Escape Routes from the Colorado River!

Dr. Harvey Butchart                   September 1972

From a letter from Harvey Butchart to the Park Superintendent of Grand Canyon National Park on September 21, 1972, in response to a recirculation of a Pamphlet “Escape Routes from the Colorado River”.

Personally verified, first hand experience, that should be helpful for anyone who really wants to walk out from the river.

Mile 4 left bank
Sheep trail. Short walk to Navaho Bridge

Mile 6 right bank
Go up talus two thirds of the way to the plateau, then south to a shallow ravine that leads to US 89A

Mile 8

Mile 11

Mile 12 left bank
Salt Water Wash. Indian trail out to US 89A. About the same difficulty as going up Soap Creek.

Mile 17 right bank
Rider Canyon. After reaching the open valley beyond the narrows through the Supai, look for a break in the rim on the south side about half way to the fall at the upper end. You may have to climb up to the base of the rim cliff to find the cleft. Find the nearest way across the canyon above the fall and walk north to US 89A as the Gram Ranch is not occupied. There would be water at the old buildings and corral, however.

Mile 19 right bank
Go up the first ravine below Boulder narrows and turn to the left to get through the upper cliffs. On top proceed as in climbing out Rider. This is easier than getting out Rider Canyon.

Mile 22 left bank
There is a tricky climb in the Supai in the second of two neighboring ravines. Above the Supai proceed over the ridge into the main ravine above mile 21.7. There is some rather difficult climbing through the Coconino to the narrows through the top cliffs. One can walk a reservation road  southeast to US 89.

Mile 23.3 left bank
One can get through the Supai in more than one place here and then walk back to the break at mile 21.7

Mile 23.3 to 25.6 left bank
One can walk the left bank along here and then follow the rim of the Redwall to Mile 29 Wash. There is a trail going to the rim that connects with the reservation road going to Cedar Ridge Trading Post. It would be shorter to follow some road that stays north of the Butte, Shinumo Altar, and get to US 89. Some Indians live through this area and there are cattle tanks for water.

Mile 29 left bank
One can’t get up through the so-called Silver Grotto to the Mile 29 Trail.

Mile 30.4 left bank
Here the trail comes down to the river at a fault. One can follow the trail back to Mile 29 Wash and go out as described above.

Mile 30.4 right bank
A very good climber can go up the fault ravine and get on top of the Supai plateau. Go southwest to the break in the rim and walk around Bedrock Canyon to the Buffalo Ranch headquarters west of the head of South Canyon. Or one can walk the Redwall Rim to South Canyon. A short distance into Bedrock Canyon there is a fault ravine which can be climbing to the northeast to the top of the Supai. To the east, overlooking the lower end of South Canyon, there is a break in the Coconino and Kaibab that can be climbed to reach the top. Then go to the Buffalo Ranch as before.

Mile 31.7 right bank
Don’t try to go up the narrows of South Canyon although this has been done by good climbers. A short distance upriver from the mouth of South Canyon, there is an easy break through the Redwall, and then one can go back along the Redwall rim into South Canyon. One can go out via the fault ravine in Bedrock Canyon as described above, or it is fairly easy to follow the bed of South Canyon and go out the upper end. Then one is quite close to the Buffalo Ranch.

Mile 41 to 44 left bank
It is easy to walk the left bank down below President Harding Rapid and then go up the Redwall through the broken slope of an old trail. One then goes north to the ravine that comes down where the Eminence Break meets the rim. From here it is about 20 miles by road to US 89, but one should be able to get water at stock tanks and may find some Navahos.

Mile 44 to 52 right bank
One can walk down to the mouth of Nankoweap Canyon. Little Nankoweap is blocked by falls, but one can connect with the Nankoweap Trail as described in the Davis booklet. The trail is shown on the old East Half Map, but it was left off the 1961 map. When one reaches the Saddle Mountain Burn, one could go for help from the tourists at Point Imperial more easily than to walk clear to North Rim Headquarters as suggested by Davis.

Mile 52 to 61.5 left bank
The bank can be walked to the mouth of the Little Colorado. One need not go up the tributary to Salt Trail Canyon as described by Davis. About 1.6 miles up the Little Colorado, there is a route out to the north rim. One stays on the west rim of the gorge through the shale of the side canyon and then turns west to go up through the Redwall. The route through the Supai is in the bed of the main valley, but one gets through the Coconino and Kaibab in a narrow ravine to the west of the center. There are cairns and painted numbers in this upper route. It is a 24 mile walk to Cedar Ridge, but one may be able to get help from the Indians.

Mile 63.5 to 71 left bank
One can follow the bank to the Tanner Trail at Mile 68.4 and go by the instructions of the Davis treatment. From Unkar Rapid and from Mile 74 or 75, one can go up the west facing basalt cliff to the Tapeats. Above a break in this cliff, one can go south through an easy route up the Redwall. It isn’t hard to go over the low ridge between Cardenas Butte and Escalante Butte and get down to the Tanner Trail.

Mile 75.5 left bank
Nevilles Rapid.  One can go up the bed of 75 Mile Creek and get through the Tapeats near its head. A good climber can get through the Redwall in the ravine between Lipan and Pinal Points. Follow the Redwall rim to the east to the Tanner Trail. Or one can get through the Tapeats nearer the mouth of 75 Mile Creek and go to the rim in the east fork of Papago Canyon. There is a break in the Redwall below Papago Point and a walking route through the Supai a little south of here. The break through the Coconino is near the head of this arm and the route through the Kaibab is just east of the head of the Coconino break. It is only a five minute walk to the east rim drive. Or one can follow the Tonto around into Red Canyon and proceed up the Hance Trail.

Mile 76.5
Covered well by Davis.

Mile 78.5 left bank
Sockdolager Rapid. Davis gives the hard way to leave the river. It is much easier to climb out of the inner gorge to the west a hundred yards from the river and get to the Tonto by a trail up though the Tapeats. Then use the trail up the west prong of the horseshoe of Horseshoe Mesa and follow the Grandview Trail to the rim.

Mile 80.9 left bank
Davis is absolutely wrong about this lack of a trail. A number of hikers have used it after I located it in 1956. It is a good way to get to the Tonto and out the Grandview Trail. There are also ways to leave the river on the left bank at Mile 80, 80.4 and 81.

Mile 84.1 right bank
Clear Creek. Davis is wrong here. There is only one little fall in lower Clear Creek and it can be bypassed by a walk along a ramp about 10 feet above the bed. It would be best to walk up Clear Creek to the regular trail back to Phantom Ranch.

Mile 83.8 left bank
Lonetree Canyon. One can go up Lonetree through the very bed near the river and then bypass the impossible fall either to the east or the west. The way through the Tapeats to the Tonto Trail is back a bit from the river on the west side. Then go along the Tonto to the Kaibab Trail.

Mile 87.5 left bank
Kaibab Trail

Mile 88.9 left bank
Bright Angel Trail

Mile 90.3 left bank
Horn Creek Good climbers can go up the wall just west of the mouth of Horn and after some interesting route finding reach the easy part of the bed that leads to the Tonto Trail. A short walk gets one to the Bright Angel Trail.

Mile 90.4 left bank
Just below Horn Creek Rapid a ravine leads to the old trail up Horn Creek to the Tonto.

Mile 90.4 right bank
One can go up the ravine and then west at the base of the Tapeats. Follow this north and east to the Tonto and then one can walk to Phantom Ranch.

Mile 91.2
One can go up the left side and double back to Horn Creek and the Tonto, or one can go up Mile 91 Canyon and get over to Phantom Ranch.

Mile 92.4 left bank
One can go out this nameless canyon and reach the Tonto.

Mile 92.7 left bank
One can go up Salt Creek Canyon and reach the Tonto either along the bed (a hard climb past a chockstone) or up the east wall.

Mile 93.3
Okay in the booklet.

Mile 94.9
Okay in the booklet.

Mile 96.5 left bank
The Boucher Trail that Davis succeeded in getting removed from the new map has been used a lot in recent years and is faster than the Tonto combined with the Hermit Trail.

Mile 98 right bank
Crystal Creek on the right. One can follow the bed of Crystal-Dragon up the arm that heads below the Shiva Saddle and thence to the North Rim and the Tiyo Point Road. There is water below the Tapeats in Dragon and some potholes in the Redwall and sometimes on the Shiva Saddle. To get to the North Rim Headquarters would take about 1.5 days of walking.

Mile 98 left bank
A small beach on the left. It would be impossible to land a boat at the mouth of Slate Canyon on the left, but one can go from the small beach about mile above the mouth over a spur into the bed of Slate  and then climb to the Tonto Trail and go back to Boucher Creek.

Mile 99.3 right bank
One can walk the bank back to Crystal from the mouth of Tuna.

Mile 99.5 right bank
One can angle up to the east through a ravine and reach the Tonto. It isn’t too hard to follow the west arm of Tuna through the Redwall and attain the pass between Tuna and Flint. From here go northeast through the Supai and Coconino out on top and cross a valley to the Point Sublime Road.

Mile 100 left bank
Although I haven’t tested this route, there is almost certainly a way to climb up to a break in the Tapeats north of Geikie Peak. One can follow the Tonto back to Boucher Creek.

Mile 104.6 left bank
Ruby Canyon. I have been told that one can walk up Ruby to the Tonto. From here it is shorter to go ahead to the Bass Trail and out.

Mile 106 left bank
Serpentine Rapid. One can walk up to the Tonto and go over to the Bass Trail.

Mile 108
Ok in the Davis guide

Mile 108.5
Ok from Davis

Mile 111
Ok from Davis

Mile 115 to 118
One can walk the left bank back to Garnet Canyon and follow the Tonto to the Bass Trail as described by Davis in the new edition. He had this wrong in the first version. Getting up Royal Arch Creek is impossible unless one can find a rope in place near the east end of the terrace east of Elves Chasm. The statement that one should go down to Havasu Creek for the next exit is incorrect. Unless one could hitch a ride on another boat, this would be very bad. There are two ways to leave the river on the left.

Mile 123.7 left bank
There is an old Indian route up a ravine, then to the left into a narrow slot in the Redwall. Above the Redwall one contours over to a break in the Supai on the south side of the promontory that forms the wall above Fossil Creek. The Coconino break is to the southwest, and one gets through the Kaibab to the jeep road about a half mile north of Enfilade Point. Then one can follow the service road and go to Supai via the Topacoba Trail. There is pothole water along the Redwall rim, just below the Coconino ascent, and at Topacoba Spring.

Mile 125 to 130 right bank
A Bighorn or Burro trail shows along the right bank. Although I haven’t done this, one should be able to follow it past Galloway Canyon and reach Tapeats Creek. I have been to Galloway Canyon and know the route past Stone to Tapeats and out the Thunder River trail. There is a water catchment for game near the Indian Hollow Camp as well as some water along the Esplanade in potholes and seeps down in the Supai below the trail.

Mile 133.7 right bank
Ok in the present guide

Mile 136.2 right bank
Ok in the guide book. Likewise for the walk down the right bank to Kanab Creek.

Mile 143.5 right bank
Kanab Creek. Correction. Don’t count on water all the way up Kanab Creek. It is mostly dry on the way even to Hacks Canyon. There is water up side canyons, however. With a map one could go out Jumpup Canyon and then take the Sowats Trail to the rim. Thence to Big Springs Ranger Station.

Hacks Canyon leads one to the Toroweap Viewpoint road and the possibility of getting help from a motorist.

Mile 147.9 left bank
Matkatabiba Canyon. It is quite easy to walk up the bed and get out to the Redwall rim on the west side. Then double back along the Redwall rim to the fault valley leading over to Sinyala canyon. There is a spring in the fault northeast of Mt. Sinyala and one can walk the surface of the Supai around to the village of Supai. This would take one and a half days from the river to Supai.

Mile 149.7 right bank
My information is that this never was a route clear down to the river. Impossible.

Mile 156.8 left bank
Havasu Creek. Ok.

Mile 164.4 right bank
Tuckup Canyon. A very good climber can get up here. An ordinary man needs a rope in one or two places. The map shows the trail and the road to the scenic drive to Toroweap.

Mile 166.5 left bank
National Canyon. After walking about 15 minutes from the river, one can either go up the bed, a difficult feat in the smooth rock, or climb up the west wall and bypass the barriers in the lower canyon. Back in the bed there is running water through much of the Redwall narrows and there is a spring at the base of the Coconino on the west side of the upper valley. A trail goes out to the reservation road and one can walk to the Supai road.

Mile 168 right bank
Fern Glen Canyon. Omit this note about Fern Glen Canyon. It is known to be impossible. A climber succeeded in getting past the difficult fall which stops the tourists, but the rest is out. One can walk the right bank from here down to the Lava Trail to the Toroweap Ranger Station, or one can go up the red Slide at Mile 175. A trail goes from a mine around to the east to get to the Esplanade where there is a road west to the ranger station.

Mile 171 right bank
Stairway Canyon. Very good climbers have succeeded in getting up Stairway to the Tuckup Trail. The top of the Redwall is beyond the ability of the average climber.

Mile 171.4 left bank
Mohawk Canyon. There is a prehistoric route up this canyon which uses a log fixed against the west wall for a ladder. There is a small spring and a pothole of water about 2.5 hours of walking from the river and the next water may be the spring at the base of the Coconino within a half hour of the end of the road. This is a long canyon and one must still walk a long way to Frazier Well.

Mile 175 right bank
The Red Slide. A trail goes from a mine around to the east to get to the Esplanade where there is a road west to the ranger station.

Mile 179.1 right bank
The Lava Trail. The difficulty of this route is exaggerated. Better than average walkers can go from the river to the rim in 1.5 hours.

Mile 188 right bank
Whitmore Wash. Ok.

Mile 198.3

Mile 204.3 right bank
From near the mouth of Spring Canyon a trail goes along the right bank and then goes high near Mile 205. The Price Point Trail can be followed up through the Redwall here and then over and out at Price Point. There are some ranchers near Mt. Dellenbaugh.

Mile 209 right bank
One can go up Mile 209 Canyon on the right to the Shivwits Plateau Road.

Mile 209 left bank
One can go up Granite Park Creek on the left and reach the road in Prospect Valley.

Mile 219 right bank
Trail Canyon. One can walk up the bed to the main fork. Go up a stiff climb between the north and west forks and contour into the north fork above the fall. There is some more route finding to reach Shanley Spring beneath an impressive fall. The trail bypasses this and one can reach the Snyder Mine. The trail goes to the rim southwest of the mine, and one can follow the road to Kelly Tanks where there is water in the wetter seasons.

Mile 224 left bank
This information is ok except that the danger of being swept by Diamond Creek is negligible. Landing there is certainly no more difficult than landing at Mile 224. Also, it would seem more direct to climb over the pass to the east of Diamond Peak down to the junction of Diamond Creek and Peach Springs Wash.

Mile 225.7 left bank
Diamond Creek. Ok.

Mile 227 to Mile 234 left bank
There are several places where one can go up to the Tonto on the left and walk the burro trail either back to Diamond Creek or ahead to Bridge Canyon.

Mile 235 left bank
Bridge Canyon. One can walk up the bed to the seep spring at the base of the Redwall near where the east fork joins the main bed. A trail goes up and out the main fork to the road in Hindu Canyon. There are cattle tanks along the way to US 66.

Mile 235 to Mile 239.6 left bank
Separation Canyon. There are several ways up to the Tonto on the left. One can walk back to Bridge Canyon.

Mile 246

Mile 260.5 left bank
Quartermaster Canyon. One might mention that you do not take the west arm of Quartermaster after going past the mouth of Jeff Canyon. It is possible but rougher to get up the west arm. Also, one should not expect help at the Guano Mine Cable Terminal. This activity has been abandoned. One should walk down to the Diamond Bar Ranch on the way to Meadview.

Mile 264.5 right bank
The mine has been abandoned and the cable has been cut down. One would have to float down to Pierce Ferry for help. There are some boats that come up from Lake Mead.

Note. With the greatly increased traffic on the river, these escape routes are not of much use for a party that has met with disaster. During the tourist season one should wait on the bank for help. However, the routes mentioned in the guide can be regarded as interesting hiking possibilities for those with a leisurely schedule.


J. H. Butchart


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