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Page Type: Canyon

Location: Utah, United States, North America

Lat/Lon: 37.16015°N / 111.71203°W

Object Title: Wahweap

Activities: Hiking


Page By: GeoPooch Sobachka

Created/Edited: Nov 18, 2007 / Nov 21, 2007

Object ID: 358001

Hits: 9680 

Page Score: 92.04%  - 37 Votes 

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Tower of Silence and its headless mate
Tower of Silence, the most famous landmark of Wahweap

Wahweap Creek is a major tributary of Lake Powell, flowing all the way from Canaan Mountain into Wahweap Bay of the reservoir. The word Wahweap means alkaline seeps in Piute; early settlers also called it Sentinel Rock Creek.

Of interest to the hikers is a 5-mile section of the creek usptream of Nipple Creek Canyon, which is the home of the world-famous white hoodoos / towers / toadstools. They are remnants of erosion of Entrada sandstone, capped and protected from the elements by brown stone of Dakota formation.
Central Cove
Brown Dakota formation caps the pillars of white Entrada sandstone
The toothy smile of the hoodoo
The softer the sandstone, the more intricate are the shapes

The white sandstone layer becomes more and more prone to erosion with every hundred yards upstream. Therefore, the most robust towers abound near the South end of the hoodoo area, and the most slender, ethereal ones to the North.

The hoodoos are accessed by hiking in the meandering creek bed. There may be more or fewer spots of flowing water, depending on the season, with salt crystals gracing the ground in between, and with abundant sticky mud in places - please watch your steps!

Prickly pear with hoodoo backdrop

Hike to Wahweap Hoodoos

Camelback Hoodoo
Camelback Hoodoo of Riverside Cove
Overview of the Riverside Cove
Riverside Cove, the first group of Wahweap towers

Walk the creekbed North (upstream) past the mouth of Nipple Creek. Pass BLM vehicle fence in quarter mile. Approximately two miles into the hike, there is a confluence with White Sands Wash coming from the West. Depending on the recent floods history, this wash may look like the main drainage, even though its valley is more narrow. Do not be fooled! If in doubt, locate a prominent rocky escarpment on the East side of Wahweap Creek in a half-mile ahead. It has unmistakeable brown Dakota stone cap, and it is starting to break into tentative hoodoos. This brown-capped cliffside marks the way.

About three miles into the hike a traveller with keen eyes may spot the first real hoodoos on the West side of the Wash. Do not be tempted to shorcut there, trampling the fragile desert vegetation. The next bend of Wawheap Creek will bring you right to the base of these formations of Riverside Cove. While exploring it, please stay on the main footpath and avoid disturbing the cryptobiotic soil downslope from the hoodoos.
View of Wahweep Valley from the entrance to the Central Cove
View across Wahweap Valley from the entrance to the Central Cove
Flows near Tower of Silence
Flows of the North Cove

The remaining two hoodoo coves are not abutting the creekbed. These formations group around two minor right tributaries of Wahweap Creek. To reach them, follow the footpath in the tamarisks right next to the cliff base.

The Central Cove contains numerous hoodoos and flows on its South bank, and one big toadstool on its North side. There is abundant perennial vegetation in the wash and almost no cryptobiotic soil to worry about, but the white sandstone is getting softer and hikers should avoid trampling on it.

The North Cove is in another quarter of a mile around the corner of sandstone cliff. The formations there are the most-photographed, and also the most fragile. Luckily the nearly 5 mile one-way distance of a hike keeps the crowds away!
North Cove of Wahweap
North Cove

Getting There

Navajo Mtn and Wahweap Bend of Lake Powell
On the way from Kanab, Hwy 89 parallels Wahweap Creek for a dozen miles. Wahweap Marina area of Lake Powell shimmers below.

The official BLM TH is located at the confluence of Nipple Creek with Wahweap Creek, about 3 miles North from the town of Big Water, UT.

From US 89 between Kanab and Page, turn North to Ethan Allen Drive at about milepost 7.3, across the road from the Visitor Center. Keep left in the end of town, and left again to bypass Wahweap Fish Hatchery Ponds. The road crosses Wahweap Creek half mile short of the TH sign; if the ford conditions are not appropriate for your vehicle, you can as well park before the ford and walk up the creekbed.

There is no trailhead parking, just sagebrush and sand. If you miss the sign and keep going, the road will drop into the creekbed of Nipple Creek in another quarter mile. In dry conditions it is also possible to park in the creekbed there.
Grosvenor Arch
Grosvenor Arch, 30 miles off Hwy 89, is a must-see attraction near Cottonwood Canyon Road
Cottonwood Canyon Road
Cottonwood Canyon Road is an unadorned display of the amazing geology of Colorado Plateau

The alternative trailhead used to be available upcanyon from the Hoodoos, in approximately 10 miles down BLM road 431 (which is a right (NE) fork off Cottonwood Canyon Road in just over a mile from US 89). But people used to take their vehicles into the creek from there, which is illegal, and BLM is taking steps to prevent any access from that direction.

In dry season, it is also possible to get to the general area of Big Water from scenic Hwy 12 from Cannonville, UT, by following the unpaved section of Cottonwood Canyon Road for nearly 40 miles past Kodachrome Basin State Park. This beautiful road is well graded but its clay soils turn into a jeep trap after rains. An often-told story mentions a fellow who walked out from his stuck vehicle in his socks, after his shoes got stuck in the muck too.

Red Tape

Riverside Cove
The tallest towers of Wahweap

Off-road travel is strictly prohibited

External Links

Directions and GPS waypoints along with other good info, from Tanya's site


Wahweap Hoodoos - GSENMRiverside CoveCentral CoveFlows near Tower of SilenceTower of Silence and its headless mateWahweap Hoodoos - GSENMNorth Cove of Wahweap
The toothy smile of the hoodooWahweap HoodoosOverview of the Riverside CoveCamelback HoodooTower of SilenceAnother view of CandylandThe tallest hoodoo of Riverside Cove
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