High water levels keep The Narrows in Zion closed to hikers

ST. GEORGE — Zion National Park is known for its superlative trails, but currently one of its most popular hikes —The Narrows — is closed due to high water levels. The route has been officially closed since April 3.

The Narrows of Zion National Park, Utah, July 1, 2015 | Photo by Hollie Reina, St. George News
The Narrows of Zion National Park, Utah, July 1, 2015 | Photo by Hollie Reina, St. George News

Zion National Park Spokesperson Aly Baltrus said that while it’s not out of the ordinary to close The Narrows due to high water, the amount of time it has already been closed is unusual.

‘We close the Virgin River whenever the river levels get above 150 (cubic feet per second) and then we re-open it when it gets below 150 and stays there for 24 hours,” Baltrus said. “So what we’ve been having is a lot of snow melt and rain above us. Literally this year we’ve had a lot more than we’ve had in recent years.”

Depending on rain and snowfall, The Narrows might not open for another week or more, Baltrus said. Sustained water levels of this nature have not been seen for several years.

Despite the closure, Baltrus said seeing this much moisture is good news for those who live in Southern Utah.

“This is actually a really good sign for locals,” Baltrus said, “as far as showing we’re coming out of a drought.”

Cimarron Chacon takes a closer look at a waterfall on The Narrows hike of Zion National Park, July 1, 2015 | Photo by Hollie Reina, St. George News
Cimarron Chacon takes a closer look at a waterfall on The Narrows hike of Zion National Park, July 1, 2015 | Photo by Hollie Reina, St. George News

Baltrus said public safety is the reason for The Narrows closure.

“That is the number one reason, it’s the number two reason, the number three reason,” she said. “Water flows literally can just push people over, and it’s not safe for us to send people in after folks (in need of rescue) either.”

Most of the time when visitors hike The Narrows, the average flow is around 30 cubic feet per second. When it reaches the maximum allowable flow — 150 CFS — the river is moving with enough force to make what is ordinarily an easy trek much more difficult, Baltrus said.

Currently the Virgin River at The Narrows is running above 200 CFS.

Even at its current levels, the river does not look particularly dangerous, but Baltrus said looks can be deceiving.

“It’s a lot of water coming at you,” she said. “It might look like it’s safe, but it is the type of water that can easily move boulders, can easily move trees and things like that. We will reopen it once it gets down to that 150 level and stays there.”

According to the Zion National Park website, The Narrows is the narrowest section of Zion Canyon and is one of the most popular spots in the park. The walls of The Narrows are a thousand feet high in places, and the width of the canyon narrows to only 20 to 30 feet wide at points.

When the hike reopens, those hiking upstream as far as Big Spring may do so without a permit; whereas hikers who wish to go beyond that point or hike The Narrows from the top — starting at Chamberlain’s Ranch — will require a permit.

Resources

Email: dgilman@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

Free News Delivery by Email

Would you like to have the day's news stories delivered right to your inbox every evening? Enter your email below to start!

1 Comment

  • Aaron_Pugh April 15, 2016 at 5:43 pm

    First half of the article: The Narrows has had a lot of closures this year due to an increase in water levels running through the Virgin River.

    2nd half of the article: An ‘ExplainLikeImFive’ explanation as to why high volumes of water can be dangerous and hard to trek through.

    I’ve learned so much! Thank you!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.