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Hiking: Fish Bay Gut

August 4, 2014

“Guts” on St John are a feature of our mountainous terrain.  During rainstorms, water runs off down the mountainsides and into the valleys between them, making its way toward the sea.  Heavy rains wash soil and sediment downstream, leaving piles of boulders and bare rock.  The gut environments are usually lush and jungle-like, due to the profusion of water in the area.

Pool and Running Water - Fish Bay GutFish Bay Gut is one of the most popular among hikers.  It is one of the only south shore guts with permanent water, along with Battery Gut (also in Fish Bay), Living Gut (Reef Bay), and Guinea Gut (Great Cruz Bay).  This hike is very challenging, as it involves periods of intense climbing and rock scrambling.  The gut environment is dynamic and obstacles can vary depending on the amount of rainfall and the time of year.  Rocks are frequently slippery and passage in and out is slow and remote for rescue crews.  This hike is recommended only for those in good physical condition – DO NOT attempt this hike alone, and always exercise caution.

Fish Bay Gut is accessed from either side of the bridge in Fish Bay.  Be prepared to get wet on this hike, as vegetation can be damp in the mornings, and some portions of the Gut are passable only through the pools and running water.  The freshwater pools of Fish Bay Gut are home to freshwater crabs and small crayfish, as well as fish whose eggs can lie dormant for years until there is sufficient rainfall to support life in the pool.  After about a quarter mile, you will reach the intersection with Battery Gut – the left fork – which continues up through Gifft Hill Valley.  A further 0.1 mile past this intersection, up Battery Gut, you’ll come to the 70 foot waterfall.  There are fresh water pools at the top and bottom of the falls, but the climb is only recommended for experienced rock climbers.  Most of the waterfalls along Fish Bay Gut are more gradual than this one, and more accessible, but climbing them is tricky, and slippery – use caution.

For more information about Fish Bay and Battery Guts, visit

Our hike, the day after Tropical Storm Bertha passed by, was blessed with nearly perfect conditions.  The sun was shining, it was fairly cool, and while there wasn’t quite as much water as we’d hoped, there was enough, and plenty of dry rock and ground to climb on.  We benefitted from a group of four hikers visiting from St Thomas – their hiking and climbing abilities far surpassed ours, and we thank them for blazing a trail for us to follow (albeit much more slowly!).  Check out the gallery to see some more pictures from our hike!

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