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Re: Zion Narrows Campsites Closed

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avatar Zion Narrows Campsites Closed
March 01, 2011 04:07PM
Zion Narrows Campsites Closed
Date: March 1, 2011
Contact: David Eaker, 435-772-7811
Contact: Ray O'Neil, 435-772-7823

All of the campsites located in the Narrows of Zion National Park are closed until further notice. Park rangers believe that many of the backcountry sites were affected by this winter's floods. These campsites will remain closed until park rangers can safely enter the area, assess the damage and perform any rehabilitation work that the sites may need.

In late December 2010, heavy rains caused extensive flooding on the North Fork of the Virgin River, including the Narrows. The flow rate for the river was measured at 6,000 cubic feet per second, the highest recorded rate since the campsites were created. Twelve designated backcountry campsites were created in the Narrows in the early 1990s in an effort to concentrate visitor impacts at specific locations and create a more enjoyable trip for visitors.

The Zion Narrows is closed to hikers each spring due to high water from snow melt. In an average year, the period of high water ends around the beginning of June. The closed campsites will be evaluated as soon as water levels allow rangers to visit the area. Many of the campsites should be opened quickly, but some may have to be re-located and may remain closed for several months.

The National Park Service reminds visitors that all overnight trips in the Narrows require a backcountry permit. In an average year, reservations for overnight trips are available two to three months ahead of time through the park website at http://www.nps.gov/zion/planyourvisit/backcountry-reservations-and-permits.htm. In 2011, reservations will not be available until an evaluation of the campsites is complete.

The Narrows are a spectacular gorge carved in the upper reaches of Zion Canyon, 16 miles long, up to 2000 feet deep, and at times only 20-30 feet wide. Hiking this route can be an unforgettable wilderness experience, but it should not be underestimated. At least 60% of the hike is spent wading, walking, and sometimes swimming in the North Fork of the Virgin River. There is no maintained trail; the route is the river. The current is swift, the water is cold, and the rocks underfoot are slippery. Flash flooding and hypothermia are constant dangers. Good planning, proper equipment, and sound judgment are essential for a safe and successful trip.
avatar Re: Zion Narrows Campsites Closed
March 01, 2011 09:53PM
I found it fun, although I only day "hiked" it in summer. I think water temps were about 65ºF. Originally I was going to do it wearing trail runners, but a ranger strongly suggested that I use something with ankle support. He was intensely correct. The rocks at the bottom are very smooth, and anyone walking through the river is probably going to have their feet slip and ankles stressed. Someone said that people trying it barefoot have ended up with toenails ripped off.

The worst I experienced was being in the water up to chest level where I was holding my pack above my head. I don't think I went more than a half-mile in. It's quite a slog. I wore swim trunks and a poly t-shirt. I managed to dry quickly when I got back.
avatar Re: Zion Narrows Campsites Closed
March 02, 2011 07:59PM
Why on earth would somebody want to try that barefoot? Sounds miserable.
avatar Re: Zion Narrows Campsites Closed
March 02, 2011 09:19PM
Why on earth would somebody want to try that barefoot? Sounds miserable.

I guess some people think that being in the water means being barefoot. It's going to be unpleasant if a toe jams between two rocks.

I saw a lot of people who had rented kits for doing the Narrows from outfitters in Springdale. Some of the kits I saw included special boots with neoprene socks. A lot of hikers had long hiking sticks, although there was lots of downed wood left behind at the start of the Narrows that was suitable for the task.

The outfitters had lots of equipment packages, from footwear/neoprene socks/hiking stick to sets with dry pants or drysuits. Seems a little bit overboard though, although a drysuit might be good for staying warm if it's cold. A dive suit seems like overkill, but I guess some people want them.

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