Virgin River Narrows ~ Zion National Park (July 1991)

Virgin River Narrows Zion National Park Utah

Up until 2008, our adventures were retained only as memories and on Kodachromes. While our memories may have faded (just a bit), the Kodachromes haven’t – and we have a lot of them. So we’re digitizing a select few to bring some of our past adventures into the 21st Century. This is one of those.


In July 1991, we, along with our friends John and Donna, obtained a wilderness permit to backpack the 16 miles of the Virgin River between Chamberlain’s Ranch and the Temple of Sinawava in Zion National Park. Other than some concern about river flow (it needed to be below 120 cubic feet per second and it was), I don’t recall any difficulty getting that permit and we definitely didn’t need a campsite reservation like you do today. We just set-up a shuttle between the Ranch and our campsite at South Campground (you could still drive into the inner park then) and off we went. Deep in the gorge, we camped at what is today Campsite #12 (High Camp) across from Big Springs. The information we had at the time said you could wear light hikers for the trip – since your feet would be wet all the time – but only The LovedOne took that (bad) advice. The rest of us wore our regular hiking boots and were fine, while The LovedOne’s feet were so bruised and sore from stumbling through the rocks on the river bottom without adequate protection that she had to sit-out our later scramble of South Guardian Angel. During the two days we were in the gorge, we saw just two other people (who were doing The Narrows as a dayhike and deeply regretting that decision). It was thus quite a shock to enter the slack water where the paved Riverside Walk reaches the river and confront 100 or so people wading, splashing, swimming, and generally fooling around in the water! I guess it’s the same way today. And I’m also guessing that those wilderness and campsite permits are a lot harder to get these days.


Virgin River Narrows Zion National Park Utah
Starting out from Chamberlain’s Ranch
Virgin River Narrows Zion National Park Utah
Still trying to keep her feet dry…
Virgin River Narrows Zion National Park Utah
Pretty soon the canyon starts to narrow
Virgin River Narrows Zion National Park Utah
And narrow…
Virgin River Narrows Zion National Park Utah
And narrow…
Virgin River Narrows Zion National Park Utah
And get deeper…
Virgin River Narrows Zion National Park Utah
And even deeper and narrower…
Virgin River Narrows Zion National Park Utah
Until keeping your feet dry is no longer an option
Virgin River Narrows Zion National Park Utah
We climbed over a small waterfall, not knowing how deep the water was on the downstream side
Virgin River Narrows Zion National Park Utah
A little stretch of dry ground
Virgin River Narrows Zion National Park Utah
And then more wading
Virgin River Narrows Zion National Park Utah
High Camp after a long, long day in the river
Virgin River Narrows Zion National Park Utah
Big Springs
Virgin River Narrows Zion National Park Utah
Early morning, low light, and cold water deep in the canyon
Virgin River Narrows Zion National Park Utah
Getting warmer, but not drier
Virgin River Narrows Zion National Park Utah
Another deep, narrow stretch
Virgin River Narrows Zion National Park Utah
Coming to the end of The Narrows – soon we would encounter 100+ people splashing in the river!

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