Happy Canyon

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Although Happy Canyon is a giant drainage occupying something like 90 square miles of southern Utah, it doesn’t get a lot of visitors. First, Happy is fairly remote and not in any of the national parks or recreation areas. Second, it is well-protected by cliffs, with only about five ways in or out. Finally, it suffers from a lack of reliable water. We took a five-day trip to Happy Canyon in mid-March 2012. The part of the canyon we saw did not show signs of having been visited by humans since last Fall.

March weather in the high desert is variable; we were lucky and had great conditions with cool nights and warm days. In a 20 degree bag I only got cold the first night, which we spent up on the canyon rim at 6200 feet.

We found several potholes and springs, but most likely these would all be dry by early summer. The springs tended to be surrounded by large areas of white mineral deposits—probably mainly magnesium sulfate (a.k.a. epsom salt: a¬†laxative).

We did not make it down to Happy Canyon’s narrows near where it meets the Dirty Devil (many miles from where we entered the canyon), but rather explored the middle and upper parts of its North fork and French Spring fork, including a scary exit to the Big Ridge mentioned in one of Steve Allen’s books and another scary exit out of the French Spring fork. This part of the canyon didn’t have any major standout features like arches or ruins, but rather provided a lot of good canyon-county scenery, some nice petrified wood, and a total absence of other people.

One Reply to “Happy Canyon”

  1. Good report. I enjoyed the pics.

    I’m headed back out there next month for my second visit. Your report got me even more excited than I already am!

    – Jamal

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