Friday, December 21, 2018

Arizona Hot Springs (aka Ringbolt Hot Springs) - 12/20/18

Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin'!

Oh, What a Beautiful Day!

I've got a beautiful feelin', everything's goin' my way!

Fascinating Clouds at White Rock Canyon Trailhead
 Arizona Hot Springs was also referred to as Ringbolt Hot Springs for many years. Now, the moniker that is reduced to AZHS in many circles is thus named because it is on the Arizona side of the Colorado River at the Hoover Dam; closer to Las Vegas than anywhere in Arizona! However, back in 1866, the first ringbolt was drilled into the wall of the Black Canyon near the hot springs just above the Colorado River. The river flowed hard and strong at this location and the series of rapids here gained the name of Ringbolt Rapids, one of two places where steamboats and barges had a difficult time navigating through.

Starting down White Rock Canyon
 (The other rapids were 12 miles south at Roaring Rapids.) The large boats needed help both sailing up river and down river between El Dorado and Callville so the ringbolt system was implemented.

The first steamboat to receive the assistance was the Esmerelda in 1866. The boat affixed a cable to the newly driven ringbolt and drew itself up through the rapids by means of its capstan, to complete its voyage to Callville.
Scramble Warm-Up

John does a little Plant Interpretation
When the Hoover Dam was built 3 miles upriver, the water subsided to a smooth flow allowing canoes, kayaks and fishing boats to navigate through easily. (Steamboats and barges are no longer allowed to make their appearance!)

Twelve hikers gathered at the White Rock Canyon Trailhead located at mile marker 4 on Highway 93 in Arizona. The sky's wispy cirrus-type clouds fascinated us with their unusual look. We started down the trail under the highway bridge through the gravel and entered White Rock Canyon.
Hiking into the Walls of White Rock Canyon
 White Rock Canyon is so-named for the white granite boulders strewn throughout the canyon among the high volcanic and volcanic ash walls.

Barb & Janet walking among White Granite Rocks
 These granite boulders have washed down all the way from the Wilson Mountain Range that is 7.5 miles from the Colorado River.

Jagged Peak above White Rock Canyon
 Once inside the high walls of the canyon, a few small scrambles appeared. Then the canyon began an increasingly wiggly route down to the river.

John ushers the End of the Line

Getting the Pebbles out of the Shoes
 John pointed out a few of the desert plants such as the Honeysuckle Mesquite (Catclaw), the Cheesebush, the Ground Cherry, Desert Tobacco, Rock Nettle (Velcro Plant) and the Brittlebush. This set the pace and down we went taking in the amazing scenery. The front group of six hikers talked and crunched their way through the gravel and stopped at the river. The remaining half of the group separated out at a slower pace taking photos and talking, too. It is almost 3 miles down to the river from the cars then we gathered at the shoreline where we emptied our boots of gravel that had hopped in.

John crosses over to a Ringbolt above the Calm Colorado River
 The river was the most beautiful that I have ever seen it! It was calm and the light was perfect for reflections. The first two photos were taken as we started the river trail to the left.

Photo of Murl Emory at the First Ringbolt. The Otis Marston Colorado River Collection, Huntington Digital Library; accessed June 22, 2015.
The next point of interest is Cliff Jump Rock where one of the ringbolts still resides. The rock is 25 feet above the river and the river is 80 feet deep at this particular location.

John stands at one of the Ringbolts
One day, John witnessed a large group from one of the major shows on the LV Strip doing crazy dives from this rock! Shh.

Non-Native Tamarisk along River Trail

River Trail Scramble
 The river trail continued around the wall, down through a lagoon then up the next hill. There is non-native tamarisk growing through this area. (Anyone is welcome any time to go in and tear out tamarisk plants ... roots and all.) The next hill lies between the lagoon and Hot Springs Canyon. There is one significant scramble (seen in the photo to the left) then you can follow the trail that ultimately drops steeply down into the hot springs flow to the river. We turned right at the stream and hiked down to take a restroom break at the pit toilets near the river. We also took this time to change our clothes and shoes to prepare for the hot springs.

Up and Over to the Hot Springs Canyon
 At the river, there was a group of campers that needed first aid assistance. Happy to oblige, we applied a bandaide. However, stitches may be in order after their trip.

Descent into Hot Springs Canyon at River
 Ready, we hiked back up the sand through the campsites and entered the slot canyon. Water was flowing strong through the slippery waterfalls leading up to THE LADDER!

Kayaks at River
 We only had one newbie in the group today and ladders were not new to him so, one by one, we conquered the twenty foot ladder and stepped onto the top level where the hot pools were located.

Heading into the Hot Springs Slot

 A few of our hikers joined in to the hot springs crowd and sat for a few minutes while the others hiked through and began their break at at the top in the sunshine. The pools were deep and hot. It was impossible to keep clothes dry on the way through unless you had exceptionally long legs! Even then, it was necessary to sit on the sandbags to transfer from pool to pool. Water flows over these bags. So, just be ready to be wet for the remaining hike or bring a new set of clothes. ... Or, just wait for clothes to dry while you are hiking. That's what we did. We took our break in the sun and waited for the hot pool sitters to join us. It wasn't long.

Easy Waterfall Climb in Slot
 Next, we started up Hot Springs Canyon that begins with a lot of trudging through loose sand and gravel. There are a couple of small scrambles in the 0.8 mile before you reach the Saddle Trail signed junction. We continued up Hot Springs Canyon wash.

Arriving at the Bottom of the Ladder
 Another couple of slightly larger scrambles come before the canyon opens out again. But, by now, there is a use trail that runs alongside the wash. Better for footing.

View down the Ladder from Top
 The wash is wide when it junctions with a canyon wash entering from the right at a fork. Take the left fork and soon, you will be passing through the petroglyph area.

The Pools are Deep this Year (Thanks John Blackwell for building the pools!)

Taking Break on top side of Pools
 After the markings, there are 3 or 4 serious scrambles up dry falls that are Class 3. The first two are short but slippery with not much in the way of hand and foot holds. The third Class 3 dry fall requires a large first step then you can work your way up steeply over the slippery stone. And, finally, there is the Big Kahuna dry fall! You have two choices for this one but, I highly recommend the first choice! Starting with the second choice, the vertical dry fall is found in a small alcove. Climbable, sort of. But, retrace your steps about 10 yards and look on the left (as you ascend) side of the canyon. Find the pile of rocks at the base. This climb, albeit long, is actually quite fun since it has plenty of hand and foot holds on its 40 foot journey. If the first step isn't reachable, add some rocks!

Hiking up Hot Springs Canyon
 One by one, each hiker conquered the steep climb without any mishaps. There isn't room for mistakes or hijinks.

Cutting a Curve in the Wash
 At the top of the climb, the trail circles around the cliff to the right. Then John made sure that we took the safer descent off of the ledge that is found at the farthest point of the little trail.

First Scrambles then Passing the Saddle Trail Junction

Petroglyphs above Big Wash Junction
 When the whole group had dropped back into the slot, we followed the wash out. Trail signs soon appeared and we followed a trail over the upper wash until we joined the saddle trail on the other side of the saddle. From here, we dropped into the wide gravelly White Rock Canyon wash just below the highway bridge and climbed back to the cars. All of us got back safe and sound. Great hike, great day, great group!

6.5 miles; 1100 feet elevation gain; 4.25 hours

Serious Scrambling

Are we going or coming?

Crossing over to the Top of White Rock Canyon

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