Virgin River Information
A 200-mile long tributary of the Colorado River, the Virgin River is one of the few undammed rivers in the western U.S. Its water level depends solely on the annual snowpack of the surrounding mountains. The Virgin River begins at Navajo Lake in Dixie National Forest, approximately 65 miles north of the park’s south entrance, and runs through Zion National Park and northwestern Arizona’s Virgin River Gorge before emptying into southern Nevada’s Lake Mead. The river is home to a rare fish, the Virgin spinedace, found nowhere else on earth. Residents of the river’s lower valleys use its water for agricultural irrigation.
Many would argue that the crowning achievement of the Virgin River and its tributaries was carving Zion National Park’s spectacular scenery, which includes towering rock monoliths and narrow canyons like the Zion Narrows, a 16-mile stretch of river where the canyon walls are only 15 feet apart in some places. The Narrows, a popular adventure for outdoor enthusiasts from around the nation, is one of the most scenic hikes on earth. It is not a “walk in the park,” however. It requires walking in the river, with its slippery boulders and swift currents, more than half the time. Trekking poles or hiking sticks are essential to traverse the river’s challenges safely.
Adventurers hiking the Narrows must check the weather before beginning their journey to make sure rain is not in the forecast. There is a serious risk of flash flooding in the canyon when it rains further upstream. The Narrows contains sparse high ground, meaning hikers caught in the canyon during flooding would have little chance of survival. The best times to hike the Narrows are in late June and early September, when there is little risk of thunderstorms.
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