Happy canyon

Stephen Fischer Photography

Rating: 2B-III

Not sure how Happy Canyon got its name. I half expected to discover some reason along the way of this mostly all-day hike to reach it and back.  It is down on the opposite side of the Dirty Devil River about 5 miles from the closest approach by a high clearance 4wd vehicle on an old unmarked uranium mining road.  The road is in rough shape, taking about 2 hours to reach this point from the asphalt, testing the capabilities of our vehicles.  We ended up dry camping up on the rim of the canyon overlooking the river below on the night after the hike.  The views are impressive from this canyon rim, reminding me of some of the other large canyons of the southwest.  I had hoped to capture some sunset and sunrise photographs at this location, but overcast skies moved in for the next couple of days, nixing any such plans.

The hike down to Happy Canyon requires you to follow the edge of the old washed out mining road up high for about 4 miles.  Along the way there are assorted unusual toadstool-like rock formations along with fragments of petrified wood.  There is also a lot of bentonite clay here, reminiscent of what finds out in the eastern portion of Cathedral Valley and the Bisti Badlands in northern New Mexico.  Oddly, it seems wherever I have found bentonite on my hikes, I have also found petrified wood. Given they apparently used to mine uranium in this area, I am also curious how prevalent this is, and will have to bring a geiger counter along the next time passing through this area. 

After this rather long hike, you then have to descend the canyon wall for about a thousand feet to the river below through a number of switchbacks for another mile. At the bottom, after working your way through the many thorny bushes, and then taking off your shoes, rolling up or taking off your pants, cross the muddy river to the other side.  The mouth to the slot is visible shortly afterwards on the other side a bit back to the south, heading deep into what is known as Robber's Roost territory.  With the area being so remote and difficult to reach, I can understand why it would be a good location as a hideout for someone trying to escape from the law.

Happy Canyon is rather large as slots go.  Based on the heights of the walls being over a hundred feet high in most places, and with logs wedged in 20~50 feet up, it looks as if large volumes of water regularly drain through this canyon.  The most interesting aspects of this slot go up for about a mile from the mouth, getting tighter and trickier to pass you proceed further in.  With the overcast skies, the lighting was muted, and unable to take advantage of reflected lighting for capturing some more dramatic images.  All the more reason to return to this location in the future.

More technical details on this area can be found here.


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