Into the Depths… ‘Wadi Ghwayr’ Canyon Trek in Jordan

It was noon in the Dana Biosphere Reserve, a craggy wilderness near the Dead Sea in Jordan. I’d come to the country for a week of adventure, an opportunity to explore ancient ruins as well as desert lands far from humanity.

The objective of the day, the Wadi Ghwayr canyon, hit upon that second criteria point quite well: We’d driven hours through the desert to access Ghwayr’s rocky entrance. Bedouin shepherds were the only people we’d seen along the way.

In Wadi Ghwayr canyon; photo by Billy Brown

Ahead, for more than 10 miles, the canyon cut a scar through mountains, dropping thousands of feet and following rare desert water as it flowed and dripped toward the lowest elevations on Earth.

I had directions to a hotel near the canyon’s mouth, the Feynan Ecolodge. I had an accomplice in the adventure, my friend Billy Brown.

We also had specialized hot-weather gear to aid in the mission, from sun hats to shirts with fabric that gets cooler when you sweat.

Wadi Ghwayr gets narrow; photo by Mark Going

Brown and I squinted down-canyon. I took a gulp of hot air. “Let’s go, let’s go,” I found myself shouting, egging Brown to follow as I ran down the sand.

We jogged over rocks then hopped into the stream, knee-deep and cool. The water was clear but swirled with algae. Crumbling stone walls, red and brown, shot up hundreds of feet on either side.

The canyon pinched in as we continued, and soon we were in a slot of rock, just a sliver of blue sky above. The desert stream rushed around our feet, disappearing off a drop.

Brown ready to jump in

“This must be the jump,” Brown said, remembering a guide’s description from the day before. We peered into a pool off the edge, its aquamarine water so pure that sunlight cut deep through.

Soon Brown was airborne, his arms wrapped around knees for perfect cannonball form. I leapt after Brown, the splash-down an exhilarating interlude in our down-canyon run.

Soaked head to shoes we continued. It was nearly 100 degrees, but in the shadows of Wadi Ghwayr we were fine.

Our shirts, short-sleeve Ts from Columbia Sportswear, had fabric with the company’s unique Omni-Freeze ZERO technology. It has a property that makes the material get noticeably cooler when wet.

On my back, to carry water and some food for the day, I wore a vest from Ultimate Direction. The AK Race Vest is skimmed to offer just a main mesh pocket for water and small pouches for sunscreen and energy gel.

After the leap off the falls, Brown and I ran, hopped rocks, clambered through flowering vines crisscrossing the river, and generally let gravity show the way.

Deep into the canyon

continued on next page. . .

Stephen Regenold

Stephen Regenold is Founder of GearJunkie, which he launched as a nationally-syndicated newspaper column in 2002. As a journalist and writer, Regenold has covered the outdoors industry for two decades, including as a correspondent for the New York Times. A father of five, Regenold and his wife live in Minneapolis.