Friday, July 9, 2010

The Red Canyon

A gigantic red rock guards the entrance to the Red Canyon.

A remarkable geological structure lies not far from Eilat in the heart of the Negev desert - The Red Canyon. This is a very narrow, serpentine canyon cut into the red rocks of a huge wadi, Nachal Shani, only a shoulder-width wide in many places, and towering over 100 feet as it winds to its conclusion. The Red Canyon itself is not very long, less than a quarter mile, but the return trip has to be made from up top, where there is some exposure to falling into the Canyon itself. There are hand grips and ropes in a few places to ease the climbing for the return trip.

"A" marks the spot of the entrance to the Red Canyon. (As always, click for full-size images.)
Explore this location here on Google Maps

Red Canyon as seen on Google Earth. (Parking lot with tourist busses seen on left.)

The entrance to the Red Canyon is through a hike down the broad Nachal Shani that begins about a quarter mile from the parking lot off Route 12 to/from Eilat. The hike to the wadi itself from the parking lot is another quarter mile, giving a total distance of just over 1/2 mile from the parking lot to the beginning of the Canyon. In the summer months you should bring water as it can be very hot here.

Panoramic view of entrance to the Red Canyon (on right).
Click for full size image.

The wadi gives no advance warning that you are about to enter this extraordinary canyon. All of a sudden a gigantic red rock appears in the middle of the wadi and then the wadi suddenly narrows as you enter the mouth of the Red Canyon, which rapidly encompasses you as you continue your hike. It goes from being just a few feet deep to winding narrowly 100 feet above you in a matter of 100 meters.

Entering the Red Canyon

Gazing up from the floor of the Red Canyon.

One of a number of vertical drops encountered while traversing the Red Canyon.

The Canyon itself has a number of steep, vertical drops of about 10 feet which rapidly deepen its height to over 100 feet above. The way down these drops is eased by the installation of steel hand holds that allow the hiker to ease his or her way down them. But they also make return via an out and back route almost impossible. One must climb to the rocks above the canyon and scurry back that way.

Exiting the Red Canyon.

Stuck atop the Red Canyon.

The Red Canyon as see from above.

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