Water in Desert Guided Hikes

The Escalante River is blessed with life-giving water flowing off Boulder Mountain, part of the Aquarius Plateau – the major water bearer in the Colorado Plateau. Half a dozen streams, including Pine Creek, Death Hollow, Sand Creek, Boulder Creek, Deer Creek, and The Gulch are the headwaters of the Escalante River, the last major river to be discovered in the continental US. Other streams such as Calf Creek and Dry Hollow (its not dry by the way) are feed by springs seeping out the Navajo Sandstone. Being southern Utah’s best aquifer, the Navajo Sandstone is blessed with numerous natural springs that seep or gush out of the rocks forming hanging garden communities with a huge variety of water-loving plants – columbines, monkey flowers, watercress, and maidenhair ferns to name a few…   The contrast of water in the desert is amazing – desert plants such as cactus grow next to riparian vegetation including willows, water birch, and cottonwood. Anasazi and other prehistoric people also choose to live along these streams leaving rock art, ruins, and artifacts. Another local source of water, waterpockets form along otherwise dry washes where pools scoured into the slickrock are filled by periodic rainstorms. “Water is Life, Babe” (as my dad tells my mom), so these pothole communities are loaded with unusual organisms, including insects, fairy shrimp, and tadpoles developing into toads. On a hot afternoon, the delight of wading down a clear running desert stream or diving into a crystal-clear pool cannot be matched!