Seasons of the Little Colorado River Gorge & Tributaries

During ideal times, the Little Colorado Gorge can be an absolute, magnificent paradise. Although it’s difficult (if not impossible) to predict them very long in advance, most days of the year fall into this category.

Dry Gorge Conditions


An otherworldly turquoise river runs perennially through the lower 20 miles of the gorge during extended periods of dry weather. The river is fed by a constant stream of groundwater, and flows briskly even during the hottest days of summer.

The Gorge Under Flow

When water pours in from the plateaus above, the Little Colorado loses its pristine blue waters. Significant flows course through the gorge a few times each year, carrying thick loads of silt and sediment. In high waters, many places in the gorge can become an absolute deathtrap.

Grand Falls, feeding directly into the Little Colorado gorge downstream

Every few decades, monumental floods tear through the narrow walls with enough violence to carve rock and alter the landscape. It is a staggeringly beautiful place, but also one that must be explored with considerable caution and planning.


A few time each millenia, massive storms inundate the vast plateau that drain into the Little Colorado gorge. Waters of biblical proportions surge down the gorge, even more voluminous than the Colorado itself. The river level can raise overnight by one hundred feet or more, inundating the narrow canyons in a ferociously powerful surge from wall-to-wall.

External Resources

Map of the Little ColoradoSimple and accurate overview of Little Colorado canyons, prominent trailheads and geographic featuresamericansouthwest.net
Little Colorado Gorge OverlooksRegional map, practical knowledge and wide assortment of digital maps of the area for downloadthewave.info
Little Colorado Scientific ProjectsExcellent information about the Little Colorado's twice-yearly "residents" and their research programsgcdamp.com
Humpback Chub InformationThe LCR is the largest remaining holdout for an endangered fish, the Humpback Chub.gcdamp.com
Harvey Butchart ArchiveHarvey Butchat's legendary canyon writings and exploration photographs (Northern Arizona University digital archive)nau.edu
Kayaying a Flooded LCRIncredible story of one of the earliest (1978) and craziest of rare kayak runs down the Little Coloradoryanlouiscooper.com
Basic River-Running InformationA few details about the logistics of running watercraft down the Little Colorado Riveramericanwhitewater.org
Save the ConfluencePowerful Navajo-lead coalition to oppose exploitative and greedy outside development in the Grand Canyon and Little Colorado gorgesavetheconfluence.com
Video: The ConfluenceThis short documentary explores how the physical landscapes of the Grand Canyon shape the cultural, emotional and spiritual landscapes of the Navajo people who inhabit itvimeo.com
How to Cross Rivers SafelyPractical tips and advice for crossing swift currents and streams - a vital skill for travel along the bottom of the gorgebackpacker.com
Beamer & Tanner TrailsThe two essential trails needed for shortest hiking route from the National Park to the confluencetrimbleoutdoors.com
2012 Trip Report - Hopi Salt TrailGood 2012 Salt Trail hiking description, photos and terrain mapbobbordasch.com
2018 Trip Report - Hopi Salt TrailBlog article and a few very good photos of March 2018 trip down Salt Canyonbackobeyond.blog
Walter Powell RouteFirsthand account of the difficult, dangerous route down to the confluencesierradescents.com
Salt Trail Canyon to LCR GorgeDetails of the Hopi Salt Trail hike and discussion, photos and GPS trip logshikearizona.com
Canyons Group Discussion2011 archive of excellent discussion and advice about Little Colorado gorge hiking and trip-planningcanyoncollective.com
Ecology & Mormon Settlement in NE ArizonaHistory of some of the earliest white settlements in the regiondrabruzzi.com
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