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Grand Tour of Buckwater Draws
Route

Grand Tour of Buckwater Draws

 
Grand Tour of Buckwater Draws

Page Type: Route

Location: Colorado, United States, North America

Lat/Lon: 40.30000°N / 108.98°W

Object Title: Grand Tour of Buckwater Draws

Route Type: Canyoneering

Time Required: A long day

Difficulty: Up to 5.7

Route Quality: 
 - 2 Votes
 

 

Page By: Scott

Created/Edited: Jun 28, 2004 / Jun 26, 2007

Object ID: 161350

Hits: 3020 

Page Score: 73.06%  - 3 Votes 

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Approach

Main Fork (Upper) Trailhead:

To get to the trailhead drive to the park headquarters of Dinosaur N.M., which is a few miles east of the town of Dinosaur, CO (Dinosaur is located on Highway 40 just east of the Utah border). Drive north on the Harpers Corner Road for 6.9 miles and park on a little side track on the left. This canyon is in a WSA and the BLM request that you park just inside the gate.

South Fork (Lower) Trailhead:

First, you must drive to the town of Dinosaur, which is located on Highway 40 just east of the UT-CO border. From Dinosaur, drive east a short distance to the Visitor Center for Dinosaur National Monument. From the visitor center, drive north on the Harpers Corner Road to the Plug Hat Picnic Area, which is located 4.2 miles from the visitor center.

 
Map showing the South Fork...
 
 
Buckwater Draw map showing...
 

Route Description-Option #1

From the Main Fork/Upper Trailhead, walk down the old road until you see that the drainage to the south is starting to deepen. Don't drop in too early (See map). Walk into the drainage and make your way through tedious boulders and vegetation (but no bad bushwhacking) until you reach the beginning of the slot.

The first drop can be bypassed via an exposed ledge on the left (looking down canyon), but on my last visit the ledge was covered with sand and treacherous. If the ledge is covered with sand, you should do this drop as a rappel. Unless things have changed, you may want to replace the sling here.

There are a few downclimbs up to 5.6 in difficulty (you can rap them if you don't want to downclimb) and the slot gets better and better as you continue down canyon. The canyon is incredibly twisty and there are fantastic erosion features. You may get your feet wet in some pools. The highest rappel is 95 feet and is in the best section of the canyon. This is the Magic Chamber section and there are chockstones and logs wedged almost 100 feet above the canyon floor in the slot. The chamber is just incredible and spectacular.

From the junction of the two forks just below the chamber, walk down canyon passing an interesting boulder obstacle. Continue down canyon.

At the first convenient route, climb out of the canyon on the south side and head cross country to the head of the slot in the South Fork. A prominent rock tower makes a good landmark. Descend the South Fork to the confluence and just below the Magic Chamber. After enjoying the Magic Chamber, head down canyon. At the first convenient route, climb out of the canyon on the south side. Head up to the rim (very steep!) and then head cross country up to the point near the 6800-foot contour. From there, follow the rim of Bull Canyon to the Plug Hat Picnic Area.

This route is great if you have a car shuttle and makes an interesting loop-tee-loop route.

Inside the Magic Chamber....
Inside the Magic Chamber.

Route Description-Option #2 (recommended)

This route requires no car shuttle. From the Plug Hat Rock Trailhead, follow the rim of Bull Canyon (while enjoying the incredible views) and circle around to the ridge between Lower Buckwater and Bull Canyon, and out to the point near the 6800 foot contour. Once near the end of the point, scramble down to the canyon bottom. This route described is the easiest way in; the canyon above this point is uninteresting and choked with brush.

Continue down canyon. The canyon slots up shortly and there are many cool downclimbs. There is one tricky but short rap off an overhanging chockstone. The canyon gets better and better as you head down canyon, and is a real gem of a slot. You will reach the last rap near the confluence with the main fork of Buckwater. The rap is 20-30 feet, and this is the highest rap in the canyon, so it can be done with a 60 foot rope.

Once the main fork is reached, continue down the Main Fork Buckwater with one interesting boulder obstacle along the way. When the canyon opens up and becomes very shallow, climb north and back on to the old jeep road. Follow the jeep road up-canyon to the entrance route into the Main Fork as shown HERE where the map says “leave old road”. Walk into the drainage (upper Main Fork) and make your way through tedious boulders and vegetation (but no bad bushwhacking) until you reach the beginning of the slot.

The first drop can be bypassed via an exposed ledge on the left (looking down canyon), but on my last visit the ledge was covered with sand and treacherous. If the ledge is covered with sand, you should do this drop as a rappel. Unless things have changed, you may want to replace the sling here.

There are a few downclimbs up to 5.6 in difficulty (you can rap them if you don't want to downclimb) and the slot gets better and better as you continue down canyon. The canyon is incredibly twisty and there are fantastic erosion features. You may get your feet wet in some pools. The highest rappel is 95 feet and is in the best section of the canyon. This is the Magic Chamber section and there are chockstones and logs wedged almost 100 feet above the canyon floor in the slot. The chamber is just incredible and spectacular.

From the junction of the two forks just below the chamber, walk down canyon again passing the interesting boulder obstacle. Continue down canyon.

At the first convenient route, climb out of the canyon on the south side. Head up to the rim (very steep!) and then head cross country up to the point near the 6800-foot contour. From there, follow the rim of Bull Canyon to the Plug Hat Picnic Area. This is the most rewarding way to do the canyons, and visits both forks in one shot without a car shuttle.

1st downclimb. Mike Kelsey...
1st downclimb in the South Fork.

Route Description-Option #3 (Skilled Rock Climbers Option)

If you are a skilled rock climber, one option is to go down the Main Fork Buckwater and climb out the South Fork. Or even vice versa. Bring a full rock rack.

Mike Kelsey downclimbing a...
Downclimbing in the South Fork.

Essential Gear

Several slings (bring 100 feet minimum), 10-12 rapid links or rappel rings, one 60 meter rope, one 20 meter rope, and a climbing harness. There may be short wades in the slot, but probably never any swimming, so go prepared for that. A helmet is definitely recommended.



Images

Canyon narrows. Mike Kelsey...