Forces Of Nature - Buckskin Gulch Of Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
“Like looking through a telescope into the Milky Way and wondering if we're alone in the universe, it made me realize with the glaring clarity of desert light how scarce and delicate life is, how insignificant we are compared with the forces of nature and the dimensions of space." ~ Aron Ralston
Buckskin Gulch is one of the crown gems of the entire area known as the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument and Wilderness. If you have ever wanted to visit "The Wave" of Coyote Buttes North, and its sister-area of Coyote Buttes South, or their cute cousin known as "White Pocket", then this jewel is just as amazing as the rest, and worth your time, if you have time. It is touted as the longest and deepest slot canyon in the Southwest - intimidating, sheer-walled narrows that extend for 13 miles, before meeting the Paria River. Many will hike into and out of that confluence in one day, but myself I prefer to take my time, making only 5-8 miles in a day, so I can have time to properly appreciate every narrow twist and turn, log jam, and mysterious formation or pictograph. Many will continue the hike, following the Paria River all the way down to Lee's Ferry, a combined total of roughly 38 miles. One of these days I will do the entire length, but for now my experience consists of 5 days and 4 nights simply exploring the first 18 miles of the entire length. This is an extremely dangerous place when there are risks of flooding, as some of the narrowest and impossible places to escape from can stretch many many miles at a time.
For the month of February, I am currently offering 10% off any image from my Vermilion Cliffs Collection, as the featured collection of the month. I hope you enjoy this short peak into the canyon, and maybe one day you can visit.
While exploring the famous Buckskin Gulch, of the Paria Canyon / Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness in Northern Arizona and Southern Utah, I was amused by yet another characteristic effect of the kind of force of nature that carved this canyon - Great torrential floods. Another way of looking at slot canyons and fissures such as Buckskin Gulch is that it is really Nature's sewer, as evidenced by this log jam remnant left over from previous floods. To put this canyon and the height of the log jam into perspective, standing underneath it, the log jam is about 30 feet over your head. At times while spending multiple days living in this canyon, I found many other log jams ranging from waist high and requiring climbing over or crawling under to up about 70 feet above.
Moki steps, sometimes spelled alternately as Moqui steps, are a recurring feature found in areas of the American southwest previously inhabited by the Ancient Pueblo Peoples and other related cultures. The steps consist of alternating hand and toe holds carved into vertical or near-vertical sandstone surfaces. This particular image was photographed within Buckskin Gulch, of the Vermilion Cliffs / Paria Canyon wilderness, on the Arizona and Utah border.
About 12 miles in from the entrance of Wirepass, a large group of boulders make the most formidable obstacle you will probably face. To the left side is a 20' vertical drop, and "moki steps" are carved into the rock. In the middle of the boulder pile is a 15'down-climb, where a rope can be threaded as a hand-line or rappel line. While clearly this part of the trail has not changed much since these ancient steps were build, but remember that floods have formed this canyon and the nature of the canyon can change quickly and dramatically, so be prepared for circumstances not described.