Image Credit: Brett Johnson (C)
Image Credit: Brett Johnson (C)
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) that will erode fairly easy when exposed to water over hundreds and and thousands of years.
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". It's basically that - a very large desert plateau that extends from 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 has 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 easy to take a 4 to 5 hour drive to most of these slot canyons and be back in our beds that same night! 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. But that's okay, 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 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) obstacles 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 for example, changes quite drastically. It usually changes because rain events will wash sand down from the tops of mesas and from the ground into the watercourse. So now instead having to swim over a 8-foot pothole for example, you can now walk across it because of the sand!
Sometimes anchors that were previously there, are no longer there! Did someone remove them? Did a flashflood knock the anchor out? Or is that anchor now buried underneath sand or water? These are real questions you may come across as you match expectation (beta) and reality.
But the most important question that comes from all of this is, "how do you know what canyon I should do?" Well, you start your choosing by the "canyon rating". That will be further explained in Section 17 - Canyon Ratings.
To whet your appetite, here are some beta resources that you can look at it and marvel at the canyon beauty until you can decide which canyon is appropriate for you and your group. Afterwards, please come right back and continue through the sections.