"The Narrows" At Zion National Park Back Open To Visitors

Ten of 12 backcountry campsites in the Narrows section of Zion National Park have been reopened following a long, wet spring runoff season. Photo by QT Luong, www.terragalleria.com/parks , used with permission.

"The Narrows," that long, sinuous canyon the Virgin River long ago carved through the landscape now known as Zion National Park, is back open to visitor use after a long, wet spring.

Due to high water from an above-average snowpack this past winter and a prolonged snowmelt, The Narrows has been closed for a longer than normal period this summer, park officials noted the other day in a news release. However, water levels have now dropped to a level -- below 120 cubic feet per second -- that is considered safe for visitors to navigate The Narrows.

Park rangers have been able to evaluate campsites in the The Narrows and determined that two of the 12 sites were affected by the high water flows this past winter and will remain closed. The other ten campsites are now open. Alternate locations for the two affected campsites (numbers one and ten) will be evaluated over the course of the summer.

In late December, heavy rains caused extensive flooding on the North Fork of the Virgin River, including The Narrows. The flow rate for the river was measured at 6,000 cubic feet per second, the highest recorded rate since the campsites were created.

Twelve designated backcountry campsites were created in The Narrows in the early 1990s in an effort to concentrate visitor impacts at specific locations and create a more enjoyable trip for visitors.

While The Narrows are now open to hiking, water levels remain high for this time of year, park officials say. At current levels, children, small adults, and people with pre-existing knee and ankle issues will have difficulty navigating the canyon, especially completing overnight trips, they add.

A through hike in one day will be challenging for anyone. In addition, monsoonal weather patterns have been occurring throughout the area, causing afternoon thunderstorms which can make the trip prohibitively dangerous. Current weather as well as current river flow rates can be found at: http://www.nps.gov/zion/planyourvisit/weather-and-climate.htm