Sunday, April 16, 2017

Bluff, UT (3/26/2017)

Several months ago, I stumbled across an article on the internet that told of a canyon near Bluff  that contains a large number of hoodoos.  Since I had neither heard nor seen anything like this in previous visits to Bluff, it was on the agenda for this trip to try finding this place.  It turned out to be quite easy.  The woman who runs the campground has lived in the area her entire life.  She told me she had heard of it only recently and gave me good directions for getting there.  It's called Recapture Pocket and it's only a few miles outside of town.

The sunrise that day wasn't particularly good, due to low lying clouds.  However, the fog over the San Juan River was enough to warrant photos.  This one was taken above Sand Island, a campground and launch point for river rafting trips.  Lots of people tent camp there to get an early start on the river.
On my way to find the hoodoos, I spotted some caves and went closer to check them out.  One of them contained a ruin that was a simple stone wall.  It isn't unusual to find such ruins, since this county has many thousands of them scattered about.  That's part of the reason President Obama recently designated a new national monument here called "Bears Ears".  At 1.5 million acres, it is one of our larger parks, generating much controversy in these parts.  No one is sure exactly what changes will be made, since the land was already under Federal management.

It was a fun drive into Recapture Pocket, an area within a large network of canyons.  Although many of the formations were high on the canyon walls, quite a few were on the floor of the canyon so I was able to drive right up to them.  Nice not to have to walk so far to see something like this.  The hoodoos were impressive, many standing twenty feet tall, maybe higher.  I spent a couple hours exploring the "pocket" and taking photos.

Later that day, I decided to try a route that turned up on my internet research, said to lead to some rock art along the San Juan River.  Although the road and the hike sounded tough, it offered access without entering private property.  The last part of the road is on slickrock and ended at the rim of a canyon that is the end of Butler Wash.  This wash runs along the east side of Comb Ridge for thirty or more miles.  Shallow in some places, it can be very deep at others, and the stream at the bottom can be quite large after rains.  At this location, the canyon is more than 200 feet deep with steep walls.  The directions  from the internet mentioned finding an old wagon trail into the canyon.  I never saw what I would consider to be a usable wagon trail, but did work my way along a series of shelves and spotted an obvious path that eventually led to the bottom.

The path followed the stream, crossing it several times and passing some cliff dwelling ruins, for more than a mile, ending near the river.   Walking among the boulders at the bottom of a cliff, I found quite a few petroglyphs.  Some were in good condition, others not so much.

There was also a good view of the river, as well as some of the mesas on the other side in the Navajo Reservation.  It was a good place to rest for a few minutes before starting the hike back and the steep climb out of the canyon.

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