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Canyon Access &

Land Types

Section 12

Now that we have talked about where to obtain "Beta" (in the previous page - Module 11), there are some other elements when it comes to canyoneering.

WHERE you go canyoneering also depends on what type of land it is.


When it comes to the United States, there are the 3 main categories

  • Federal: BLM (Bureau of Land Management), FS (Forest Service), and NPS (National Park System); 

  • State: which is governed and owned by that particular state; 

  • Private: which is governed and owned by a specific individual or entity.

Just because you see a canyon on Google Maps/Earth - doesn't meant that you can just automatically do it.

If it's on Federal BLM land, than you can absolutely do it.  It's OUR land.  Us, the taxpayer, owns that land.  Now, that doesn't mean you can do whatever you want on it with no repercussion, of course, but it means that you don't need a permit or to pay money in order to do it.  A majority of canyons are contained on BLM land, thankfully, for now.

Some canyons (like in Arizona) are found on FS land.  While it's a type of Federal land, it IS NOT BLM.  You may have general access to that area, but specific activities *can* be limited.  Please do some research before you go.  (Some canyons in Arizona fall in this category)

The NPS (National Park Service) is a federal entity that manages the National Parks in United States.  Most National Parks don't have any canyoneering and therefore will have no idea what it is if you have ask them.


Others, like Zion N.P. or Arches N.P. have a permit system which limits the amount of people can through a canyon in a day, with a fee to pay, and waivers to sign.  And those in violation (including going over the number of people in a group (called "quota violations")) require mandatory court appearances and a fee paid by everyone in the party, and not just the "leader".  Please ensure that you have the proper permits before you descend.

Some State Parks (such as Goblin Valley State Park, Utah) have some canyoneering routes contained within it, and similar to the N.P.S., may or may not have a regulation system regarding canyoneering.  Please check with your State Park if you plan on canyoneering.  In Goblin Valley, a signed permit along with a fee is required.

The last kind of land type is private land.  This where a specific individual/family/entity owns the actual land where that canyon resides.  And yes, they OWN that canyon.  It's not like a waterway where everyone has access if you stay within 15-feet of the shoreline.  Nope - they can allow or deny access and prosecute you for trespassing.  Unfortunately, for the greater canyoneering community, some great canyons are found on private land.  It is your imperative that you reach out to the land owner and request permission. 

If you "poach" the canyon, first, your actions are illegal (which means you are trespassing), and does not reflect great for the canyoneering community at large.  And second, future descents or possibilities of securing access to the canyon will most likely vanish altogether for the canyoneering community.

There is a organization out there called "Coalition of American Canyoneers" who focuses strictly on canyon access.  It is free to join for now (and I encourage everyone to do so) so that these gems of canyons can be accessed via "good stewardship".  Please visit their website for more information.

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