The Water Canyon is the primary hiking destination in the area and a source of enjoyment for locals and visitors alike. It is one of the main access points of the Canaan Mountain Wilderness Area, managed by the Bureau of Land Management or BLM. It has become increasingly popular with visitors, partly because of the rappelling tours that are run by various adventure companies operating out of the Springdale area and the sheer beauty and relative seclusion of the canyon.
The BLM has developed parking sites for both the Water Canyon and Squirrel Canyon trailheads. There are signs that detail the routes and general information about the terrain, safety recommendations, and history. They have also added a restroom facility at the Water Canyon trailhead.
According to Public Affairs Officer Christian Venhuizen, “Our improvement projects for Water and Squirrel canyons help ensure public safety, protect resources, and provide a quality visitor experience.” The improvements came about due to increased motor vehicle traffic to Water and Squirrel Canyon trailheads as well as reports of human waste at both the Water Canyon and Eagle Crags. Eagle Crags is another access point for the Canaan Mountain Wilderness Area on the north side near Rockville, Utah.
According to Venhuizen, “In 2011 our St. George Field Office recreation team proposed to improve the three existing trailheads serving the Canaan Mountain Wilderness: Eagle Crags, Water Canyon, and Squirrel Canyon.” He continues, “In preliminary project planning, under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), it was clear that we could not accommodate vehicles in Water Canyon and accomplish the other trailhead amenities because there was not enough space for vehicles to back up or turn around.” The decision was made to separate the Eagle Crags improvements from the Water and Squirrel Canyon projects, which was finished in 2013.
The BLM has worked closely with local government to complete the improvements. “By 2015, we completed NEPA and the preliminary construction drawings for the Water Canyon and Squirrel Canyon trailheads. In preparation for construction, our district engineer met with several individuals from Hildale and Colorado City representing Hildale Public Works and Hildale/Colorado City Utilities, as well as the mayor of Hildale. With positive feedback for the projects, a local contractor was hired to do some of the work on the restrooms,” stated Venhuizen.
Some within the town have expressed concerns that there will now be fees to access these hikes. According to Venhuizen, “There are no fees for the casual use of the area. The only fees are for those interested in commercial uses of the sites, which require permits.”