Chemehuevi Wilderness Topock Gorge Canoe Trip

BLM monitoring

February 15, 2016


This trip was another effort to make a backpack loop trip on Trampas Wash and Red Rock Wash. Recently a route from the mouth of Trampas Wash north to Red Rock Wash was found. This required avoiding the rugged terrain of the Topock Gorge where previous attempts were unsuccessful in an acceptable way through. The current trip was to see if there would be a way to get from the Colorado River to Red Rock Wash so that water could be obtained from the mouth of Red Rock Wash.


The day we were scheduled to embark the trip was canceled because of small craft warnings due to high winds. We altered the sequence of the trip by making a day hike to Mopah Spring in the Turtle Mountain Wilderness. We went a far as Vidal Valley. We reached Mopah Spring at noon. The water level was low with about a gallon of clear water in the pool. The palms appeared robust.


The next day six of us traversed the Topock Gorge by canoe. The evening before we were to embark, the canoes were delivered to our campsite with life jackets and paddles. We were prepared to start on the canoe trip early the next day but found that one of our three canoes had a leak. Once a replacement canoe was obtained we started on our trip.


The river water was a clear blue green with a current of three miles an hour and we had a brisk tail wind. As a result the paddling was easy. There were many coots, cranes, and ducks. We were told that big horn sheep come to the water early in the morning. We were rather late and did not see them. The Chemehuevi Wilderness along the river has a large population of burros that get water from the river; none were seen on this trip.


The walls of the Gorge are steep and the bays where the washes reach the river have steep sidewalls. These bays are choked with beds of reeds and dense brush. This makes getting from in land to the river water impassable for hikers. We explored several places that might let us get into Red Rock Wash. We found them all impassible for a backpacking group, either because of the difficult topography or the dense reeds and brush.


A huge sand dune reaches the river edge on the Arizona side. Across the river from Trampas Wash Lagoon is a beach landing with a trail that leading to a knoll that has a view of Picture Rock -- a massive rock wall with too many petroglyphs to count. Trampas Wash Lagoon is where we have obtained water on previous backpack trips. By going into the Lagoon we were able to find the beach where we had been.


We found our way around a sand bar. After an open stretch of water we found the opening in a reed-encircled lagoon where we beached the canoes and met our shuttle that took us back to our campsite. Some of us spent the night there, had French toast in the morning, and left early for home.