Sunday, April 29, 2012

Black Canyon of the Colorado

Somewhere near the bright lights and chaos of sin city is place where time slows down; not really to a crawl, but more of a float.  If you have a little one, the Black Canyon of the Colorado is a must-do adventure for the whole family.  Even if you don't have a little one, this trip will inspire your inner child with slot canyons, hot springs, petroglyphs  and water so crystal clear that you sometimes think you are gliding in mid-air over the rocks and fish below. 

Maggie already loves the river

The adventure starts before you even get on the water with a trip to the base of the Hoover Dam.  Quite the feat of engineering, this massive human construct is impressive, even to those that are not a big fan of river blocking technology.  The extra cool thing is that this is a privileged view for those that make the river trip since this area is closed to the public due to homeland security paranoia.

The Captain of the ship is poised and ready
If you are looking for whitewater thrills, this is probably not the trip for you, but even a class V junky like myself will be thrilled in many different ways on this trip. First off, the crystal clear water and towering canyon walls provide an amazingly surreal experience; add to that the sauna cave that is only a couple of hundred yards from the put-in, and you are having a blast from your first stroke on the river, I promise.

Let's go this way dad!

Nothing like extreme babying
Side hikes are what the Black Canyon is all about; Boyscout and Arizona are the highlights, but there are dozens of great canyons worth exploring on this trip, and we have only scratched the surface ourselves.

Mom stops for a spa break

Or maybe the hot springs are what the Black Canyon is all about.  Especially in the first few miles, most canyons provide many great soaking options, which is why this trip is best done in the winter; fewer people, pleasant temps and the desire to prune in the hot springs make for a relaxing day.

This is definitely the spot!

Wait, no, definitely the camping is what the Black Canyon is all about.  Beach-side camping with side hikes and hot springs out of camp?  Sign me up!  Plus if you get one of those 17 foot Old Town canoes from the local outfitter, you can bring along plenty of firewood.

The route to Arizona hot springs
While there are many camping options, if you are mid-week in the winter time, Arizona hot springs will most likely not be crowded, or even occupied.  Still, if there are folks there there is plenty of space to spread out and plenty of time throughout the evening to hit up the springs for a quiet soak.

Maggie thinks she can draw better...
If the hot springs have not sapped you will to hike there is a nice 1.8 mile hike up to some petroglyphs; keep going up canyon until an obvious split (maybe 1.5 miles) then take the left split.  Look for some large boulders on the canyon floor just before you go into a significant canyon.  Pretty crazy stuff - Knights Templar?

When do we get to come back?!

All in all this is a great escape, even if just for one night.  I highly recommend renting a canoe and having the outfitter take care of you shuttle.  We used and found them to be excellent.  If the solitude is too much you can always follow up with a night in Vegas for a shower and a show.

The paddle out can be done by an experienced paddler in about 2 1/2 hours without much trouble.  The main thing with this trip is wind, so given the chance, time you trip with the forecast.  Also on the paddle out you stand a good chance of spotting big horn sheep and bald eagles, so keep your eyes up and soak in the view.  One night is a very doable trip and will still leave you with a great experience; but with that said, two nights would be better, and if you can swing more, plenty of adventure (and relaxation) awaits!

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