Escalante River, Utah

Just got back from 6 days on the Escalante River in Utah. It is a perfect packraft river for what it’s worth. On this river a packraft is absolutely the boat of choice. It is a 5 star classic packrafting river, as good as anything Alaska has. The best part was we were able to run it with very low water, the guage in Escalante was registering a mighty 2 cfs. The guage at the boulder creek station is no longer working so you can’t use that to tell how much flow it is adding to the Escalante. The river was much too low for any other craft. As a result we had the river completely to ourselves. We only saw one hiking party on our 5th day. Even though the water was low we still had excellent packrafting. The lower canyon is really busy, lots of boulders in the river, perfectly spaced for good packrafting. We only had to get out of the boats once because of water being too low. We found a way through everything else. It would be great to run the river at higher levels for sure but it was really fun to realize that those low flows that this river usually has and is way too low for anything else is still a good packraft journey. if you can get at least 2cfs registering from the town guage in Escalane I highly recommend going. You will have the canyon to yourself and still have good packrafting water and incredible views and hikes. With the low water we found 13 miles a day was about right for mileage. And the hike out from Coyote gulch is quite easy with a typical packrafting setup. If you have a shorter time available a great trip would be to hike into fence canyon from the Egypt trailhead and take out a coyote gulch. This is the most interesting part of the canyon both scenery and water wise. This would be a great 3 day trip.

Cheers, Sheri

Sheri… this is on my life list for sure. Could you post a bit more logistics as far as the put in location /directions and any issues with camping/permits, etc. Perhaps next year if I can get it in the books. Also- any good pics?

Hi Glenn, it’s really late at night and my brain is fried. I will get you the proper names of our shuttle service tomorrow.

We did use a shuttle in Escalante to get our car to Coyote gulch, the take out. It cost us $246. We put in at the standard start spot for running the river. You are supposed to fill out a permit with thePark Service but there are no requirements on it. And we missed the operating hours so we just filled one in at the trail head which is apparantly ok, according to the guy who shuttled our car.
There really aren’t many regulations, they just want to know where to go look if you don’t show up on time and who to call. Pretty simple.

Was there any technical paddling on your float. I am thinking about taking my 8 year old daughter on that trip next spring, she hasn’t exactly had time to hone her paddling skills yet!

Thanks- Theresa

Hi Theresa,

The section below scorpion gulch has alot of rocks in it. At low water it isn’t pushy or anything like that but there is alot of maneuvering. We did a lot of rock slaloming. it would all depend on how adapt your daughter is at maneuvering through boulder gardens. Hope that helps. There was nothing I would call dangerous at that level or anything that would pin her but she should be able to maneuveer her boat well.

Cheers, Sheri

Does your daughter have her own boat? I have an 8 year old girl myself and was thinking about when to let her brave her own raft.

She does have her own boat, or more accurately, she will be learning to use one of mine this summer. She has a lot of river days under her belt and a lot of time paddling a kayak around on our local lakes. We are going to give it try this summer on really gentle water after the melt-off is done. You can’t start them to soon…

Awesome to hear it. I am going to get her in by herself in a week or two on the flat sections of the Rio Grande. I can’t wait!

Wow. Glad to hear you got to experience the Escalante. Sorry I’ve been so out of touch, I would have liked to join you. I’ll post another suggestion for an abbreviated portion of that river as soon as I can find my maps. Maybe also some pics of our '94 float. As to boat types - we actually saw someone paddle/drag an aluminum canoe down the Escalante and then winch it up crack in the rock. They were very envious of our little boats.
My daughter’s 6 now, so I’m starting to think about bringing her down to learn on some warm rivers.
And- I’m thrilled with what you’ve done with the site, especially these forums! Thank you!

Hey Sheri,

John and I are hoping to do this very soon. I just want to confirm that you think it’s fine at 2 cfs (not that I would doubt your post, but someone on some other forum thing claimed that you had actually done it at 2 ft., so I just wanted to make sure). John has limited days, so we will probably check out that Fence Canyon entry you mentioned. Hope to see you soon, too, and check out the new workshop.

Stefan, if you have another suggestion for an abbreviated trip, I’d love to hear it.

Does the Coyote Gulch road require 4wd, as I have read some places? Any recommendations on a shuttle service?

Thanks to all for the great info.


Maybe it is just me, but I seem to have found a fair bit of confusion as to just what flow (in terms of CFS) at the gage near Escalante is suitable for a packraft. I just talked to Mark ( today (May 13) about a possible shuttle, and he stated that he went down from the normal put in for 7 miles last week at approx. 9 CFS and said the run is defiantly doable in a packraft, so you might give him a call for more information. I’m hoping with the warm WX predicted for this weekend it comes up and I’m heading that way middle of next week for a shot at it.

We were on the Escalante May 11-12th, from Fence Canyon to Coyote Gulch. The gauge was at 4-11 CFS for that period. The river was definitely runnable, and for the most part, fun in a packraft. There were a few areas where there wasn’t enough water to float through and plenty of rock scraping but also a lot of fun rapids from Scorpion Gulch to Coyote Gulch. We could not quite make it to the Egypt trailhead in our 2WD rental car. The road from 40 Mile Ridge seemed a little better but we were in a 4WD shuttle.

Just got back from a float on the Escalante River. Fantastic time. More info and Photos here:

Nice trip Bucky! Good to be getting more data points on the Esca.

Pretty sure we talked to you “Buckchow” when you were camped at the mouth of Coyote as you were heading up Coyote and we were starting up the big sand slide hill to “crack in the wall”. We like wise had a great time, my wife got knocked over below Scorpion Cr and smashed her sunglasses and got a bruise on her nose - “Took a licking but kept on ticking”.

Photos if anyone is interested at:

More pictures of a trip. May 17-23. Also did Neon Canyon in Full

Let’s get some talk going and more importantly, ACTION on an Escalante River trip.

I am looking at May 13-22. Actually anticipate 5-7 days on the river and/ or doing side canyon walks. Where to put in would depend on water flows at start time. One option would be the highway bridge. The description below will give you the general idea about a lower walk-in/ put-in location below the confluence with Boulder Creek. I have done the river once before and that walk-in down lower was necessary due to low water.

Read the whole message thread that has been started to generate a May, '11 trip. . . .

Escalante River in south-central Utah by packraft & hiking & canyons
Below is a message I received about floating the Escalante River in south-central Utah by packraft. It is an account of a trip from May 2010. For those of you who may be less familiar with Alpacka rafts take a look here Alpacka Raft | Passionate about Packrafting in all its Forms

If you might be interested in such a trip please let me know. I am looking at a possible Escalante trip for something like May 13-22 (that includes all travel days from Alaska or Colorado; or where ever you may be coming from).

I suggest you not only read the message below but be sure to open the attachment and listen/ watch the water supply briefing.

Here too are a few interesting links about the Escalante


Sent: Friday, February 11, 2011 9:59 AM To: Doug Van Etten Subject: Re: Question — Escalante River by packraft Spring 2011

We ran the river last year from “The Bridge” near Lower Calf Creek Campground to Lake Powell in 7 days and needed all 7 to get downriver with very little side canyon hiking. If you pack light a better way to do it is to pack in from Egypt trailhead via Fence canyon to the Escalante and take out at Coyote Gulch thru Crack in the Wall to 40 Mile ridge trailhead. This encompasses the very best part of the canyon and gives more time for side hikes. I would give myself at least 7 days for this trip.

Flow levels have a big influence on how many river miles you can do in a day but 15 miles is a very big day at lower flows. Traditionally Spring runoff is about second week in May to mid June. The runoff period can be very short and is difficult to predict since the only gauge station is before the put in and before the major tributaries like Death Hollow, Sand Creek and Boulder Creek. The beauty of the pack-raft is it can float it (mostly) even if you miss runoff. Some years there is very little in the way of increased flow like last year when we had very good snowpack in the drainage but it just evaporated that warm windy spring and did not run off. This year snowpack is “normal” but the snow was early and we have had a very dry winter since then.

A shuttle to “The Bridge” is $60. to “Egypt” is$150. and to 40 Mile Ridge Trailhead is $250. These prices are for up to 4, more than 4 is $10. more up to 6 max with gear. We have a second vehicle so can handle as many as 12 which is the max group size. You will need a 4WD or high clearance vehicle with good tires to get to 40 mile ridge trailhead. A car with good ground clearance can usually get to Redwell and Hurricane Wash the other two Coyote Gulch access points.
We need a credit card # and your contact info to get a date on our calendar. Hope this helps, you can call us at 435 826 4967 for more info. Our store is not open now so if no answer please leave a message and we will get back to you

On Feb 11, 2011, at 1:33 AM, Doug Van Etten wrote:
I live in Alaska and a bunch of us experienced packrafters/ backpackers want to come down for an Escalante River float with lots of side canyon hiking. Your company was recommended by someone in Las Vegas for helping us set up a car shuttle.

We are thinking about coming down for a long week – 10 days including travel time. That would hopefully mean 6 days on the river – in the canyons.
We are considering May and wonder, based on what is known of flow levels based on snowpack just how this year is looking? Might there be a preferred week in May; or would April or June likely be better?

Then . . . if we have a car that we want to get to Coyote, is that the kind of thing we pay your company to shuttle?

Doug Van Etten
907-244-6610 vanetten @