Ghost Stories From the River

3 Min. Read

You might not believe in ghosts, but these stories sure give us the chills. Here are three river sites you might only want to explore in the light of day (you know, just in case)…

Grand Canyon National Park, Blacktail Canyon - August 1984 - Richard M. Schreyer

Blacktail Canyon in the Grand Canyon

This breathtaking side canyon on the Grand Canyon has a singular, eerie beauty. Its unique acoustics make it a great site for river concerts—in the daytime. At night, the canyon walls have a disconcerting way of amplifying sounds—nearby whitewater, nocturnal animals, and other uncanny things.

Many Grand Canyon travelers have described hearing the sounds of drumming in Blacktail Canyon. It probably can be explained by the canyon’s uncommon acoustics, and yet…

In There’s This River, former guide Christa Sadler describes a night when she and a friend tried to camp in Blacktail Canyon. As they slept, they were both so plagued by ghostly, wraithlike visions urging them to leave the canyon that they packed up their sleeping bags and left in the middle of the night.

Teepee Camp Yampa River_WhitewaterCampsites

TeePee Camp on the Yampa River

Boaters from New Mexico to Montana have reported encountering La Llorona, sometimes also known as the “The Weeping Woman.”

She’s particularly known for making appearances at TeePee Camp on the Yampa River in Colorado. According to not-so-urban legend, on one evening as a whole trip was huddled together out of the rain, a guide did a headcount and came up with one extra person. He counted again and got the right number, but a third count again registered one person too many. Suddenly, a woman broke away from the group and bolted towards the river. The guide chased her, but couldn’t find her.

According to legend, La Llorona was a beautiful but poor woman who married a rich man. When she discovered that her husband was unfaithful, she decided to take revenge by drowning their children in the river. At the last minute, she regretted what she was doing, but by then it was too late and her children were washed away. Boaters have reported hearing her wail as she wanders the waterways of the West seeking her children.

Battle Bar Camp, Rogue River | Photo: Stephen Kautz

Battle Bar on the Rogue River

Those with a knack for history know that Battle Bar on the Rogue River is named after the site of a skirmish between the U.S. cavalry and the native Takelma Tribe.

The battle was a culmination of extensive fighting between white settlers and native tribes that had been raging all along the Rogue River Valley for months. When cold weather forced a temporary halt to hostilities, displaced Takelma families spent the winter at what is now Battle Bar. But in April of 1856, a detachment of cavalry was sent to the area to eliminate them. When the soldiers reached the clearing on the north side of the river, they were promptly engaged in battle with the encamped Takelma.

Nearly one hundred years later, a settler named Bob Fox built a cabin on the south side of the river at Battle Bar. He intended to build a fishing resort but never completed it because he was murdered in his cabin by a neighboring prospector. Today, the cabin walls have been washed away by floods, but the roof and supports still stand.

Just upstream from these historic sites is Battle Bar Rapid, a fun, splashy Class II rapid and its similarly named, much-loved rafting campsite. Wander too far downstream at Battle Bar camp at night though and you might begin to feel the hair on the back of your neck start to prickle. Guide-lore suggests that the area has a spectral presence—perhaps the ghosts of the 1856 battle, perhaps the ghost of Bob Fox, perhaps both.

Photos: Richard M. Schreyer/Flickr, Whitewater Campsites, Stephen Kautz

Sign up for Our Newsletter

Compare Adventures

Select up to 3 trips to compare