Canyons of the Inyo Mountains: Part 2

In Part 1, I covered dry and rocky Craig Canyon, as well as the lush oasis of Hunter Canyon.  In this part, I continue my affair with the canyons of the Inyos, with Beveridge (which I have talked about several times in the past), and McElvoy Canyons.

 

BEVERIDGE CANYON

 

Satellite image of Beveridge Canyon.

Satellite image of Beveridge Canyon.

 

Beveridge Canyon is by far my favorite canyon in the Inyo Mountains. It tends to be that one place that I return to again and again, and never grow tired of it. The mouth of Beveridge Canyon sits two miles northwest of Hunter Canyon. A rough, but passable (with high clearance 4×4) road leads up into the mouth of the canyon from Saline Valley Road. Here is the location of the Beveridge Cabin, this rustic gem was occupied during the operation of the Snowflake Talc Mine, by the gentleman and his family, who operated the Mill. The cabin has been abandoned since the late 1970’s, but utilized by visitors of the area since.

From the cabin, a short hike up the canyon reveals the flowing water of Beveridge Creek, and the first of several waterfalls. The first fall appears as quickly as the canyon walls close in, and with a twenty-five foot drop, it can come across a little intimidating. The way around this first fall is to utilize the vertical drywall to the right, its many knobs make for excellent footholds. A second waterfall appears just as quickly, the water drops off the side of the granite walls from some fifty feet above, and comes crashing down into a pool of water. Getting around this one requires a little extra work, but a faint trail leads up a scree slope to the right of the fall. Once eye level with the fall, a goat trail can be found along the ledge of the cliff face.

For the next stretch it is best to stay on the right side of the canyon, and follow any resemblance of an existing trail up and along a shelf on the canyon wall. The lower part of the canyon is a bushwhacking nightmare, with several hidden obstacles. Eventually the creek disappears underground, and the lower portion of the canyon becomes navigable, as the walls become taller and narrower.

Soon you find yourself again faced with the creek water, and the next hurdle, a thirty-odd foot waterfall. The best vantage is on the left of the flowing fall, there are several footholds, which provide enough leverage and support to make the climb. There is also a rope, which is tied off to a boulder above, I have utilized the rope on my climbs despite my best judgement. If you decide to use the rope you are doing so at a substantial risk, know that going in.

Now after all of that hard work you are in for a treat, no it doesn’t get any easier, but it is here that the canyon walls close in creating a slot canyon of eroded white marble. The water from Beveridge Creek engulfs the bottom of the canyon, and you enter an oasis of ferns, grass, and moss. Previously you may have been able to avoid getting soaked, but the water in places is now waist-high. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, this is the most beautiful place that I have ever experienced.

Next up is “Ladder Fall,” another thirty-foot waterfall. It received its name because of the rotten wooden ladder, which was once used to climb it, the posts of which are still sitting in place. “Ladder Fall” is not a difficult climb, the water flowing over the brim has created a set of natural stairs in the limestone. Once over “Ladder Fall,” you are just a short distance from the wall, or rather “Ultimate Fall.”  “Ultimate Fall” received its name for a reason, it is the tallest fall in the canyon, at about sixty-feet. There is no easy way over it, as I have learned the hard way.

 

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MCELVOY CANYON

 

Satellite image of McElvoy Canyon

Satellite image of McElvoy Canyon

 

Three miles north of Beveridge Canyon, we find McElvoy Canyon. McElvoy has many similar features to Beveridge Canyon. It too contains a year round creek, known as McElvoy Creek, a handful of waterfalls, and a narrows section. The canyon has seen better times, flood waters a few years back wiped out much of the vegetation, and left the canyon in a state of disarray.

I haven’t explored this canyon to the extent in which I would like, only traveling to the first waterfall, having come unprepared. Hiking to the first fall is very easy, and should be part of everyone’s travel plans when visiting Saline Valley. Drive the spur road off of Saline Valley Road until it comes to an end. From here, it is only a mile hike to reach the first fall. Follow the gorge until a trail leads you down inside. The creek here flows above ground, and a variety of lush greens grow alongside it.

Once entering the canyon itself, the fall is only a quarter of a mile away. Evidence of the flash flood is everywhere, there are tree stumps in the canyon, likely having washed down from 8,000 feet above. The roots of shrubs on the embankment are fully exposed, from the soil being washed out from underneath them.

The highlight here isn’t so much the waterfall itself, but rather the fern and algae covered overhang which drips a consistent flow of water. This combined with the slippery slope of the waterfall creates a feeling as if one is in the tropics. The fall can be climbed, but I wasn’t comfortable with the gear that I had with me, always best to be safe than sorry. Next time!

 

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Stay tuned for more canyons of the Inyo Mountains in the future.

 

Secret Places in the Mojave Desert Vol. 7

 

About the author

Jim Mattern

Jim is a scapegoat for the NPS, an author, adventurer, photographer, radio personality, guide, and location scout. His interests lie in Native American and cultural sites, ghost towns, mines, and natural wonders in the American Deserts.

3 Comments

  • Most folks would never believe that this lushness could exist there. great photos! In addition to your new photos looking awesome, whatever processing you are doing to the old ones is awesome!

    As you can see, I’m doing some catching up on your posts.

  • Beveridge Canyon is daunting. The 2nd photo satellite image shows structures at the bottom center that gives perspective to the size of the canyon. Both canyons are really wild and must host an impressive assortment of wildlife, especially with water to support them.

  • Back in 1984, I hiked down McElvoy canyon from the top of the south fork of its creek. My hike began at the end of the Swansea road near the base of New York Butte. From there, I hiked down into the old mining town of Beveridge, where I camped for the night at “Frenchy’s Cabin”. The next morning after breakfast, I hiked up to the Keynot Mine (which was sort of operating at the time, and where a friend of mine was working as a welder — we had a great spaghetti dinner with the miners there that night, including some pretty good wine, and after dinner we proceeded to wash all the greasy dishes in about 2 oz of really soapy water LOL). Next morning, I began the final part of the hike down into McElvoy south fork. Like most of the trails in the Inyos, they are old often faint billy goat / miner’s trails at best, and completely washed out and covered up at worst. I’ve done a lot of backpacking in and around the southern Inyos, and this has been my experience. I made it down the 3rd waterfall from the top, which is around a 100 foot vertical drop and involved climbing gear. I spent the night below that fall. Next morning, three more beautiful waterfalls (though none as high as that 3rd one), and from there out to the Saline Valley main county road. I caught a ride out to the hot springs, and then back to Lone Pine where I was living at the time. It was a great adventure, and one of the high points in my back country wilderness hiking experiences among the awesome Inyo mountains.

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