Skutumpah to Willis Creek Canyon
It was really more by accident that we came across the Willis Creek Trail. On Pioneer Day morning we were looking for dog-friendly day hikes close to Hurricane, something that would get us out of the hottest day of the year so far, with water for Ginger and Maryann. In her search, Mindy found a hiking trail, Willis Creek, near Kolob Reservoir. When she went back to search Willis Creek, a different spot came up, this one with the promise of slot canyons.
And a bit of pioneer history, it turns out, since Mormon Pioneer, Utah Scapegoat, Colorado Plateau resident, Federal fugitive and Indian Farmer John D. Lee was one who coined the name "Skutumpah," borrowing a Paiute term meaning "an area where rabbit brush grows and squirrels can be found," arguably, Skutumpah is much less of a mouthful.
In 1866 a group of Mormon pioneers were sent to Green River from St. George to help efforts in the Blackhawk War. They traveled through Johnson Canyon to Cannonville where a few members of the party fell ill and tried to return to Dixie but were attacked by Paiutes along the way, killing Elijah Averett who is buried in a canyon that now bears his name just south of Henrieville. Oh, the stories of the Grand Staircase.
We hydrated our day packs and got the dogs in the truck and left Hurricane and the heat behind.
The wooden bridge has since been replaced by large boulders and dirt wedged into the gap, though you wouldn't notice it if you didn't know otherwise. I'm unconvinced that is any more reassuring.
A little under two miles north from the gorge is the trailhead to Willis Springs.
A short jaunt slightly rises and then descends into the canyon where the creek flows with an abundance of light sediment.
Willis Creek descends into a second slot along the trail creating a beautiful little geological feature along the way.
Above is the gnarled erosion at the top of the second slot. The dogs in the image above this one flank this spot.
And below is this little waterfall.
After the hike we headed back down Skutumpah the way we came instead of driving on to Cannonville. We'll be back to drive the entire stretch when we travel to Escalante and Hell's Backbone in August.
We stopped for Cobb salads and pie at the Thunderbird Lodge at Mt. Carmel Junction and then back through Zion as a little squall stirred things up a bit and made for a magenta-infused soft light that blanketed all that is wonderful about Zion Canyon.
Much of the historical and logistical information for this post is from the book, Utah Trails: Southwest Region, by Peter Massey, Jeanne Wilson and Angela Titus, a must read and glove box companion for any adventurer in this area. This was a thoughtful Father's Day gift from my kids.