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19 by photographer avatarchumley
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Willow ValleyPayson, AZ
Payson, AZ
Canyoneering avatar Jun 17 2017
Canyoneering14.27 Miles 1,200 AEG
Canyoneering14.27 Miles1 Day   4 Hrs   36 Mns   
1,200 ft AEG
Canyon Hiking - Non-technical; no rope; easy scrambling; occasional hand use
B - Up to light current; wading/swimming; possible wet/dry suit
III - Normally requires most of a day
1st trip
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This one has been on the list for a while, and Joel and I have been doing creek backpacks at this time of year for the past few years. The weather was perfect for this ... a little warm everywhere, but absolutely ideal to be swimming and wading in a deep canyon.

A couple of things to note. As others have described, the trip down the drainage from Maxwell Tank, while relatively short, is overgrown with uncomfortable prickly things. What apparently nobody else mentioned is that this drainage is choked with unavoidable poison ivy. I mean like the fields of poison ivy. If poison ivy could be harvested for food, this canyon alone could eliminate hunger across the globe. Forever. :scared:

Once into Willow Valley we arrived at the first swimmer which may have been able to be bypassed on the right, but we knew we'd be swimming at some point so we just decided to get it over with. There ended up being four swimmers, and though it was a warm and sunny day, I can't oversell how cold these pools were. Absolutely full-body numbing cold. It was refreshing for about 30 seconds and after that it was a race to get to the other side. If I'm ever up here on a day that is under 85 degrees, I'd consider a wet suit for these.

After the swimmers, it's just wading and sloshing through water or along the shore and enjoying the countless amazing views in this incredibly scenic canyon. The farther down canyon you get the more space there is for camping and bypass trails along the shore. From the highest springfed pool where the water became constant to the confluence with Clover and WCC, there is a reasonably easy to follow use trail. This trail also reintroduces poison ivy, which was largely absent for a few miles, though it's a bit more avoidable than it was in the drainage leading into the canyon.

Things weren't too bad in the canyon, but up on the rim both before and after the hike, the bugs were relentless. Gnats, see-ums, no-see-ums, hear-ums, black flies, horseflies, dragonflies, elkflies, mooseflies, and baby chucpacabra larvae all feasted despite my skin glowing yellow with 106% pure deet. As I write this, I'm honestly not sure which welts are poison ivy and which are bug bites. Interestingly, there were no mosquitos. But I'm going to start breeding bat colonies to bring with me if this kind of thing ever happens again. ](*,)

Despite that, it was a fantastic weekend, and I'd do it again next week without thinking twice! :)

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water less than max Maxwell Tank 51-75% full 51-75% full
A skunky tank with cattle pooping in it. Gotta be a better option if you're thirsty.
33s over 45s
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