Day 4 – Buck Farm Canyon

Day 3 ———————————— River Journal ———————————— Day 5

Day 4 – Nautiloid (35) to Main Nankoweap (53.4)
River Miles: 18.4
Hiking Miles: 1
March 21, 2013


Bo Beck fires up the scrambled eggs before dawn.
photo by Chris Atwood

“Coffee! Come and get your coffee!”
(metallic echo of a steel utensil repeatedly struck upon a frying pan)

So begins the fourth day on the River.

After inhaling some of the eggs with sausage patties, bread, and oatmeal, Jackie and I found ourselves with a few moments to spare to explore up Nautiloid Canyon with the McCumbers and Chris Atwood. The canyon is named for its clear display of nautiloid fossils that date up to about 400 million years ago.


team McCumber

We went significantly upstream without finding anything more interesting than a bunch of scenic rock when Chris Forsyth showed up to reveal the location of the nautiloids. We’d stepped right over them without noticing them.


We poured some water over one or two of the fossils to help their outlines show more distinctly, as recommended in Tom Martin’s map & guide. Soon we discovered about a dozen of them riddled across the canyon floor. These were pretty neat, resembling something I was only familiar with as a result of killing them in video games.


Chris Atwood at the mouth of Nautiloid


Chris Forsyth descends the canyon.


our camp at Nautiloid, as viewed from above

Dave Nally stood on the quiet beach and recited a lovely poem, setting the mood and scene before we put in the water for another day down the River.


We passed the landmark Bridge of Sighs after only about a mile.

The light was especially brilliant and beautiful this morning as it reflected off the Redwall. The scene was enhanced by the sound of the peaceful oars hitting the water, punctuated by the occasional Canyon Wren.

This morning I truly began to feel settled and at home on the water.

We have cut through the sandstones and limestones met in the upper part of the canyon, and through one great bed of marble a thousand feet in thickness. In this, great numbers of caves are hollowed out, and carvings are seen which suggest architectural forms, though on a scale so grand that architectural terms belittle them. As this great bed forms a distinctive feature of the canyon, we call it Marble Canyon.

Exploration of the Colorado River and Its Canyons – JWP


Doug pointed this out as the proposed site for a dam in Marble Canyon, with some exploratory drilling seen here to test the integrity of the rock.

We pulled in to Buck Farm Canyon for a short hike. This is yet another place that’s difficult to access unless you come in from the River. As usual, more information on technical canyoneering in Nautiloid and Buck Farm is detailed in Todd Martin’s Grand Canyoneering.

We had a pleasant walk up the canyon, as I hung back a little from the group.


Chris Atwood longingly gazes up Buck Farm Canyon.


The group stopped at this point where we couldn’t explore farther without more time and preparation.


Shannon McCumber in red in the lower-left of this image.

Doug picks his way back down Buck Farm

Immediately after the hike we enjoyed a lunch of cold cut sandwiches before embarking on a long afternoon on the water. From this point there was a lot smooth water separating us from Nankoweap, our target camp(With the exception of President Harding Rapid, a “4”). We had planned a layover day tomorrow at this outrageously beautiful camp, prompting the decision to make a beeline to secure an optimum spot and relatively early arrival.


Soon after lunch we passed the Anasazi Bridge, seen here in the distant center of the image as an ancient makeshift bridge of wood and logs. Even though Doug had some practical information on it, it’s difficult to fathom how the ancient Indians could have pieced together a viable route through this part of the Canyon.

We ran the President Harding Rapid shortly after passing the bridge. Here’s a link to Chris Forsyth’s video of it, shot with his GoPro. Super genius that he is, Chris rigged a functioning tripod for his camera in the back of the raft with hiking poles and cam-locks.

Then almost immediately after the rapid, Doug pointed out the bottom of the Eminence Break route on river-left. I haven’t done this relatively popular hiking route into Marble Canyon (yet), so it was interesting to see this area where it reaches the River.


There was a lot of flat water (And a little wind) for the rest of the way to Nankoweap, so I got a lot of time on the oars. photo by Doug Nering


Jackie got to do some rowing too.


as well as Shannon

Nankoweap is such a great spot! We were lucky to have the area all to ourselves for the night. While most of the group got settled in to stay put for the full layover day tomorrow, Jackie and I pulled out our overnight backpacks and prepared for our adventure that would take place over the next two days. Tomorrow morning Doug Nering was slated to lead us on a two-day hike over the butte fault route and back down Kwagunt Creek to the River. A total of six of us were in on the hike, including the McCumbers and Chris Atwood.

Most of the others planned on hiking up to the granaries and relaxing on the beach, while Chris Forsyth was looking at a solo jaunt up the Redwall break in Little Nankoweap. On the morning of the day after tomorrow, Day 6, the remaining group would float downriver and pick up our backpacking group at Kwagunt.

Jackie and I got most of our packing and organization done before dinner. Tonight’s cook team consisted of Josh, Amy, and Chris Atwood.


photo by Chris Atwood


photo by Chris Atwood

Josh established himself as the grill master, serving up a mean pile of Ribeye steaks and baked potatoes. Not only that, but he went on to dazzle us with his skills with the Dutch oven, baking up an apple cobbler that was clearly the best dessert of the trip to date.

There was some fleeting talk of a moonlight hike up to the granaries, but after such a satiating dinner we all just wanted to retire to our tents. It didn’t rain today.

Can’t get enough of rafting the Grand Canyon?
Check out this excellent collection of Boatman Stories!

Day 3 ———————————— River Journal ———————————— Day 5

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