Packrafting The Escalante River

2023 was a record setting year for snowpack in Utah. And as every river rat knows, big snow equals lots of water in the rivers and so this made it an ideal spring to run some bucket list rivers that are much more difficult or impossible to do when we have less runoff.

The Escalante River is an ephemeral river. Even on the best of years it may only run for a week or two. After having lusted after this descent, my friend George and I knew this would be the year to tick it off the list. This “river trip” involves hiking in about 5 miles, float for 40 miles, and hike out 8 miles. Packrafts are the ideal vehicle for this float, they are small inflatable kayaks that weigh about 8lbs and can be rolled up to fit into a backpack. With our trusty steads stored in our backpacks and paddles in hand we set off into the desert.

The river was rarely more than knee deep but presented plenty of challenges along the way. We portaged around 3 drops and ran countless smaller rapids. We got to see some of the most remote desert terrain in America all while gliding down a desert river. We didn’t see anyone for 4 days until we were hiking out the rim to the trucks and we met some German tourists who were very confused as to why I was hiking across the desert with a kayak paddle and not a drop of water for miles.

This video was a personal project and to keep weight down was shot with only a GoPro Hero 9 and a Google Pixel 6.