Water Holes Canyon - West of US 89 (Downstream)


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Lower Water Holes Canyon
Bell-shaped rocks in lower Water Holes Canyon
One way to access the lower reaches of Water Holes Canyon is to use the entrance route down the north side of the cliffs just west of the US 89 road bridge, as described in the upstream section. However, after only a minute's walk along the canyon floor, at this point wide and quite flat, the watercourse drops through a narrow V-shaped opening in the streambed, not visible until close ahead, and continues 15 feet below, through a dark passageway with a series of boulders and pools. It is not easy to climb down unaided, so those without ropes are advised to use a different route into the canyon below the dryfall - one possibility is on the south side, a few hundred meters from the road, where the cliffs become less steep for a while as the canyon curves northwards.

Photographs of lower and middle Water Holes Canyon.

Once on the canyon floor at this point, walking upstream soon leads to an enclosed, spooky section of narrows that has good rock formations but which is quite hard to explore, especially after a recent flood as there are pools several feet deep, extensive patches of soft mud and some steepish rock surfaces to climb. After only 10 minutes one arrives at the foot of the dryfall mentioned above and turning back is the only option.

Much more of the canyon is accessible downstream of the alternative entrance point. Short slot-like passages are separated by longer open sections, as the canyon deepens steadily. After another half mile, a second curving drop of 25 feet blocks the way forward, and as there are other larger falls between here and the Colorado River, and no more narrows, this is a sensible point to turn back for those without ropes.

A walk along the desert plateau above not only gives a good overview of the canyon and the dramatic junction with the main river, where the muddy streambed twists through a jumble of large eroded domes and meets with the clear waters of the Colorado, but also passes a variety of erosional rock features, occasional clear rainwater pools and various species of cacti. It takes about 80 minutes to walk from US 89 across exposed rock to the edge of Glen Canyon, which at the junction with Water Holes makes a graceful sweep through 180° and turns northwest. Just around the next bend, the cliffs open out quite abruptly at Lees Ferry.

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