A return trip to the Tranquille Canyon Slot Canyons was the result of a last minute decision when the weather cleared up. In our last visit to the canyon we traversed the slots in summer when the water was warmer and the summer was dryer. This was mid-October and the water was cold, but the weather was nice and winter was coming so it was that day or wait for another year.
The "trailhead" is a short loop parking area, just off the Red Lake Road. Park and walk to the north end of the loop, looking for flagging tape leading down the hill. There is no trail down to the bench, but flagging tape leads hikers down grassy slopes to the bench below and joins up with a cattle/game trail which winds around the head of gully to the south. Almost all routes down to the river are cliffs, but a good trail follows a forested gully to the bottom. Follow flagging tape right to the bottom, a level area between the two slot canyons.
From this point, you can walk along the shoreline to look up into the north canyon and the south canyon. A slot canyon in theory is narrow enough to touch both walls at once. There are some spots within both canyons that are very narrow, but the canyons are really "narrows, " but are the closest thing we have to slot canyons in the area.
I waded into the cold water in the north slot and worked by way through the canyon to the north end in the creek almost the whole way. The deepest pool came up to mid chest, higher than a summer trip in a drier year. Within the slot are sheer, fluted walls rising up about 80 feet.
Because I had been through this canyon before, I knew what to expect. I brought Keens to wear, used two poles, and put my camera inside a dry bag. The rocks are slippery so care must be taken/ The north slot is about 100m long and emerges into a wider canyon beyond full of aspen trees in fall colors. For this trip, I was cold enough already so I changed back into boots and hiked over the hills on the east side back to the area between the canyons. We had traversed the south canyon before and we knew that the north end is a scramble, but the south end requires a jump into a deep pool and then a swim, best suited to warmer water. For this trip, I chose to climb over a hill on the south side, over the shoulder of the "dark tower" and down to the river.
At the mouth of the south slot, the river emerges into a wider valley. On the east side, a talus slot is full of shale and fossils can be found be sorting through the rubble. On this trip, I spotted about 15 fossils, mostly leaves and ferns. Across the river is the remains of a prospector/gold panner camp. this is a bit of an eyesore and each time I go, I try to haul out some of the items, but it is a very steep route out and not much can be carried. To get to a viewpoint into the south canyon, hikers may have to wade into the creek again. the water gradually become deeper and a deep pool leads up to a small waterfall. To traverse the canyon south to north requires a climb over this obstacle, which is not easy out of deep water clinging onto slippery rocks. It is better to traverse this canyon north to south. On this day, I returned the way I had come and crossed the river for the final time in 2012. The climb back to the vehicle is only 1km, but it is a steep one.
The slot canyons in Tranquille River can't compare to the immense and long slot canyons of Utah, but ours are only a half hour drive and a steep hike of 1km down to see them. The river rages through these canyons in the spring and it is not safe to cross or wade until summer. Wait for a sunny day when the water is warmer and bring shoes for wading. If we had a Ten Wonders of the Kamloops Area, the slot canyons would be one of them.