Virgin & Santa Clara Rivers

Zion is characterized by the flows of the Virgin & Santa Clara Rivers.

Zion's Virgin River

Some say later visitors accidentally switched the Virgin River's with the Sevier River (meant to be spelled Rio Severo) that was named simultaneously. The Sevier is a gentle, soft river that meanders into the Great Basin while the Virgin is like a teenager, fast to excite and not too concerned with the destruction that it leaves in its wake.

Whatever its original name, the river is a modern day favorite. The river and the Virgin River Gorge that it carved out, reach from the Dixie National Forest into the upper edges of Zion Canyon. The 16-mile long stretch through the park features two-thousand feet deep cliffs that constrict into a shoulder-squeezing 20-foot wide Narrows, at their tightest point.

The Zion Narrows are one of the most sought-after adventures in the West. The colorful soaring cliffs, icy waters, unexpected pools, hidden waterfalls and startling spring and fall colors are unforgettable for those who venture within. Once it leaves Zion, the river runs by St. George where it joins the Santa Clara River before flowing into the Colorado River at Lake Mead Reservoir. Spring thaws and unexpected rains can make the river hazardous. Flash floods are common and hypothermia a constant concern.

Santa Clara River

One of the Santa Clara River's charms is that it is one of the few undammed rivers left. In March of 2009 165.5-miles of the river and its tributaries were designated as the first Wild and Scenic River in Utah. The title prevents development or damming. (Utah hopes to add 85 more rivers to the list soon.)

Those who want wild rivers protected can join the Get Wild with a River campaign to nominate other rivers for consideration. Being a Wild River is already paying off. An immediate discussion started about building a trail system for walking and bicycling along the Virgin River Corridor from St. George to Zion.


Zion Canyon

Must-See Natural Wonders in Zion National Park

If you have the time and good shoes, take a ride on The Narrows, an unforgettable wade in cold waters of the Virgin River.

Colorado River. Photo by Doug Vavrick

Notable Western Rivers

The Colorado River is the father of all western rivers, draining the Colorado River Basin from Canada to Mexico.


Amphibians in Zion National Park

Frogs, toads and even a salamander are to be found in Zion National Park, thanks to the Virgin River, streams in slot canyons and even monsoon rains.


Canyons of Zion National Park

The high cliffs of Zion were formed about four million years ago through a process where layers of rock were broken, pushed up and on their side


Horseback Riding in Zion

In-park trail rides follow the course of the Virgin River or expand out into Sand Beach Trail.


Amazing Sights in the Region

Many amazing things to see in the Zion National Park area, from Bright Angel Point in the Grand Canyon to Natural Bridge View in Bryce Canyon National Park– the regions top sights not to miss.

Emerald Pools Waterfall

Waterfalls in Zion National Park

Somehow, one doesn't expect desert terrain to be home of some of the world's most spectacular water features. But, Zion is full of waterfalls from snow melt.


Fishing in Zion National Park and Southern Utah

Fishing is allowed in Zion, but is not as common as other pastimes. However, the areas north of Zion are premier fly fishing destinations.

Observation Point in Zion National Park on a cloudy day

Top 3 Vistas in Zion National Park

Get the best views in this red-rock paradise in southwestern Utah. If you want to feel on top of the world, here are three fantastic Zion hikes that offer incredible vistas.