Hidden Bridges in the Bowels of Zion

by Paul J. Neiman

In September of 2003 a good friend and I joined a group of accomplished technical canyoneers who taught us how to rappel down some of the most beautiful and inspiring slot canyons found anywhere. Two of these contained some well-hidden natural bridges.

Numerous short rappels, wades, and swims through a sinuous and incised sandstone corridor led us to the first of four natural bridges in Fat Man's Misery Canyon:

Fat Man's Misery Canyon, Zion

Later, a 45-foot overhanging free rappel was followed by chamber after chamber of entrenched swirling walls and deep cold pools. Then we approached my favorite chamber, where a pair of natural bridges spanned the drainage:

Fat Man's Misery Canyon, Zion

To enter this chamber, we slid down a chute into cold water over our heads, and then swam beneath the twin bridges. It was quite dark in here, giving the feeling that we were in the bowels of the earth. The photographic exposure was about 10 seconds. Shortly down-canyon of the twin bridges, the drainage opened up and joined Parunuweap Canyon.

Another magnificent slot is Pine Canyon, a short, sweet, and deep defile that parallels Route 9 immediately north of the long Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel. Our Pine Canyon adventure started fast and furious with multiple rappels into cold swimholes. Quickly, we found ourselves in an almost cave-like atmosphere, where the sky was nowhere in sight and headlamps proved beneficial. With little warning, we approached the top of a deep and sculpted chamber known as The Cathedral that required a 65-ft rappel. To my amazement, a pair of natural bridges guarded the down-canyon exit of The Cathedral:

Pine Canyon, Zion

Upon reaching the bottom, our trip leader posed beneath the twin bridges. This was my favorite spot of my favorite canyon during our 4-day trip:

Pine Canyon, Zion

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