Hayduke Trail Day 15: No Sweetwater in Sweetwater Canyon

Daily Neat Beat
Day 15
Total Miles: 23.3
Cumulative Miles: 252
Map of Day 15 hiking from Poison Canyon Springs on Highway 95 south of Hanksville, over the Henry Mountains and down into Sweetwater Canyon

I’ve been waking up at 3 am to write my blog. We have been getting to bed before 9am so usually I have had enough sleep. Today I am groggy and tired as I lay curled up in my sleeping bag with my phone. I wonder if you want to sleep more when you are dehydrated?  Though I’ve never seen any research or data to support this, it makes sense that your body would slow down to conserve itself if you are getting limited water intake.

We are low on water. Yesterday we hiked over the Henry Mountains and hit dry after dry water sources on the west side.
Starting our hike on the east side of the Henry Mountains. We will hike over them today.

The Henry Mountains are pretty remote. They were the last mountain range to be added to a map of the lower 48 states in 1872 and are known by the Navajos as the “mountain whose name is missing”. We started up from desert at around a 4,000 foot elevation and climbed up to an alpine ecosystem at 9,600 feet and down the other side of the mountain range to 6,500 feet.  23.3 miles and over a mile in vertical elevation, mainly to get to water.

We started Day 15 at around 4,000 feet elevation in desert canyons like this one

It was quite beautiful in a way; going up through all the ecological zones. We started hiking around 7am and by noon reached pine trees and Crescent Creek which is supposedly a dependable water source.

View of Mount Ellen, the highest peak in the Henry Mountains at an elevation of 11,527 feet

Crescent Creek in the Henry Mountains on the east side was our last water source for several days

It was clear and cold but was a trickle. We filled an extra 1 1/2 liters here which put us both at 3 1/2 liters each. We could have filled up all our seven liters each, had we known, but we had information on water sources along the way that turned out to be dry. Crescent Creek was the last water we saw all day and we hiked 23.3 miles today.

Ray and I in the Henry Mountains

We planned to camp at Sweetwater Canyon on the west side of the Henry Mountains and by most accounts was dependable. We also thought that because it is still early spring, some sources that don’t have water later still have water in early spring.

Sweetwater Canyon is dry.

But not this year and not this climate.  The Colorado Plateau is in a extreme drought and the Colorado River Basin is expected to have one of its driest spring runoff seasons on record. These conditions are scary. Well we are camped at Sweetwater Canyon and there is no Sweetwater here. 

Our dry camp on the west side of the Henry Mountains near Sweetwater Canyon

Ray and I discuss our options. There are three cow tanks and several springs we will pass by tomorrow. Our worst case is we hike 24 miles to our food (and water) cache at the Burr Trail. This will be really tough with how hot it has gotten and the distance which we would have to go on one liter after being dehydrated the day before. Wish us well. I am going back to sleep to dream about water….



  1. I’m reminded of the Western song about”cool, clear water.” Now I understand its popularity during an earlier, pre-pipeline period! Perchance a prepodurance of pedestrian ponds present, please?!

    1. Yes, I have come to appreciate water like a meal at a five star restaurant! The trained hydrogeologist in me is a little appalled by what I have drank, though….

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