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 Peak(s):  Fish Canyon - 5,400 feet
Owl Canyon - 5,400 feet
 Post Date:  12/03/2009
 Date Climbed:   11/18/2009
 Posted By:  Furthermore

 Introduction to Cedar Mesa with Fish n‘ Owl Canyons   

Owl Canyon
Fish Canyon
November 18-19, 2009
~15.5 Miles

I was originally planning on climbing some 13eeners with my batch of 4 days off but I my friend in Durango insisted on a desert trip. I am learning that the desert is like a bad rash; the more I itch it, the worse it gets. I got off work early on 17th and was able to catch an early flight to Cortez where Tony picked me up. We made the short drive from Cortez to Cedar Mesa in about 2 hours with a short side trip hike to the Wolfman Panel.

The Wolfman Panel.
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The Wolfman Panel.
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We ended up camping at the trailhead for Owl and Fish Canyons and we woke up early, packed and started our hike down Owl Canyon. Almost immediately after entering the canyon we were greeted with some ruins, for which Cedar Mesa is known. We looked at the ruins and continued our hike down canyon. The temperature was pleasant as we worked our way down Owl Canyon.

Desert sunrise.
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Entrance into Owl Canyon.
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First set of ruins in Owl Canyon.
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Pictograph in Owl Canyon.
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After a few miles we encountered our first big dryfall which we were able to bypass on the left side of the canyon and shortly thereafter were greeted with more ruins. We continued towards Nellis Arch and before arriving at the arch I noticed some good looking ruins high in a rock cliff. I decided to check them out while Tony waited for me.

Ruins in Owl Canyon after first major dryfall.
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Ruins in Owl Canyon after first major dryfall.
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Typical Owl Canyon view.
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The climb to these ruins was tricky as it was a long exposed slickrock scramble to reach them. It was worth the climb as the ruins were in excellent shape. There were corn cobs, pottery shards and unique pictographs. I worked my way back down to Tony and we continued to Nellis Arch.

Ruins high in cliff.
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Neat Pictograph.
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Unique "undamaged" ruins in Owl Canyon.
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Pottery pieces.
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Nellis Arch was impressive and was conveniently placed next to some unique rock towers which made for a great view. After Nellis Arch, the canyon widens up and becomes a bit of a slog to the junction of Fish Canyon.

Nellis Arch.
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Nellis Arch.
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Nellis Arch.
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Owl Canyon.
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Our original plan was to camp below the arch in Fish Canyon but we somehow missed the arch. I was certainly looking for it. We ended up hiking 80% up Fish Canyon and we debated if we should just finish the hike in a day or camp. Our decision was to camp and we found a nice large slickrock boulder to camp on.

Crazy rock in Fish Canyon.
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Fish Canyon.
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Typical view in Fish Canyon.
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Since we were almost done with Fish Canyon, we slept in and made the short hike back to the car. The trail out of Fish Canyon was steep but very easy to follow. At the top of the canyon, there was a 15 foot class 3 scramble to get out of the canyon. Once out of the canyon, it was ~1.5 miles of good trail on top of the mesa. We made it back to the car early so we ended up doing some various trail runs between Cedar Mesa and Cortez. I was originally planning on catching a 4:00 PM flight out Cortez back to Denver but good O' Lakes Air's reliability got the best of me, and I ended up catching a 6:40PM flight out Durango to get home.

Climb out of Fish Canyon.
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Short section of class 3 to exit Fish Canyon.
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Sand Island Petroglyph panel.
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The trip could have been done in a day easily but I am glad we did it in two. We didn't feel rushed and it gave us time to check out several ruin sites. After I made it home, I noticed we missed at least 3 other ruin sites and of course that stupid arch in Fish Canyon.



Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
 


  • Comments or Questions (1)
skiwall


Awesome pics!     2009-12-04 16:13:37
I did this trip October before last, but I went to Fish first and then up Owl. It‘s a beautiful hike. I missed a lot of the ruins in Owl, apparently. Guess I have to go back.



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