The Dirty Devil. A major tributary of the mighty Colorado, I've been wanting to tour the length of this wild desert river for long time. The canyon itself is little else than a vortex where eons of sand are moved down-steam on a daily basis. Gouged by water and sculpted winds, you can literally see the canyon walls change shape. Many of the Dirty Devil's side canyons are highly developed slot canyons that create a branchwork system that would take lifetimes to explore. With only a long weekend to work with, myself and two other buddies set out to paddle down the main river channel and explore a few select side canyons along the way.
Treasure hunting in the wild scapes of the desert often requires the pursuer to spend hours slogging through sandy washes and navigating through esoteric terrain with a heavy pack. Oh, the irony when one is on foot, under the weight of blubber-grade neoprene, crossing a hot, dehydrated swath of earth. Sometimes treasure hunting also requires one to pass through land protected not by BLM or NPS, but by those so anciently acquainted to their surroundings that your very being there seems unbecoming. Larry, who was so kind as to pay a us quick visit from his humble stream-side slice of universe, told us to spot our trucks further down stream, should flash flooding render our exit route impassable. Larry was a slender Navajo man with a raw hide face and obsidian eyes, barely visible under the shade of his ball cap. He seemed slightly less than enthused to have his morning interrupted, but his interaction could save him the trouble of having to rescue a few gringos and their trucks out of his backyard. None the less, his helpful disposition put our minds at ease, being the strangers that we were.
As usual, we totally underestimated the length of this particular canyon, and of course, botched the approach of least resistance. USGS quads can only offer you so much in the ways of micro-featured canyon country. With only two full days to travel this wild stretch of desert, it was apparent that the 10 or so hours of daylight we had to work with would be precious. As it was, we managed to descend maybe a third of our intended route, leaving so much to be explored further downstream. Perhaps next Spring we'll dedicate the three or four days required to see the rest of this remarkably wild and remote desert creek.
Buckskin Gulch is the so-called longest known slot canyon in the world. Seems hard to believe, but with 16 continuous miles of deep swirling narrows, canyons of this stature are few and far between. Buckskin is the main tributary to the Paria River, and although the Paria itself is not considered a "slot canyon", it's sheer unbroken walls of Navajo Sandstone surly make one feel small. From the upper wash of Bucksin Gulch, all the way down through the Paria River is a 50 mile desert odyssey that is second to none.