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Canyoneering Arizona : Revised Edition

By: Tyler Williams
Photographer: Tyler Williams

Review By Evan J. Stafford

So you want to go on an adventure in Arizona. When I say Iím going on a, quote unquote adventure, it is usually implied that I am going into a canyon with my favorite plastic watercraft. So what does canyoneering have to do with kayak adventuring? In the case of the Grand Canyon State, a lot.

First off, Tyler Williamsí definition of canyoneering is somewhat looser than others, using the tern to refer to all aspects of hiking and exploring streambeds, gorges and slot canyons. Many canyoneers definition will be limited exclusively to technical slot canyons which rarely see enough water for a kayak descent. Williamsí expanded definition is the first reason why no Arizona adventure of any kind should begin without consulting Canyoneering AZ. I donít know about you, but when I hear the words exploring, streambeds, and gorges in the same sentence the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. These canyons are majestic with or without enough water to descend them by kayak, so whether youíre pointing your favorite shuttle bunny in the direction of a beautiful and exciting way to spend a day or whether youíre looking to scout out the next classic dessert creek run on your list, this guide is going to be useful.

Is he wearing a skirt and pfd?

Next, there is no whitewater guide to Arizona and although Williamsí descriptions are limited to foot patrols, his descriptions are detailed enough to easily pick out good candidates for an unforgettable creek run hinging on the perfect water level (in other words the wrong day to be exploring a tight river canyon by foot).

Probably not gonna drop this falls, even at high water

Difficulty levels are broken down to Easy (walking), Moderate (wading, swimming, boulder hopping, scrambling, climbing, and route finding), Difficult (wading, boulder hopping, scrambling, climbing, and route finding but harder), Difficult Ė Technical (all of the above plus optional rappelling) and finally Technical (all of the above plus definite rappelling). The Technical rating will include an ACA rating which is the standard for canyoneering descents (Williams describes the ACA rating system in great detail in the introduction of this book). Any route described as Moderate or above is of interest as a kayaking run (Christopher Creek receives a moderate rating). Most of the Technical routes will be too steep and narrow for a kayak descent but you never know. These routes are serious adventures by foot and proper training and experience is necessary to descend these canyons, with or without your kayak.

Detailed put-in and take-out directions are included with each route, as many of the canyoneering adventures described only go in one direction and require a shuttle. Season for each route is listed and detailed times of the year not to be canyoneering are covered as well, which will probably be of more use to the kayak adventurer. It is still not appropriate to enter most of the canyons described in this book during the summer thunderstorm season unless water levels are on their way down and cloudy skies are not in the forecast. There are also numerous climate charts for different areas in AZ which contain high and low temperature, snow and precipitation averages for each month of the year. This is key information for the planning and timing your trip.

Maybe goes with some more flow

Other useful information contained in this guidebook includes elevation differences, length of trip, pertinent topographic maps, hand drawn route maps, permits necessary, and 16 full color and 80 black and white photos. This guidebook is truly essential if you are planning on visiting Arizona, regardless of your intentions. If you are interested in canyoneering itself as sport, Williamsí introduction gives, in my opinion, a very accurate and honest assessment of what type of activity it is and what kinds of skills are necessary to partake in the many variations of canyoneering that exist. If you like to explore river canyons in your kayak, canyoneering is an excellent way to continue to explore canyons in the off season, and who knows, you might just stumble upon the next classic ultra-steep creek run. Finally, this guidebook is rounded out with its fair share of geologic, natural and cultural history; A complete package. Check it out at