One of many rock walls build by the cowboys at Snake Gulch
The Rock Wall at Snake Gulch
Upper Kanab Creek!

from Hacks Canyon to Fredonia trip report

Mike Mahanay   November 06-10, 1999

I arranged a shuttle from a gentleman in Fredonia, Arizona, Bob Ford, who agreed to drive me out to Hacks Canyon, drop me off, and then drive my Blazer back to Fredonia where I would end the hike. My idea was to hike in Hacks Canyon, the usual access to Kanab Creek, and instead of hiking down to the Colorado River, I would hike up stream to Fredonia, Arizona.

John Wesley Powell and his party had ended their second exploration of the Colorado River at Kanab Creek, and had hiked up the creek to the settlement at Kanab, Utah, ten miles north of the present town of Fredonia.

Burrows climbing down the crack off Bulrush Point Photo by Bob Ford.

Robert Burrows climbing down the crack off Bulrush Point!

On the way to Hacks, Bob suggested an alternative route that he said would get me to the junction of Hacks and Kanab Creek much sooner. It was an unknown route off of Bulrush Point into the bottom of Grama Canyon. I readily accepted and he said that he would go down with me to the crux of the route. We parked and slowly descended the nose of the point until in the Coconino on the west side of the point it appeared we could go no farther. A fifty foot drop to the right and a chimney to the left. Bob began to climb straight up into the chimney and then disappeared! I followed and after twenty feet found a tunnel that lead to the other side and then a twenty foot descent where I had to lower my pack. The chimney and the tunnel barely allowed my pack to squeeze through. Now, we were on the east side of the point and all that remained was a thirty foot climb down a inward leaning crack.

Bob said, “You can do it can’t you?” With adrenaline, sweat, and increased heart rate, inspired by Bob, I free climbed down. Some protection would of been nice! Bob lowered my pack to me, and said to circle the point back to the west side once again. There, the talus came up to the bottom of the Coconino and I was on my way to Grama!

View from Bulrush Point looking down Kanab with Grama coming in on the right! Photo by Bob Ford.

Photo of Robert Burrows, who's been down the route several times with Bob. It was taken the first time they went through.  The view is looking down Kanab, Grama coming in on the right.  Taken after the down climb and at the point before getting to the talus in Grama. 

I dropped my pack and walked up to Grama Spring to fill my water bag. There I found all the cows on the inside of the fence standing around the trough. The outside of the fence had thick, tall grass! I filled my bag from the pipe and headed back down to Kanab Creek. I turned up creek and climbed up Dinner Pockets Canyon to the top of the Supai to camp for the night. I found that the water had made my dinner taste bad and poured it out and refilled from a Supai pothole.

Sunday, I dayhiked to Hacks to look at the cowboy camp just up for the mouth on the north side. It has a lot of old names and dates carved into the wall, and makes an excellent camp. Next I hiked up Lawson Canyon to join up with the Ranger Trail or Trail 40, then hike over to Jumpup Point. John Green describes a way up to Jumpup Point but I couldn’t find that route. He also notes a ruin below by the seasonal potholes.

The Ranger Trail is in excellent condition and very east to follow, suitable for stock. It goes from Sowats on top of the Supai north all the way to Kanab Creek where it drops in just before the Supai disappears. Many of the cairns, however, were knocked over from animals running into them. In some places the grass is growing so well that the trail will be hard to see in a few years if people don’t begin to use it. The sign said 13 miles to Jumpup. At Kanab Creek, I set up camp on top of the Supai, and got water from a big mudhole.

Before the sun rose, I was up putting on my brush beating clothes (Long pants, long sleeve shirt, gloves). To complete my loop I decided to dayhike down Kanab Creek to Grama and back in the cool of the early morning. This was a very nice section. I found a cowboy camp under an overhang with old bottles and cans, hidden by mesquite. The grass was chest high in some places after the season’s big monsoons! The tamarisk and Cottonwoods were still green and yellow. I follow animal trails, crossing back and forth, cutting the corners of the dry creek. There were mudholes every so often, but no flowing water.

Upstream to Snake Gulch went fairly fast until I made the mistake of not heeding the large cairn on top a enormous Supai boulder with a small ruin and cowboy camp underneath it. Instead I went to the left side of the creek and then had to cut back over through the thick tamarisk. I wasted a lot of energy before I found the trail above the creek to Snake Gulch.

Already there were rocks walls and corrals. Snake has a metal shed, lots of fences, and upstream a corral and cabin that was used until just before the Wilderness area was created. Bob Ford, an expert on the Kanab Creek area, says, "Ed Hatch is the one who built most of the rock walls you see in Snake Gulch.  He is the one who built the cabin."

 A pipe from Slide Spring goes all the way to the cabin, but is now busted and good water can only be found at the junction of Slide and Snake. Farther up Snake Gulch are many petroglyphs. I went down to Snake and Kanab confluence and found flowing water. I filled up and rested in the cool shade of the thick tamarisk jungle.

Climbing up again to the bench above the creek I was amazed at the rock walls that had been built. They are many hundreds of feet long and some contain small boulders weighing 100 pounds or more. I can’t imagine why these were built! Bob says, there is not a lot to do while watching sheep and cows! Staying high on the bench I left the North Kaibab Forest and entered BLM land. Immediately, I began to see cows, continuing flowing water, and more tamarisks than I had ever seen in my wildest dreams. Following the cattle trails I would cross the creek, continue for a while, and then cross again, fighting the tamarisks. I camped at Water Canyon, but didn’t look for Water Canyon Spring.

Gunsight Canyon has signs of cowboys with fences on the butte and some trails. This would make a good place to camp. Continuing on, I missed the ruins at Rock Canyon, but found Clear Water Spring to be a beautiful place.
There were even some ducks in the pool below the fall. To my surprise, I had flowing water from one mile below Snake Gulch all the way to Clear Water Spring! There were also various herds of easily spooked cattle that entire distance. It was fun to listen to them crash through the tamarisk and willows trying to get away from me. I could just imagine how I sounded!

Above Clear Water Spring, the water ended, and I began the long sprint to Fredonia. There was little of interest now, the bed being dry baked mud or rocks. I managed to find three mudholes for water and a cowboy bath to cool off, with the tracks of a bobcat, a raven, and me, all in the mud. Three scavengers!

As sunset began to draw very near, I crossed the power lines, and began to feel I was getting out of the canyon. I climbed out and started cross country due north to Highway 389 which I would walk into town. I could see the lights of Fredonia, and car lights coming down 389 and 89A off the Kaibab Plateau.

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