Snake Encounters

JFRCalifornia

Well-Known Member
In another thread, Pegasus told a great story of how in his first trip to Lake Powell, he encountered some floating logs in Iceberg Canyon that were infested with...snakes! Wow! So that got me thinking about all the times I've encountered rattlesnakes at Lake Powell. And when I do, I realize that it's been a lot of snakes over the years, all rattlers. I've seen them in side canyons, or in upland areas out in the open, under rocks, in brush in the creeks, pretty much anywhere. Where I haven't seen them is on floating logs, like Pegasus has, but all that just means they can be pretty much anywhere...

I spend most of my time at Powell hiking the side canyons, so it makes some sense that I've seen quite a few, but on at least one occasion, there was one not 15 feet from the houseboat. In August 2008, our houseboat was parked in a remote corner up the Escalante, on a small beach perched under cliff in a seldom-used back corner of a side canyon. The landing area was tiny--maybe 200 feet horizontally, maybe 50 feet from water to cliff's edge. There was no way to hike from there to anywhere, only to swim or set up a couple of chairs, but what a nice spot. But on that beach was a rock outcropping, and when we were setting anchors, suddenly came a loud buzz from below. Rattlesnake! I had the camera, got a couple pictures, then left him alone. In the two days we were there, one of my friends refused to leave the boat, insisted the ramp stay up at all times. The next morning, the snake was still there. We swam took the boat to the end of the canyon and hiked, took batting practice of the back of the houseboat against the canyon wall on the other side not more than 150 feet away, ate dinner... We and the snake agreed to leave each other alone. The next morning, we pulled up anchors, and I took one last look under that rock for that snake, and it was...gone! Hmm... Not too many places it could go... did it get on our boat? Well, that's when we did the search for the sanity of my friend, but eventually gave it the all-clear...

Not sure whatever happened to that snake, but it wasn't the first or last one I'd see. I'm attaching a few photos of snakes I've seen at Powell in more recent times. These photos date from 2008, 2012, 2013 and 2016. And I've seen them all over the lake: Willow Gulch, Dry Rock Creek, Twilight Canyon, Labyrinth Canyon, on the upland area above Hansen Creek...

Here you go:

Here's Willow Gulch, 2008:

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This guy is in Dry Rock Creek, 2012:

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Here's another one on the same 2012 trip, five days later, this time in Twilight Canyon. You have to look hard in the brush to see his head, well-camouflaged, toward the left... this one was tricky because we needed to hike past, but the mud/quicksand was so soft that the best footing was in that brush... so we crawled on all fours across the mud, past the snake, so as not to sink too much...

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This next one was in 2013, on a hike up Labyrinth Canyon, and it's a good series of shots. The first shot is good because it's before we even realized it was there. Look hard under the ledge at right, and you can see it. This is why it's important to know where you're putting your hands. Then I got a few more shots of that one...
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Then one more for the series, this time up on the bench just south of Hansen Creek in 2016. This one was hiding under a bush. In each case, these snakes would rather not have dealt with us, and wherever possible, they just slithered away. As long you move slowly, watch where you put your hands, and give them an out, they will leave you alone...
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And for all that, I've seen more snakes here in CA than I have anywhere in Utah... here's my favorite encounter of all time, not at Lake Powell: two snakes in the same photo, 30 minutes from home in 2018...
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For another day, let's talk tarantulas...
 
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birdsnest

Well-Known Member
Amazing to see the vast differences in color and pattern. So cool that you have the pictures. So here's mine. In 2003, when I was still working on the houseboat dock, I got a report of a rattler on the dock at the smoke shack where the smokers all got their fix. I went over there and sure enough a rattler was trying to hide behind an upright on the deck. Someone had called Park Service and someone was on their way. Just when a lady showed up from NPS, one of our mechanics showed up, a Navajo guy by the name of Wagon Burner. We watched as the lady tried to wrangle the snake into her burlap bag. I'm not sure who was most upset,the woman or the snake but after awhile wagon burner couldn't take it anymore and started to pick the snake up with his hand. The lady started having conniption fits. She started yelling "Sir Sir Sir No Sir No Sir Sir Sir Sir No Sir " as he calmly picked the snake up and put it in her bag. I swear I'll never forget that. It was so funny. Some people just don't do well with the critters.
 

Pegasus

Well-Known Member
Similar to JCRF, our favorite fall and spring pastime is hiking the slot canyons, trails, and plateaus of LP, but I've only personally seen three snakes in the past 20 years at LP - one 150 ft from the Antelope Point Marina walkway while taking the dogs for a walk, a small one-foot long snake; one when hiking Antelope Canyon from the water up that had probably been washed into the canyon via a flash flood, also small maybe 18" long and skinny but was a rattler; and two very big - probably 6' long very fat rattlers sunning themselves on the rocks on the East side of Warm Creek.

After reading JCRF's post, I fear we've probably been very close to many other rattlers and didn't even know it. o_O

Note the keyword above though is snakes I've personally SEEN! There are several beaches we've camped on over the years in Gunsight, Padre, Kane Wash, and Cathederal, that in the morning we've had several to many very obvious snake tracks coming down from the rocks above to the water, some with tracks going back up to the rocks, some not (where did they go? Swim?) One beach in the very back of Gunsight had so many new snake trails one morning that I packed up and moved us! Probably 20 snake trails from the rocks above us!

I have told this before, but there was the time just a couple of years ago that my 23-year-old daughter in law was chasing lizards from our camp in the second cove on the left going into Gunsight - she loves to pet them - and does this every trip to the lake. She came back to camp after chasing a lizard, catching it, then petting it for a while and said there was a strange sound the entire time she was sitting on the rocks petting the lizard. I pulled up the sound of a rattler on google and played it for her - yep, that was a rattler warning her, and she had no idea! The rattler was probably like "what the heck lady! I'm trying to tell you to leave my dinner alone!!"

I am not a fan of snakes, probably because I don't know much about them except to stay away from them which I gladly do.
 
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Pegasus

Well-Known Member
Question - where do snakes at Lake Powell go during the winter? Do they go into the small holes in the ground that I see all over? Under rocks? Into abandoned rabbit holes? I was surprised to read that they don't hibernate per se and it is not uncommon for them to come out and sun themselves on warm days year-round.
 

JBinNM

Well-Known Member
Nice! Where was that?
Arizona, out of Sycamore Creek. It was in a very short wash that we had just hiked through. It was not there on the way in, only on our return, so it was a great big surprise. We think it must have fallen from above. We climbed way up to give it lots of room to get around it.

Very lucky to see it (and avoid it). They want nothing to do with us.
 

Littlesaltwash

Well-Known Member
Knowing that you’re in snake country and moving deliberately is the key. Avoid shade and brush in the summer and avoid blundering up sunny ledges in the spring and fall. I also try to camp in places where other people don’t. That bag of spilled Cheetos is mouse food.
 

Dungee Fishing

Well-Known Member
I’ve seen two snakes, both on the same area across from Bullfrog on the strip that divides bullfrog and halls. Both were gopher snakes. Luckily haven’t seen a rattler, although we don’t full on hike we do gather wood, explore wood piles and wander camp quite often. I’m hoping these stories stay south...
 
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WaterDog19

Active Member
Like Dungee, I've seen one on that same strip of land between Bullfrog and Halls, the water was rising fast as he was along the waters edge in and out of the tumbleweeds, the other was in Halls , south side he too was in tumbleweeds and small shelfs , I could hear him during the night buzzing, I moved the boat into open water and anchored. One other I saw in Knowles, many years ago, he was in heavy brush, we left him alone and moved also.
 

birdsnest

Well-Known Member
Arizona, out of Sycamore Creek. It was in a very short wash that we had just hiked through. It was not there on the way in, only on our return, so it was a great big surprise. We think it must have fallen from above. We climbed way up to give it lots of room to get around it.

Very lucky to see it (and avoid it). They want nothing to do with us.
Can I assume Sycamore Creek as in Sycamore Canyon? What a great hike. Hippies lived in the caves in the 70s.
 

Bill Sampson

Well-Known Member
Not Lake Powell, but we were at Lake Mead on a houseboat trip. We got a late start, so we anchored the ski boat on the beach the first night. The next morning the boat owner was organizing the skis when he saw what he thought was a rubber snake on the drivers side inside the boat. He joked with us that he thought we were playing a trick on him until the snake slithered further up in the bow area. He is afraid of snakes, but he grabbed a larger beach towel and went into the small bow area and got out the snake. My hero.
 
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