The Chute of Muddy Creek

Muddy Creek is located in the San Rafael Swell, some distance (15 miles) west of the San Rafael Reef. I took the northern access route coming down Reds Canyon, which is a dirt road running mostly down the middle of a dry streambed. This was a most fascinating little drive, ending up a Tomisch Butte, site of some significant (abandoned) Uranium mining activity. The mining remains include several fairly substantial mines, an old miners hut (partially underground for coolness) and a 4 holer (no longer on the pit). The trip described was in June, 2000.

Entering the first narrows A narrow section

Headed down canyon, about 8-9 AM. The first part was fairly open with a fair amount of growth and lots of deerflies. Thank goodness I opted for long pants, socks in my Tevas, a long sleeve shirt, leather gloves (for scrambling on sandstone), and my bandana hanging out from under my hat as a neck guard, on a 90F day! Those little beasties are ferocious! Fortunately, once the canyon narrowed and the vegetation died out (about a mile downstream), the deerflies lost interest. Muddy Creek is well named, mud of all consistencies, from semi solid that slowly gives way, to thick sucking goop, to thin watery stuff you just sink through to bedrock. Hard going, but spectacular - one of the better canyons Iíve been in. One place, I had a choice of water that dropped off very rapidly to unknown depth, but at least over my waist, or some really nasty looking mud. I plopped a couple of big stones on the thicker mud to stand on, and then tossed a big monster into the watery mud - it vanished out of sight but I heard a solid rock on rock thunk as it hit bedrock, so I tossed a few more in and waded through the mess.

A watery narrows Deep water narrows

Later on, in one long wall-to-wall water stretch, the deepest I ever got was waist deep, kind of cool in the deep narrow canyon, but quite pleasant on a hot day - except for the muddy bottom. At one point I was waist deep in water, but up to my lower calf in fairly thick mud threatening to pull my Teva off (boy were those the right choice! Sneakers would have come off in the thick mud, never to be seen again. The thin mud was deep enough, with enough small gravel that I would have been continually taking sneakers off to empty gravel out). Made it all the way through the narrows and then headed back. Ate lunch (2 granola bars and a bag of beef jerky) while walking. The first time I sat down all day was 5 PM, for 5 minutes for an orange, shortly before tackling the deerflies on the way back out. Boy were they in a frenzy by late afternoon. Made it back to the car by 6:15 PM. Not a technically challenging hike, but physically and mentally tiring. Looking forward to fixing a nice meal to finish a great day of hiking, I discovered that my new WhisperLite didn't work, for the second trip in a row! See the related article describing why I hate WhisperLites.

Pictures below show the final section of good narrows, which ends just after a log jam some 20' up the canyon wall. The log jam has been there since at least 1986, indicating that really deep flash floods are not an annual occurrence here (but they need not be that deep to be lethal).

Final narrows Hanging log jam