The Dirty Devil River is My New Favorite, Visiting Central Nevada

29 May 2008

My time on the Dirty Devil River is over. I say that with a deep sigh. It was one of the best trips I have ever taken- a 14 day solo. I put in on 13 May just below Hanksville. I was loading my boat and gear back into the Landcruiser on 26 May, after having hitchhiked back to the Hanksville BLM office for my truck earlier that morning. I didn’t realize that the 26th was Memorial Day and I was in a bit of shock once I got back to Hanksville seeing the number of rushing people, with their expensive, oversize, manly trucks with barbeque grills strapped in the back towing shiny powerboats back to garages after their inaugural weekend on the ‘lake’ for the year. But enough of that- back to the Dirty Devil.


the Dirty Devil River, a few days down river

The trip was nothing short of amazing. The weather was hot the first week and cool towards the end, with wind and some light rain over the last five days, apparently an abnormal pattern. I had a full moon midway through the trip and so was able to enjoy the stars and planets early and late in the trip and the bright moon In the middle.

I spent lots of time looking at the geology of the area. The cliff faces were enormous in places, up to 1500 feet high. it was a great chance to see millions of years of sedimentary rock all at once.


I tried to keep track of birds, but it was tough. I could have just sat still for the two weeks and watched birds. I saw the usual- lots of wrens, Spotted Sandpipers, Turkey Vultures, and little gray birds, Western Tanagers, Hairy Woodpeckers, nighthawks, and hummingbirds. Added to the list were a couple of nesting pairs of Peregrines, two separate flocks of Chukar high up Twin Corral Box Canyon, a lone Forster’s Tern (?), pairs of Indigo Buntings, and a pair of Ruddy ducks among others.


I had two rattlesnake encounters, both in Twin Corral Box Canyon. (For more info on Twin Corral Box Canyon and others’ snake encounters, as well as super-informative floral information, visit Watching the World Wake Up Blog. I ran into Alex and Steve a few days into my trip.) The particular snake to the left was about 5 minutes upcanyon from Alex and Steve’s camp, just before I met them.

I was visited by lots of Red Spotted toads, some of which may have been Spadefoot toads. I did not check that closely. According to Sandy, the wildlife biologist at the Hanksville BLM Office, you have to pick them up and look for the spade on the foot, this being the telltale sign. On my overnight up Poison Spring Canyon I explored a side canyon that had what could be called a stretch of wetland in it’s middle. It was filled with tules, segmented and spikey grasses, and cottonwoods. It was also home to lots of toads, specifically the Woodhouse toad.


narrows of Happy Canyon, UtahI managed two overnights, one up Twin Corral Box Canyon and the other up Poison Spring Canyon. I had a great, long dayhike up Robbers Roost Canyon, up to the inscriptions in White Roost Canyon. I enjoyed a walk through Happy Canyon, up through the narrows and into the wide open canyon above. Also explored Fiddler Cove Canyon, up to the pouroffs a day after rains up on the mesa. There was water running from the pouroffs to the river, making the hike even more interesting.


I will post specifics about the trip on the Desert Explorer website once I am back in Colorado, along with lots of photos.

For now, I am in the Lahontan Valley in central Nevada for the next week or so before heading back to Utah and the trip home. I am planning to visit some of the local sites, including Lovelock Cave and Salt Cave to view pictographs and their ancient habitation.

For more on my trips, the desert, survival and primitive skills, visit the Desert Explorer website.





On the Way to the Desert…

10 May 2008

I am nearly ready to head west toward Hanksville and the put in for the Dirty Devil River. Most of my gear is packed, there are just a few things left on the list to do. I will be on the road Monday morning. I called Tag-A-Long in Moab a couple of days ago to confirm my shuttle, and there was bad news. The river trip that I was going to get a ride with canceled completely. So I am on my own now. But thanks to email communication with Shane of I have a backup plan. I will drop my gear just south of Hanksville on the river, at Dry Valley Wash down the “dump road”. From there I will drive back to town and leave my truck, walking back to the river. When it comes time to take out 12 or 14 days later, Shane pointed out a safe takeout above Hite, down Sheep’s Crossing Road. I will takeout there, tie up the boat, grab my pack with food and water, and head to Highway 95 to try and hitch a ride north to Hanskville. Problem solved. On the bright side I save 50 dollars and get an extra day on the river.

I have been watching the water level of the Dirty Devil steadily drop over the last week or so- potentially more bad news. Today it is below 20 CFS- you can see the real-time graph here. But according to Shane, if I put in lower, at Dry Valley Wash, I will be saving myself a couple of miles of dragging the boat across sandbars. Sounds good to me. The temperature has been cooler and that may have something to do with the decreasing flows. With some luck, as it warms next week, the flows will increase. The 10 day forecast is for highs in the 70’s to mid-80’s. I hope this will help melt some of the snowpack to give me some good floating days.

I have been looking at maps and have decided on a couple of overnight trips. It looks as if I can easily walk up No Man’s Canyon, hopefully exit at the head, and drop back in for a walk down Larry Canyon. I am hoping the same will be true for a walk up Twin Corral Box Canyon and back down Sams Mesa Box Canyon. The exit and entrance involved in this hike may be a bit more strenuous, if possible at all. I will also explore Poison Spring Canyon and Happy Canyon, possibly with an overnight stay in each.

My next post will be at the end of May or in early June. I will have lots to share and plenty of trip photos. Be sure to check back for that.  For more information on this trip and others, visit the Desert Explorer website.