Posts tagged: Long Canyon

Our Time In Moab – Part 2

By , May 21, 2010 7:18 pm

Canyonlands National Park and Potash Road

On May 10th, we decided to do some more off-road exploration.  I’d checked some maps and spoken to some locals who recommended Potash Road as a fairly easy but scenic trail to tackle.  I wanted to take a trail that was a little easier than the one we managed in Arches National Park.  From an off-road aspect, it wasn’t difficult yesterday, but I know it was a little nerve-wracking for Dasy.  Of course, the sign at the start of the non-paved section made me happy. 😉


Potash Road starts just north of Moab and winds south along the Colorado River.  The first few miles are a nice paved road.  The river is on one side and sheer red rock cliff faces are on the other.  There are scenic pull offs on a regular basis, most of which are near Native American pictographs.  The pictographs are interesting, but theories on what they all mean are as varied as the terrain around here.  We managed to hear two different “guides” talking about them and the stories they told were radically different.  I’m pretty sure everyone just makes up whatever they want and the tourists just suck it all up. 😉

At the end of the paved section is a boat ramp (more about that in a later post) and the dirt road pictured above.  The area of land is actually owned by a salt company, but they leave it open and unmaintained.  That’s a good thing, because it’s kind of a “thoroughfare” for several of the tour companies and off-roaders.  We headed up the dirt road, which at this point is easily navigable by just about any kind of vehicle (there wouldn’t be much in the way of difficult off-road trails today).  The first major sights we encountered were the evaporation ponds.

IMG_2485  IMG_0170

When you’re at eye-level with them, they’re hard to photograph, but they’re still quite neat.  The color of blue in the evaporation ponds is quite brilliant, especially in contrast to the few flowers in the area and the bleak red rock and sand of everything around the ponds.

The salt company pumps water into the ground, then collects the run off in these ponds.  The ponds are lined with black plastic and the water is dyed with a bright blue cobalt dye (we didn’t find out about the dye until a few days later).  The dye causes the water to absorb more sunlight, which causes it to evaporate faster.  What’s left after the evaporation is a huge collection of potash (a type of salt, used mostly for fertilizers and dynamite).

After the evaporation ponds, we gradually gained altitude and swung back towards the Colorado River.  Rounding one bend, we happened to notice a pretty large collection of GMC Yukon SUVs and a few pickup truck.  The Yukons were one of the local tour companies stopping for lunch at an overlook.  The trucks were a film crew, possibly working on a future Disney movie.  It turns out that a lot of movies have been shot here, the most recent recognizable one is probably Thelma and Louise…  The overlook we stopped at was the one where they drove the car off the cliff into the (supposed) Grand Canyon. In the picture below, you can see the point and the film crew way up in the top left on the outcropping (you might want to click on it to open a much larger version).


IMG_0194 IMG_0189

In spite of how high up that looks, we were only about half way up to the plateau that becomes Canyonlands National Park.  We’d see this same area later from a completely different vantage point.  In the photo below, there is a butte behind our Jeep.  If you look at the top of the butte, about halfway between the passenger headlight and the Jeep logo, you can just make out a large awning.  That’s Dead Horse State Park.  We’d head up there in a few days.


The views around here are just unreal.  It’s not possible to capture them with a camera.  The best I could do was to piece together a few panorama shots that show only a small portion of what we could see.

IMG_0223 IMG_0224-Edit

I generally try to avoid messing with my pictures too much, but assembling five or six pictures together into one was really the only way to even hint at how much is out here.

After spending time checking out the view over the Colorado River, we continued up Potash Road.  Eventually, we ran into Canyonlands National Park, where the road splits up to become Shafer Canyon Road and White Rim Trail.

White Rim Trail is a road that runs along the rim of the canyons carved by the Colorado and Green Rivers.  It circles the area of Canyonlands known as Island in the Sky.  I’ve been told you can complete the trail in a day, but it’s a long day and you have to be hustling pretty quick.  We didn’t do that because parts can be difficult and I didn’t want to abuse our Jeep by trying to go fast on difficult trails.  In the picture below, you can just make out White Rim Trail running around the big canyons.


We headed up Shafer Canyon Road and into Shafer Canyon.  The road is fairly easy, but you’d probably want some kind of four-wheel drive, just for the convenience.  The road is quite narrow and bumpy and would probably put quite a strain on the suspension of a standard passenger car.  It’s rare that you can see more than one of two bits of the road at a time.  We really didn’t know where it would go, but I had a map that said the road went into the canyon and there were mountain bikers and the occasional SUV that came down, so we figured it had to come out some where.  It turns out that it climbs up the canyon and dumps you at the plateau of Canyonlands National Park.  The view from the top gives you an idea of how much of a climb it is (this is also a panorama shot… it’s too big for one shot).


Once at the top, we explored the Island in the Sky portion of Canyonlands.  It really is like an island in the sky… it’s one huge plateau mesa surrounded almost completely by precipitous drops.  It’s a pretty neat place and I wish we had more time to explore it.  We did take a bunch more pictures, but I’ll probably post up a slideshow with those later. Note: Dasy thinks Island in the Sky is a mesa, I think it’s a plateau.  We did some digging and found that it’s a good example of both.IMG_0333

After touring Island in the Sky and doing a fair amount of hiking to a place called Upheaval Dome (more on that in a different post perhaps), we were pretty close to cooked and ready to call it a day.  After checking some more maps, I found that there were three ways to go back.  One was back the way we came, which we decided against.  Another option was to take main roads, but that would have been a fair distance.  Instead, we elected to take Long Canyon Road, which was an off-road trail that was marked as “intermediate” on my maps.  It looked fairly short, and most of it was forest trail, so I figured it wouldn’t take that long.

While most of the trail was easy, there’s one portion that you wouldn’t want to take unless you were comfortable wheeling in 4-wheel drive with steep angles.  As an unexpected bonus, we managed to find a really cool spot that I didn’t expect to find during our trip…



Just for reference, that’s not just me showing off… that IS the road! :)  The giant boulder over the Jeep fell off a few years ago and the county jack-hammered chunks off it so that the road would still be usable.  About half an hour of climbing down the canyon later, we ended up right back on the paved portion of Potash Road, just a couple miles from Moab.  That was definitely an appreciated detour.


Panorama Theme by Themocracy