Escalante River - May 13, 2011 - Calf Creek to Lake Powell - Part 2

When I put in, the Escalante gauge at 50 cfs. That gauge is about 15 miles above the launch point at Calf Creek and there are a couple of tributaries between the two points. I judged the water to be at about 150 cfs, very shallow. In fact the first rock bar was just twenty feet from the launch! The first six miles involved a lot of contact with the rocky streambed as well as with the trees that line the banks. Six miles down at the Boulder/Deer confluence the flow doubled to an estimated 250-350 cfs.

Checking the gauge after the trip, it stayed around 50 the next couple days, then bumped up to a high of 70 on the 16th, dropped back into the 45-50 range for three days, and then dropped rapidly to a mere 10 the last three days. My nightly river sticks said the same while I was on the river. It came up the first two nights about an inch a night, dropped about an inch or more the next three nights in a row, came up again, and then went down fast.

I ran nine and a half days solo but crossed paths along the way with my shuttle mates, two other boat parties, and two backpacking parties. Although it is a “remote” river, there were still a lot of people on it compared to the multi-day wilderness sections of the Gila in New Mexico, or even the Verde below Childs.

The Escalante is probably more sexy and talked up than the Gila or Verde, and it certainly is more scenic if you like soaring sandstone cliffs. It also has some amazing petroglyphs. From a wildlife or bird-watching standpoint, though, it does not compare to either of the other mentioned rivers. Of those two, the Verde runnable more often as the Escalante, the Gila, less so. The upper Gila has a narrower window and even more fickle snowpack than the Escalante, is more remote, and about the same level of difficulty but without the annoying Russian olives and tamarisks.
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