Zion: Virgin River East Fork

Categories: Zion

The East Fork of the Virgin River travels through canyons that are not as deep as the more famous north fork but are much less visited. The biggest reason for this, aside from the height of the cliffs is the difficulty of accessing it. The river does enter several sets of narrows that at some point are called The Barracks. You can read about my first visit to this fork HERE. Later in the summer I returned via a different route, farther downstream.

There are a number of ways to access the river anywhere from Checkerboard Mesa all the way to Mt. Carmel Junction. They vary greatly in mileage and elevation but in general, there is no easy way to get to the deepest part of the river. Starting higher is shorter mileage but means you will endure the full force of the summer heat during a very strenuous descent. Farther upstream is more horizontal walking but faster access to the water depending on where you start.

There is no trail on the way down so you’ll need some route finding skills and enough water to cover your mistakes. It can be very hot up here and it’s a steep 900 foot descent. You will pay dearly for choosing the wrong route.

Once at the bottom things are much cooler and there is endless water.

It doesn’t take long to forget about having to climb back out at the end of the day.

Brilliant sunlight in the riparian zone.

Soon the canyon walls closed in.

I hadn’t gone far before I thought I might have to go swimming. Usually there’s a way around these types of spots. I did see several dead deer in the water and on the banks, probaby victims of a flash flood. A water filter is recommended.

Some kind of ivy covers the trees at the mouths of certain side canyons.

There are some sections where the river drops more quickly and the current is strong.

An unstable looking tower.

The log jam was as far as I got that day. The water looked chest deep with a current and there was no way to climb up the rocks, so I was concerned about not being able to get back. I also wasn’t aware at the time that there is a bypass of the log jam on the opposite shore. Even so, I managed to use up the entire day.

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It was nice to be able to take my time on the way back.

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This was a great place for a break. There are many great places for a break. It’s hard to stay on schedule.

Nice arranged river pebbles paint the way.

Where the water gets deeper it picks up some blue coloring.

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A side canyon I decided to go up.

The canyon became overgrown pretty quickly.

Delicate flowering plants grew on the wet walls.

Climbing back out is a harsh transition from lush riparian vegetation to dry desert washes.

Finally back out after the steep climb. The Barracks is a great hike and I plan on returning several times.

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