WHERE do you go Canyoneering?
Now that you know about some of the basics of what is involved with Canyoneering, you now have to ask, "where do go?" or "where do you find canyons?"
Great question! While most "big" canyons have been discovered and descended, there are dozens (if not hundreds) of smaller slot canyons that have not been descended yet. Not because no one knows where they are at, but rather they contain a long drive, a long hike, a long exit, etc. thus mentally and physically blocking them without the required effort. But they exist!
But rest assured, there are hundreds and even thousands of canyons available to choose from - depending where you are located in the world.
Typically, they are found in the desert, especially where Navajo sandstone is found. It is a very "soft" sedimentary rock (which is basically sand "glued" together) that erodes easy when exposed to water over the course of hundreds and thousands of years. (Remember, canyons are the sewer systems of the land)
Utah, is considered the canyoneering "mecca" of the world. A large portion of the southern part of the state is located on what is called the "Colorado Plateau". In simple terms it is a very large desert plateau that extends parts of Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico. In Utah alone, there are over 650 documented slot canyons! In fact, some canyon-obsessed folks, even relocate to Utah, strictly for the canyoneering aspect alone.
Others are willing to make the long yearly drive (or flight) to Utah. I know of a few individuals online for the past 15 years who have made it a yearly tradition in flying from the United Kingdom just to do this sport as part of a two-week vacation/holiday.
For us locals based near Salt Lake City, it is a easy 4 to 5 hour drive to most of these slot canyons. Sometimes we can even see these canyons and be back in our beds that same night! With all of this outdoor access in Utah it does make me sad when I hear about friends or other life-long residents of Utah that have never traveled to Moab or Zion National Park! They don't have to be hardcore and do canyoneering, but even doing some simple hikes in these areas is surprising that a lot of locals have not done! I digress, as all of that is okay, because that means more canyons and isolation for all of us to enjoy, right?
So let's get to the chase - what Canyoneers are looking for is what is called "beta". Beta in its canyoneering definition, is the guide or route information for that specific canyon. Beta can also include "current conditions" which people say describe how much swimming there was when they did the canyon, or anchor conditions, or if new obstacles, such as from rock falls, or fauna, (IE bees), or flora (IE poison ivy) that may be in the way.
It's called "beta" because, similar to software development, "beta" means it can change. And it does often. Just because you experienced that canyon this one way, doesn't mean it will always be "that" way!
The Subway in Zion National Park, for example, changes quite drastically. It usually changes because rain storms will wash sand down from the surrounding areas and into the watercourse. Now instead having to swim over a 8-foot deep pothole for example, you can now walk across it because of the sand!
Sometimes anchors that were there on a previous trip are no longer there! Did someone remove them? Did a flash-flood knock the anchor out? Or is that anchor now buried underneath sand or water? These are serious questions you may come across as you match expectation (beta) with reality.
But the most important question that comes from all of this is, "how do I decide which canyon I should do?"
Well, you first start off your choosing by the "canyon rating". That will be further explained in Section 17 - Canyon Ratings.
After you understand the Canyon Rating System, you can look to the web for canyoneering beta providers. Some beta on websites cost money and others are free.
Here are some of the most popular beta resources on the web. Look at the region where you would like to go, then look at some of the names, followed by the canyon rating system. Then you will be able to decide which canyon is appropriate for you and your group.
Afterwards, please come back and continue through the remaining sections.