The Gulch

The Gulch, one of the outstanding Escalante Canyons, was carved by a perennial stream that drains the eastern part of Boulder Mountain, so it is lined with cottonwoods and other riparian vegetation. Our route passes between impressive orange walls of Wingate Sandstone; cliffs in the morning shade seem to glow with light reflected off the opposite sunlit cliffs. Because the rock layers are tilted to the west, the canyon cuts into lower rock layers as we proceed upstream, so the stream flows over rock ledges in the colorful Chinle Formation. Brought to the surface by impermeable mudstones, the stream here flows freely even during the dry season, but may sink into the sandy river-bottom sediments farther downstream where it still nourishes the forest, but doesn’t wet your feet except during the spring snowmelt or following rains. My favorite destination is a waterfall spilling over an orange cliff after winding its way through a sinuous fluted channel. Huge old cottonwood matriarchs have somehow withstood innumerable flash flood torrents; those that have fallen to be swept away illustrate the incredible force of Nature. Immense overhangs/alcoves undercutting the cliffs probably served as dwelling places for prehistoric people as well as modern day backpackers. Farther upstream the orange cliffs rise higher and higher above the soft Chinle slopes, so the canyon be comes wider and less interesting, a good place to call it a great half-day hike!.