General Trip Planning Information
One of the biggest concerns with backpacking on the Colorado Plateau, including the Dark Canyon Wilderness is the lack of water.
Always treat water by filtering, boiling or chemical treatment before using any water in the backcountry.
Below are the general descriptions for reliable water in the Wilderness and the lower canyon. Remember conditions change this is wild country always pack enough water to make it several days in case your next water source turns out to be dry.
Woodenshoe Canyon Four miles down the trail you will run into Cherry Canyon coming in from the right (looking down canyon). In the spring there is usually water coming out of Cherry Canyon and running for a mile or more downstream. In the fall it stops running down canyon, but I have never seen the spring in Cherry Canyon dry up completley, although I have seen it running pretty low and muddy. The next water source is approximatley 7 miles downstream (although in the spring it is not unusual to find water in other locations as well) at an area known as Wates Pond. There is a large pothole and spring that usually holds water year round. Approximatley 1 mile below Wates Pond you will come to the Hanging Garden Spring, that flows out of the canyon wall on the right and usually has a pool beneath it.
Dark Canyon If you are coming from the Notch Trailhead, you will usually run into water around the mouth of Drift Trail Canyon. There is also water coming out of the pipe near the Scorup Cabin at the mouth of Horse Pasture Canyon, although this water has a pretty bad taste. In the spring the water often flows from here to the junction with Dark Canyon and then all the way to Rig Canyon and beyond in good water years. In the fall most of this water dries up or gets fouled by livestock and the next water in Dark Canyon is approximatley 5.5 miles down stream near the junction with Trail Canyon. There are two springs in the vicinity that are reliable. Below there Dark Canyon is dry until about two miles down canyon of the Black Steer Canyon junction in the Dark Canyon Primtive Area (WSA) on BLM managed lands.
Peavine Canyon Peavine Canyon ofter runs with water in the spring but drys up pretty quick in the summer. The only water in Peavine Canyon later in the year is usually located in a cattle trough about 3.5 miles below the Peavine Canyon Trailhead.
Lower Canyon (Dark Canyon Primitive Area) Usually about two miles below Black Steer Canyon the stream starts flowing year round.
Safety and Current Conditions
Current Conditions October 16th ,2017
Forest Service Staff patrolled Woodenshoe Canyon last week October 9-12, and found water a short ways up Cherry Canyon, near the Wates Pond area and at the Hanging Garden Springs. Other Forest Service Crews were in the Dark Canyon side of the Wilderness several weeks ago and found that there was water near the junction with Trail Canyon but it was only a small amount.
Several bears were seen in Dark Canyon last week as well so make sure you are keeping a clean camp.
Also, please note that the BLM now prohibits campfires in the lower end of the canyon on the BLM managed portion of Dark Canyon.
Brian Murdock Dark Canyon Wilderness Manager