Located just north of Delta, Colorado, Escalante Creek doesn’t look like a typical whitewater destination. With plenty of cactus, sagebrush and 400 foot sandstone cliffs, its hard to believe the area is home to a great stretch of whitewater. Escalante has a short season and tends to run earlier than almost everything else in Colorado. The run can be split into 2 sections; the upper and the lower gorge.
The Upper section of Escalante is about 5 miles long and never steps beyond the class IV+ realm. The put in is located just below the fence, just downstream from Escalante Forks. There are about 2/3 mile of class II-III boogie, then the gorge narrows. The next half mile or so involves a few class 4 rapids that can all be scouted on the left. Leap of Faith is first and has a great boof on the left when it is clear of wood. Next is Corner Pocket, which can be run down the middle medium to high flows. The right side is a dangerous pocket while the left is a sieve. Scout or portage left. Another class 4 rapid leads to the exit of the gorge that can be run right at high flow or left at most flows. There is a bit of class II-III leading to a large strainer. Make sure to have proper spacing as eddies are small.
More splashy, boogie water leads to Double Drop. A two tiered drop with an eddy in the middle that should be ran down the center with left angle for the first move, then drive hard left for the second. The runout is shallow and could cause issues for an upside down paddler. Some class IV boogie leads into Rib Ripper, a low consequence left boof at high water that becomes more consequential as rocks are exposed at lower flows. Portage left. Corkscrew comes next and should be scouted on the left. If this section gave you trouble or you aren’t interested in the Lower Gorge, takeout just below here on the left and hike up to the rim.
The Lower Gorge is solid class V. Two class 4 rapids lead in to ’57 Chevy. The fin rock in this rapid was formerly used as a gauge, but in 2016, paddlers felt that it was no longer accurate. In the past, if the fin was fully covered, the creek was high, but now it seems that the fin can be covered at flows that are on the low side of medium. Run this one far right or in the center driving left. Another class IV follows that can be boofed on the left. Eddy out river right to scout the class V Escalante Falls.
There are 3 main channels here. Far right lands in a deadly pothole, far left leads down a bumpy channel with high pin potential, while the center channel leads to safety. Another class IV that has a tendency to collect wood follows. This rapid is difficult to scout or portage from river level, so scouting from the rim before entering the gorge is recommended. Last but not least is the Magnetic Wall. Notorious for forcing swims, this rapid should be ran by starting left with right angle, boofing the ledge while aiming at the right wall to avoid the boily, undercut wall on the left. This is one of the most likely places to swim on the run, but is followed by a big pool to clean up a yard sale.
*Escalante beta provided by Daniel Kreykes