Canyoning or Canyoneering?


The History of the Sport

Before this review, We should start by acknowledging the history below is only focused on the modern history of our sport. Humans are likely to have explored many of the locations prior to these sports existence.


The earliest known use of the word ‘canyoneering’ was in 1869 in the Colorado Plateau region of the United States.

Canyoneering started to become established In the 1950’s, hikers, kayakers and climbers started to explore the canyons, overtime techniques from climbing, scrambling and kayaking started to evolve and merge, forming canyon techniques suitable for the successful exploration of canyons in the region.  

To this day the deserts of ‘canyon country’ remain the most popular region for canyon exploration in the US.


The earliest known use of the word ‘canyoning’ was in 1886. A French explorer called Edouard Alfred Martel has been largely credited as the father of Canyoning. 

Canyoning became established in the 1930’s by cavers whilst searching for new caves or simply wanting to explore the ‘open top caves’. Cavers and climbers developed many of the original canyon techniques used across Europe. 

Canyoning has also been discovered without influence in other countries such as Australia and South Africa at a later date.

Interestingly due to the multiple different origins of the sport, canyoning / canyoneering is practiced differently across the world with different equipment and techniques being used to this day. 


Why Canyoning and Canyoneering are different.

As the international community of canyoners and canyoneers travel abroad, the terms Canyoning and Canyoneering have been used interchangeably to describe any form of descent down a canyon however the techniques used in canyoning and canyoneering are quite different.

The current definitions

Canyoneering – Descending a canyon without flowing water. Often faced with anchor building and rigging challenges, Potholing may be required.

Canyoning – Descending a canyon with flowing water. Often faced with water hazards and damaged anchors from floods.