Rock Garden

Basalt Canyon — This is a critical access to connect with Lava Canyon. The west arm is blocked, but the east arm is accessible; there are two minor obstacles in the narrows above the fork, and a salt-spring just above the narrows. The bed of this east fork has been diverted into a gooseneck by a ridge of debris thrown up by the normally-dry but more active west fork. The west arm is well worth a dayhike to the base of Basalt Falls and back — two bypasses (both westside) going up and some minor climbs in the bed. Be aware of crumbly and unstable slope conditions throughout this area.

Basalt delta is both prehistoric and historic — potsherds in the dunes and a mining-era tent-camp with a rusting iron stove above the riverbank at the downriver extreme. The earliest historic record of this place includes the C.D. Walcott geologic survey of 1883. Many place-names and geologic terms are associated with the survey, but the exact route of travel from Saddle Mountain to the head of Granite Gorge and back remains mostly unknown.

Ferry crossing to Tanner Delta or Cardenas Creek. The shoreline just upriver is a good landing for catching a ferry across to the other side. A small eddy and shallow sandy beach provide quiet water and good visibility upriver. I have used this landing twice, crossing myself just once. See North Rim Passage and Quest for Barbwire.

Routes — There are several possibilities. The most direct, but extremely rough, is the Butte Fault route up the east fork to above the narrows; east up the slope to the ridge; north below the Tapeats to the faultline; up the seam of the fault to the Tapeats ridge; down the other side into Lava Creek where the fault crosses.

A much longer route continues up the east arm crossing over into the west and over the ridge at the upper end, then descending to Lava Creek further up the canyon. In some places the walls of the bed are crumbly and unstable. Steep slopes with big chunky unstable ragged boulders make route selection and travel problematic and slow. The upper section of the east fork is a difficult area with a very heavy growth of catclaw and mesquite around an overgrown spring as the bed pitches up to the low ridge dividing the arms. The top of this divide is a barren slope with a variety of stranded geologic fragments — the remains of all the hard bits once nearly all of the surrounding Galeros material has been carried away. The upper section of the long east fork is comparatively easy travel.

The route downriver goes up the slope above the dunes and traverses Furnace Flats toward Unkar Delta. The trace of an Anasazi track can be followed and connects with other dwelling areas; it is not a game-trail or modern path.

1998 May - Camp 6 of Bright Angel to Saddle Mountain at the fork. Bed swept clean by floods this season. Butte Fault route to Lava Canyon the next day. Upper slopes below the Tapeats cliffs very difficult. A climbing route was found to the top of the Tapeats in the ravine toward the south end of the eastern-facing cliffs.

2007 September - Cross from Lava Creek Still Spring to the head of the Lava/Basalt divide (Anasazi track) and descend west arm to crossover and then descend east arm to the river (muddy). Dayhike east arm to Basalt Falls barrier pourover. Amazing lava tower in the middle of a circle-bend.


Catalog of Places - Trips - Routes - Notes