing a welcome shelf above the river for us to walk on. We stopped at a side canyon – ‘Bush Head’- and scrambled up to find a spring with fresher water to supply us for the day.
The heat began to build after that as we headed downstream on sandy banks high above the river which was now lined by cliffs. We halted at a boulder, the only shade around, and were interested to see it had a petroglyph- we weren’t the first to find shade here!
Eventually we dropped down a steep sand dune back to the river at the now abandoned Wilson’s Ranch. Our guidebook suggested it might have a spring, but after lot’s of searching, we gave up trying to find water and slumped down in the shade of some cottonwoods. We needed to get to the other side of the river but it was still running too strong to cross so we pitched the tent to try again in the morning. Both of us were rather thirsty by now so Martina took the brown silt laden liquid from the river and filled our ‘platypus’ water bags with the hope that the silt would settle to the bottom overnight.
Lo and behold, the dirt and silt did settle to give us about 2/3 rds of a liter from each of the 3 water bags. After treating it with our ‘Aqua Mira’ water purifier tablets it almost tasted fine!
The water levels had definitely dropped overnight but the first crossing was still a challenge in thigh deep forceful water- but we made it. From there we strolled on with three other crossings to good trail on the final few miles to the tarmac road near the campsite at Lee’s Ferry, Arizona. Now for the challenge of getting back to our vehicle, 74 miles away in Utah!
We needn’t have worried, after hiking down the minor tarmac road a few miles towards the main highway 89A, we got a lift for the final 3-4 miles to Marble Lodge – a gas station, diner, PO and motel. Fortified by some lunch, we started hitching and got two great lifts; firstly from a Navajo family then from a Mormon family returning to Salt Lake City area. Back at the car we drove to Kanab for a welcome shower and fresh food. What a great trip down the fantastic Paria River!