Thursday, November 24, 2016

Black Canyon + Arizona Hot Spring

Morning view over Black Canyon of Colorado River
Black Canyon of the Colorado River:  Adventure Report:
Cactus and the Colorado River:  The morning photography here was awesome with so much contrast in light, dark, texture and time.
The Colorado River must be one of the most amazing natural creations.  I saw a new face of this complicated river when I visited Black Canyon of the Colorado, the section of the river immediately downstream from the Hoover Dam.  The requirements for such a journey are:
1.  Permit from US Government
2.  Canoe or kayak
3.  Transportation to the launching and pickup points
4.  Camping gear and food
5.  Waterproof bags for hydrophobic gear (camera)

Transportation to the launch site is limited to a few outfitters who have clearance from the US Government to visit the river just below the Hoover Dam.  Keeping the dam safe is the major concern of the government here.  Photo ID is required at check in with the outfitter.  If you have all that, then you can move forward with the fun part.
Kayak or canoe put in below Hoover Dam
Hoover Dam as seen from the launching point.
This begins your adventure down Black Canyon.
The drive down to the river from the top of the dam involves many hairpin turns and steep grades.  Then you must hurry to load and launch your vessel because the Hoover Dam officials only allow a few minutes.  No loitering.  Once you are on the water everything changes to lazy, easy, smooth and relaxed!
a hot spring in Arizona's Black Canyon
Palm Spring Waterfall:  the water is
hot like a shower!
A steady current made our canoe glide across the water and before we knew it were reached the first notable natural wonder:  Palm Spring Waterfall.  This wonder is a flowing hot spring that starts somewhere above the river level.  It forms a hot-water waterfall into the river on the Arizona side.  I stood in 6-inch deep cold river water while 100-degree hot spring water fell over my head.  It's just like a shower . . . only better.

Other hot springs are located on the Nevada side of the river but I didn't visit them.  Instead my next stop was the premier attraction of this canyon:  Arizona Hot Spring.  Arizona Hot Spring is so awesome it's hard to believe in its' existence:  three hot soaking pools . . . in a slot canyon . . . a short hike up from the Colorado River . . . where you can camp . . . and visit the pools day or night . . . in the middle of the desert . . . and you just might have it all to yourself!  Do you see what I mean?  It's too good to be true yet it is true.

Arizona Hot Spring located in a slot canyon
Arizona Hot Spring:  This panorama shot takes in about 160-degree angle.  The hot spring and hottest water comes from
the left pool, straight out of the rock.  Sandbags in 4 narrow points create 4 different soaking pools with different
depths and temperatures.  In this photo, I had the whole 4 pools to myself.  In mid-day it can be more crowded.

I camped here with my group.  There is a bathroom/outhouse here.  Otherwise there are no camping services.  Two groups were camping here on the gravel and small river rocks away from the Colorado River.  Bring a pad for comfort.  We visited the springs that afternoon and shared them with some hikers who came down from the road (a long hike).  Later that night and the next morning the springs were completely empty and serene.  The hike up to the springs includes one very fun metal ladder that is bolted into the sandstone.
hiking up the slot canyon to Arizona Hot spring
The warm water in the trail gets your feet wet and
warm before you reach the ladder.
Arizona Hot Spring in Black Canyon ladder
Ladder in the slot canyon leading up to
the first soaking pool.
ladder up to Arizona hot spring
The ladder will wobble and shake a little when you
climb it.  The hot springs are on top.
Tent camping at Arizona hot spring black canyon
Camping at Arizona Hot Springs in the Black Canyon is on gravel.
Camping overnight afforded me a chance to shoot sunset and sunrise.  The black soil is volcanic, brutal and sharp.  The placid green river and vegetation make great contrasting colors and textures.  I hiked high above the river and then down to the water for different compositions.  In my weird travels I've never seen any place like this.

Black Canyon morning
Black Canyon high view over the Colorado River
Colorado River below Hoover Dam
Morning Views over the River
The next day I also explored the canyon above Arizona Hot Spring.  This canyon continues to show volcanic rock, sandstone, river rocks and desert plants in a mixed up presentation.  This hike is well worth the small effort to explore and see.
Canyon above Arizona Hot Springs
I hiked up above Arizona Hot Springs.  The sandstone colors and curves
somehow blend with sharp lava rock and creates a desert weird
wonderland.
Back in our canoes, my group continued downstream.  The current flows slower here and paddling is needed to move along if you're doing this trip in 2 days.  If you choose 3 days, you can take your time.  The whole canyon is spectacular.
Colorado River Canoe Trip
Back on the River in our canoe:  Floating Black Canyon of Colorado River.

Green Emerald Cave of Colorado River
Emerald Pool, also known as Emerald Cave, is a photography dream to
visit but also is very challenging to shoot.  The glowing green color is REAL!
The next major natural formation is the Emerald Pool.  Sediment in the Colorado River generally makes it brown or red in color.  The Hoover Dam catches all that sediment, making the water crystal clear and green.  I was amazing at the water visibility and the gorgeous green color.  A water cave is on the Arizona side.  We paddled inside marveled at the green light in the water!  This is one beautiful and special place!  To get my picture I was dropped off on a slippery ledge, had my canoe leave me in the cave all alone and then snapped this picture.  See why it's called the Emerald Pool?
Colorado River Black Canyon Storm
Storm Clouds gathering at the exit of Black Canyon
While I lingered in the cave, a desert rainstorm happened to fall.  This gave me some ominous clouds in my pictures at the end of the trip.  And the end is near.  From the Emerald Pool to the takeout site at Willow Beach is only a couple of miles and paddling got us there within about 90 minutes.  Good thing because it then rained some more.

My adventure took place in the month of April and the weather was pretty ideal.  I've heard the summer trips can be too hot to really enjoy the hot springs.

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