Slot Canyons of the American Southwest - Notes
- explore at your own risk!
The flash flood of August 1997 in Antelope Canyon that killed 11 people
has become quite well-known. Similar incidents include the death of 5 people in the Zion Canyon Narrows and 2 in Kolob Canyon, also in Zion National Park. While such fatal accidents are rare there are several dangers that
will be encountered during the exploration of narrow canyons. It is most important to know the weather forecast - rain falling even many miles away can collect together, become channelled down one course and turn a dry canyon into a fast-flowing torrent of water and debris in seconds. It is a sobering sight in slot canyons to see huge logs wedged between the canyon walls sometimes many meters above the floor, a testament to the power of the water. Often these canyons have sudden, sheer drops of several meters or more and so there is potential for accidents by falling, or by jumping down, becoming trapped and unable to climb back out. Many of the more remote places may be unvisited for days or even weeks so there will be no rescue. More unusual dangers include rattlesnakes, deep stagnant pools and quicksand, but at least getting lost once in the canyon is unlikely...
Exploring a slot canyon can involve a short, level, half hour walk starting from a roadside parking area or a backpacking trip of several days requiring route-finding, rappelling, rock climbing and swimming skills, so anyone intending to explore such places should assess their abilities and select canyons accordingly. I have no experience of technical climbing, I don't normally cross pools over 5 feet deep and I only hike on day trips. This rules out some places, but the majority of the 40 or so most famous slots and many hundreds of lesser known canyons may be visited within these limitations. I average 2.5 miles per hour over all terrain and free climb in a few places where necessary; some will be able to progress faster but others may need more time than that indicated in the canyon descriptions, and/or may not be able to progress beyond certain obstacles. Technical slot canyons, those requiring rapelling, need specialised techniques but a few are included on this site where a reasonable part may be explored without use of ropes.