CEDAR CITY — More than two years have passed since authorities started charging admission for people to experience Kanarra Falls, yet the hike remains one of the area’s most popular attractions. Recently, the Iron County Commission gave more control to the town of Kanarraville to manage the hike.
According to the Kanarra Falls online reservation system, the hike is completely sold out through the end of July. Some dates in early August are still available. Admission is limited to 150 people per day.
Lana Williams and Matthew Christensen, two of the workers who manage the toll booth kiosk just above the parking lot at the trailhead, say they frequently have to turn people away who don’t have permits.
To avoid such disappointment, Kanarraville Town Clerk David Ence stressed that people should make sure to go online and buy tickets in advance.
Tickets are $12 per person, including fees, and no group rates nor other discounts are given. Children age 3 and under are admitted free with a paying adult; however, the hike is not recommended for small children. The hike is open year round, seven days a week, from dawn to dusk, with the kiosk open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
The Kanarra Falls hike first began operating under a fee collection system in May 2018, with the town of Kanarraville contracting with Iron County, which in turn has been operating under an interlocal lease agreement with Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration.
Although SITLA governs much of the land in the 600-acre parcel covered by the agreement, some portions are owned by the Bureau of Land Management, in addition to local government entities and private landowners.
The lease agreement was updated and renewed by the Iron County Commission on June 22.
Iron County Natural Resource Manager Mike Worthen said during the County Commission meeting that the changes give the town of Kanarraville more direct control over fee collection and management.
The amended agreement, Worthen said, “takes out where the county would be regulating the fees, charging the fees and managing the fees, to where the town now has their own system where they do that all themselves.”
“We don’t have to collect the fees and transfer the money to Kanarraville,” he added, “and that makes it a lot smoother.”
Worthen said if all continues to go well in the coming year, the county will eventually be able to remove itself as the middleman, enabling the town to operate under its own direct lease agreement with SITLA.
Another change that was made allows an annual donation to be made by the town of Kanarraville to Iron County Search and Rescue, based on the number of rescue responses that occurred during the previous year.
The hike has been the site of a number of hiker injuries in recent years, ranging from broken bones suffered in falls to hypothermia from exposure to cold water.
However, the number of such incidents has decreased dramatically since the fee system was implemented, officials say, citing fewer people having access to the trail at a time.
“We haven’t had any rescues yet this year,” Ence said, rapping his knuckles on his wooden desk to ward off bad luck.
The picturesque hike, which is classified as “moderately strenuous,” generally takes between 2-4 hours to complete. It is 1.6 miles round trip to the Lower Falls and back and 1.9 miles to the Upper Falls. A log ladder at the Upper Falls was washed out by flooding last year. Even though someone has put together a makeshift replacement, hikers are cautioned not to use it for safety reasons.
“It is not recommended that you attempt to go beyond this point,” the website states.
Hikers are also encouraged to “leave no trace” by packing out all trash, as well as using the bathroom before embarking on the trail. Dogs and other pets are not permitted on the hike, as the Kanarra Creek watershed provides irrigation water for the town.
A new restroom building with running water and flush toilets is currently under construction at the trailhead parking lot, an amenity made possible by the income generated from the user fees.
According to the website, some of the other areas where the fees are used include employee wages, garbage collection, weed control, trail maintenance, repairs, utilities and website management. Additionally, 10% of the fees collected go to SITLA for use in Utah public schools.
The hike is subject to occasional weather-related closures, including flash flood warnings. Unused tickets in such situations may be reissued and applied to a future make-up date; however, no refunds will be issued.
For more information about the Kanarra Falls hike, see the website.
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