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2019 - Trip Report - In Hot Water Again

In Hot Water Again

By Bob Jaussaud • Photos by Allan Wicker, Vicki Hill and Jay Lawrence

For some it was a chance to return to a most favorite canyon. For others it was a chance to visit a new and spectacular place. Either way, I think all agreed it was a day spent in unparalleled beauty.

Upper Black Canyon is on a stretch of the Colorado River that runs through one of the most scenic places in the world. It is just below Hoover Dam and bordered by the El Dorado Mountains of Nevada and the Black Mountains of Arizona. The best way to enjoy the canyon is by boat. So, on Saturday, April 6, a group of Desert Explorers started into Black Canyon from Willow Beach (approximately 10 miles down river from the dam) in three comfy pontoon boats we had rented. The weather was perfect and the canyon walls were covered in wildflowers. We could not have timed our trip better

In days of old many of us had canoed this stretch of river. Now we were in pontoon boats, but so glad to be on the river again. Just upriver from Willow Beach, we saw the ruins of the gauging station. This station was completed in 1935 and originally included a Gauge Keeper’s residence, and two stations connected by a  cableway. The station provided flow data until it was replaced in 1939.

Our first stop ashore was for a short hike into Arizona Hot Springs. This hot spring is in a slot canyon and requires a climb up a 20 foot metal ladder adjacent to a hot water fall. Words cannot do this spectacular canyon justice. At the top of the ladder is a world class hot pool. Without hesitation many of us indulged ourselves with a relaxing soak. Yes, we were in hot water again, at last.

Thoroughly relaxed, we returned to the boats and continued up river to within sight of the new Tillman Bridge, which has the widest concrete arch in the West. The bridge was completed in 2010 and bypasses the old route over Hoover Dam. Just downriver from the bridge, we tried to find a spot to beach the boats for a visit to the Sauna Cave and Goldstrike Canyon, but the current was too strong and the rocks were too shallow. The Sauna Cave was drilled by miners working on Hoover Dam. At the end of the cave the miners broke into a hot spring which caused the cave temperature to reach up to 120 degrees Fahrenheit.

I feel we were lucky we bypassed Goldstrike and the Sauna Cave. We went to Boy Scout Canyon instead and it was well worth the extra time available to hike into it. At one point we had to rope our way up through the hot water stream, but further on we finally came to a beautiful green moss covered wall where the hot water originated. Across from Boy Scout Canyon we had our first bighorn sheep sighting. Vicki got a spectacular photo of a lamb nursing. Back in the boats, we agreed that we wanted to spend our remaining time floating down river and absorbing the canyon ambiance. We had a second bighorn sighting when we saw four on the ridge line above Emerald Cave.

Then, floating through what once was Ringbolt Rapid, we spotted the ringbolt embedded in the rock by the water. The ringbolt was pounded into the canyon wall in 1866 so the steamboat Esmeralda could use a line to pull herself through the rapids. 

Running out of time, we regretfully had to use the motors for the last stretch back to Willow Beach. Our last slow down was when Nancy spotted at least eight Big Horn sheep low on the canyon wall near us. It was a perfect ending to a perfect day.

Many thanks to our Boat Captains -Jay Lawrence, Axel Heller and Mike Vollmert. Thanks to Bill Smith for collecting the monies to pay for the boats and keeping us solvent. And thanks to all who went with us.

As always, the group makes the trip special. ~Bob