Sunday, August 14, 2016

Let the Rain Fall Over Grand Canyon - August 10, 2016

For many years, I scheduled river trips in the Grand Canyon that coincided with the Arizona summer monsoon, in the hope that we would be able to witness a deluge of rain that could cause torrents of water to fall over the Redwall Limestone cliffs. In my more than 80 to 85 river trips in Grand Canyon, I've seen it happen maybe only 3 times. That is until this last trip that ended on August 11.

On August 10, 2016, we had just hiked up to the Patio at Deer Creek. The water in the creek was clear and refreshing as usual and we all enjoyed the morning without any worry about rain. It was especially nice since the Colorado River had been muddy since River Mile 1 at Lees Ferry where the Paria River was still kicking in sediment after a round of heavy rains during the first days of the month in northern Arizona and southern Utah. The forecast for the week we were on the river called for gradual drying of the atmosphere. We got an updated forecast on our stop at Phantom Ranch and it showed a 30% chance of showers on August 10. I figured it would be another trip without rain because after all, a 30% chance of rain is also a 70% chance for no rain.

After the Deer Creek stop we ran Doris Rapid and got wet in the muddy water. It began to look dark up ahead but clear blue skies surrounded the dark cloud. Then we ran Fishtail Rapid and began to enter the upper end of The Icebox, a section of the river that is quite cold in the winter. The dark cloud looked even darker now but the blue sky that continued to be seen over the north side of the canyon didn't really seem to indicate what was on the way. Someplace about halfway between Fishtail Canyon and Kanab Creek, big drops of rain began to fall. They were widely spaced but huge drops. It picked up until we could barely see up ahead at all. My raincoat was deeply buried in my camp gear and it never really got cold. But then about the time we ran Kanab Creek Rapid, the skies let loose with heavy rain and hail. Yep, it was hailing with pea-size pellets of hail, which stung your body really sharply when they hit a knuckle bone or your toes. I looked up and began to wonder if this would be one of those rare events in Grand Canyon. We were not disappointed!

The first runoff.

The dark cloud.

Walker Mackay has been running down here since the 1990's and had never before seen a Redwall Runoff.

I'll be able to go back another time and see exactly where this is - our heads were buried during a lot of it and we ran Kanab Creek Rapids pretty much blind!

The dark cloud.

Hail pellets plop down into the river.




It's still just warming up.

North side wall.

The cloud of mist against the cliff on the left is coming off of an unnamed side stream that was rushing with brown water.

Here it is coming off of the south side cliff.

Running past this drainage.

A triple falls. in one amphitheater

Jen has been running down here since the 1990's as well and was totally enthralled with the show.

There were even some clear falls that did not originate up above the gorge (in the Supai rocks) and so they ran with clear water only falling through the Redwall.

Same, same...

A north side water fall.

On the south side, a very large runoff was coming down...

...and this is where it came into the river.

I was thinking that maybe the amount of water entering the river was so insignificant relative to the volume in the river, I doubt if the river was raised even one inch throughout it all??

Is that gradual clearing up ahead. The hard rain lasted for about 25 minutes.

Just above Olo Canyon.

Olo Canyon in flash flood. The flood took out the little bit of sand that was the riverside camp here.

The fall at the mouth of Olo.


Yep, it did clear up with sunshine downstream.

More clear waterfalls.

One last shot. An event like this is unforgettable if you experience it. Yet, in the American Southwest these types of storms are not uncommon this time of year. They just don't happen that often to river runners. Please be sure to see my earlier posts about floods that occurred in Grand Canyon in 2012, here.

I remember one particular August 11 around the early 1980's that was stupendous in this part of Grand Canyon. Seems like the second week of August is a good time to see these types of events here.