Swimming the Black Hole

Black Hole
of White Canyon

Cedar Mesa
Technical Canyoneering

          The "Black Hole", the place that gravity goes to die and no light escapes from. I knew any place called the Black Hole had to be spectacular. The subterranean nature and long, dark, cold swims, through a maze of sculpted sandstone narrows is pure excitement.

General Information:
Click Here for Map          The Black Hole of White Canyon is a semi-technical canyoneering adventure. This route will require 5 to 6 hours to complete with a shuttle vehicle, add about 45 minutes without a shuttle. A 60-foot rope is useful for handlines, lowering packs and emergency use. Novice canyoneers or those with poor downclimbing skills will need to rappel a couple of short drops, all less than 15-feet high.

          The Black Hole contains several very long and cold swims. Wetsuits are suggested in all but extremely hot weather (100 degrees plus). Hypothermia is a serious possibility. If you get cold easy you will require a wetsuit in all weather conditions.

          The route is moderate to navigate since there is no trail. "Copper Point" is the USGS 7.5 minute topographical map that shows the Black Hole. This adventure is often crowded on Saturday's. The Black Hole is rated 2B III using the Canyon Rating System.

          In 2003, after several major storms, the Black Hole became clogged with two 70-foot high log jams that were extremely unstable. When the log jams were in place the skill required to descend the Black Hole safely increased considerably. In 2006, again after several major storms, the log jams washed out of the Black Hole and the route returned it to a more manageable condition. Be warned, the log jams could return at any time.

          Flash Floods are a serious consideration when hiking the Black Hole. If any water is flowing in White Canyon turn around immediately. White canyon drains a massive area and thunderstorms 40 miles away may cause a flash flood. There has been at least one death in the Black Hole because of Flash Flooding. Do not take this warning lightly!

The Blackhole of White Canyon. Swimming through the canyon.

Trailhead Information:
          The trailhead is located next to a paved highway and is accessible to all vehicles in all weather conditions.

          From Blanding, Utah: Travel south on Utah Highway 191 for 3 miles to the junction of Utah Highway 191 and Utah Highway 95. Travel 64 miles west on Utah Highway 95 to mile marker 56.7.
There is a large parking area on the north side of the road. This is the trailhead for the Black Hole.

          From Hanksville, Utah: Travel south on Utah Highway 95 for 57 miles to mile marker 56.7.
There is a large parking area on the north side of the road. This is the trailhead for the Black Hole.

          Optional Shuttle: A shuttle vehicle will shorten the return hike by 2 miles or about 45 minutes. This shuttle is nicely suited for a bicycle because the shuttle route is along a paved highway. To set up your shuttle drive west on Highway 95 for 2 miles to
milepost 54.7. There is a small parking area on the north side of the road. This is where you leave a shuttle if one is available.

Scrambling through the canyon. The Blackhole of White Canyon.

Route Information:
          From the trailhead parking lot (N37 47' 58", W110 18' 18") follow the well defined trail north approximately 250 yards. Locate a side canyon, which leads east to the floor of White Canyon. There is usually a BLM sign warning of sure death somewhere in the vicinity of the side canyon. Scramble down the side canyon to the floor of White Canyon. There are no major obstacles in the side canyon.

          Follow White Canyon downstream. Don't bother trying to keep your shoes dry since they will be wet in a short distance despite your best effort. With careful route finding most obstacle's can be easily defeated with some ingenuity. The better you are at solving these minor problems the easier the route becomes.

          The first major drop can be by passed by downclimbing an easy to locate chimney on the left side or by climbing over the rocks on the right side. Both methods require a small amount of climbing skill.

          The second major drop is best defeated by staying in the watercourse, but it can also be bypassed on the south (left) side.

          The third major drop leads into the actual Black Hole and is usually defeated by using a rope as a handline and scrambling down a large crack to the canyon floor.

          Now you have reached the main attraction and the part of the route that is actually considered the Black Hole. The canyon is narrow, twisting and hauntingly beautiful through this section. Stroll down canyon 100 feet to a small downclimb and the beginning of the swim.

          Continue down canyon through the tight narrows. You can enjoy the remaining stroll down the canyon with the knowledge that the major obstacles are behind you. The remaining canyon is very beautiful. You will encounter several minor obstacles along with some wading. From the end of the actual Black Hole it is approximately 1 1/2 miles down canyon until your exit is located. Watch the south (left) side for a very obvious, narrow, side canyon to enter White Canyon at ground level.

          From the narrow side canyon, proceed down White Canyon about 250 yards (1/8 mile). Look for a large diameter, vertical, cylindrical column on the south (left) side, whose base is about 100 feet above the canyon floor (N37 48' 57", W110 20' 14"). The cylinder column is very obvious as you approach it. Work your way up the ledges to the east of this column, then head down canyon, angling up slightly past the base of the column and around the next outcrop following the faint hiker made trail. Just beyond the second rock outcrop is a seam heading up and to the east that goes all the way to the canyon rim. The distance from the column to the seam is approximately 150 yards. Scramble up the seam to your car at mile post 54.9 (N37 48' 40", W110 20' 14"). This exit is usually well cairned.

Lots of wading. Interesting obstacles.

Related Link:
Flashflood - Black Hole of White Canyon
Full of Surprises

The Blackhole of White Canyon. The Blackhole of White Canyon.
HD Video:
          This video was shot over Memorial Day weekend in 2011. The stars of the video are Miles and Marc Olivares, along with Shauna, Stormy, Sierra and Shane Burrows.

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