Photographs29 views of White Canyon
MapTopographic map of White Canyon
QTVRPanorama of White Canyon downstream of the Black Hole
Description - West Approach
Parking for the western (downstream) approach to the Black Hole is on a flat area beside the road near milepost 53, not signposted, but within sight of the notice marking the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area boundary. The partly cairned route begins down a little valley - the lower end of a small wash opposite a rocky hill, heads upstream a short distance then drops down a steep, boulder-filled gully. It traverses a way and completes the descent to the canyon floor, here covered by a mix of stones and sand, and enclosed by the thick strata and jumbled boulders typical of this drainage. Turning upstream, a side ravine soon joins from the south, offering an alternative but slightly more difficult entrance/exit route, then the canyon floor becomes mostly slickrock for a while, until a big boulder preceding a twisting, flooded channel which catches large amounts of driftwood and flood debris. Beyond are more jumbled boulders, some very large, and the best way ahead may not be evident, unless marked by footprints. A small seep to the south produces drinkable water, sustaining flowers and green moss. The canyon narrows somewhat, bends a few times and now has little or no vegetation - the floor is either bare rock or pebbly sand. A little arch is visible high up on the north side.
Several other groups of large boulders, between more open stretches, are followed by a photogenic section of elaborately fluted and eroded sandstone, carved over the millennia by the seasonal flood waters. Next is another long straight passage, and a pile of fallen boulders, beyond which pools start to appear. The walls become closer and the canyon is noticeably cooler and more shaded, still with a few boulders in the streamway, before a longer pool, a brief sandy stretch and then the Black Hole. In some parts of the canyon the flood waters flow through a narrow but shallow inner gorge, enabling the slot to be bypassed by walking on benches at either side, but for some distance east or west of the Black Hole the walls are sheer, hence wading and then swimming is the only way to continue. The dark grey color of the water hints of its permanence, and the sunless passages keep the temperature of the pool very low, no more than 50°F (10°C) even in midsummer.
Description - East Approach
The 3 mile section of White Canyon with the best narrows may also be explored in the downstream direction, starting from milepost 57 of UT 95; this is the main trailhead, complete with BLM noticeboard. The short approach path descends via a steep boulder-covered slope into the canyon, which at this point is 600 feet deep but relatively wide; the walls close in after about 20 minutes walking northwards. The canyon then has flat areas interspersed with smooth channels, occasional sheer drops of up to 10 feet and many intricate water-carved features; it gradually becomes deeper with mostly vertical walls that allow some places to climb above the streambed but no escape routes to the plateau above. The rocks are whitish grey, often stained black, and the passageways are enclosed and rather gloomy - this is not a particularly photogenic canyon. The pebbles and boulders on the streambed are more colorful and include many specimens of petrified wood, some complete cross-sections over 6 inches in diameter. White Canyon is usually dry except for occasional deep potholes but during the flash flood seasons of spring and late summer the streambed retains numerous muddy pools 2-3 feet deep, and flowing water persists for several days after heavy rain. Falls become closer together and the channels narrower before the Black Hole and its long pool of deep, cold, muddy water.