Slot canyons of the Paria River and its tributaries.
The Paria River flows from the foothills of the Paunsaugunt Plateau
near Bryce Canyon
in south Utah to the Colorado River at Lees Ferry
in far north Arizona. The lower end of the river from the state border southwards is now within the new Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
. Paria is the main drainage in the western part of Grand-Staircase Escalante National Monument
and while it has fewer good side canyons than the better known Escalante River
system to the east, there are still plenty to explore. In particular, the Paria is famous for its tributary the Buckskin Gulch
- the longest slot canyon in the world, cutting through the familiar red Navajo sandstone for some 12 miles. Near the confluence, the river also flows through a deep long section, and the multi day hike through here to Lees Ferry is, together with Zion Canyon Narrows, considered one of the two premier canyon hikes in the Southwest.
A few miles upstream of Buckskin Gulch, the Paria crosses US 89 and divides into various tributaries. The main canyon is not too interesting - it is deep and sheer-walled in many places but easy and level enough for 4WD vehicles to drive all the way to the head of the valley, exiting to UT 12 near Tropic
. Side branches offer more excitement and variety; the two slots most often explored are Bull Valley Gorge
and Round Valley Draw
towards the north side of the region, but there are many other canyons with shorter narrows, less well known and harder to reach, such as Starlight
canyons. The main thoroughfare across the region is the Cottonwood Canyon Road
, which runs close to the Paria for a few miles at its southern end, then turns away alongside a lengthy, straight tributary (Cottonwood Wash
), which has one short section of narrows right next to the road. Some of the west side Paria tributaries may be accessed by the Johnson Canyon - Skutumpah Road
between Cannonville and US 89, though apart from the short narrows in Lick Wash
, the interesting places are still quite far away, and need either a long hike or a drive on a 4WD track to reach.
Other Paria tributaries with slots, some of which have high dryfalls and hence require rappelling, are Asay Canyon, Deer Creek, Johnson Hole Canyon, Oak Creek, Rock Springs Creek and Stone Donkey Canyon.