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San Rafael Swell (Read 6795 times)
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San Rafael Swell
04/30/07 at 00:19:07
 
San Rafael Swell
The Following descriptions are courtesy of the Utah Interagency OHV Partners, BLM Price Field Office, the Emery County Travel Council the and track logs submitted by ATVUtah Forum Member.


How to Get There
Location - Eastern Central Utah Desert

Distance from Redwood Road and North Temple, Salt Lake City -Approximately 150 miles or 3-1/2 hours.

Travel route - From Salt Lake City; South on 1-15 to Spanish Fork; southeast on US-6 to Price; south on US-10 to County Road 401 and the San Rafael Recreation Area exit, approximately 2 miles before Castle Dale; OR Continue south on US-6 from Price to I-70; west on I-70 to State Hwy-24; South on State Hwy-24 approximately 24 miles to Temple Mtn Road.

Ride Description
Trailheads - MULTIPLE - Please see the San Rafael Motorized Travel map.

Total miles of recommended trails - Total not counted yet.

Difficulty -
[x] Easiest
[x] More Difficult
[x] Most Difficult
[x] Extreme

Elevation - 4,200 to 7,400 feet

Signing - All routes are or will soon be signed according to the symbols on the map.

Riding season - Year-round, depending on snow.

Best season - Spring and fall.

Things to see - Known for its scenic sandstone formations, deep slot canyons, desert streams, and expansive panoramas, the San Rafael Swell is a rare outdoor museum of geology, archeology, and modern-day history. For years local people and visitors have found that this priceless piece of public land is ideal for exploring, camping, ATV-riding, hiking, and much more. For those discovering this area for the first time, the possibilities for recreation and learning are endless.
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What is the San Rafael Swell?
The San Rafael "Swell" is actually an anticlinea huge dome formed by pressure from underneath the earth's surface. Much like the way an accordion would be pressed together, this anticline manifests itself on the surface with striking ridge-like rock formations. More than 70 million years old, the San Rafael Swell shows how wind, water, and changes from beneath the earth can shape a landscape.
The spectacular San Rafael Reef dominates the eastern side of the Swell. Erosion has exposed the jagged, upturned Navajo sandstone and cut deep canyons. These canyons are ideal for hiking and exploring.
Just one visit to the San Rafael will reveal a kaleidoscope of colors splashed across rugged cliffs, canyons, and arches. Erosion sculpts the stone, but the environment during deposition determines its color. Generally, brighter colors including red, yellow, and orange, are apparent in rocks deposited where oxygen was present. Examples of these environments are sand dunes and floodplains higher than the water table. Dull colors, including gray, light green, and purple, are the result of deposition with no oxygen present, possibly at the bottom of an inland sea or below a water table. Such places also preserved the bones and footprints of dinosaurs.
Although it is difficult to determine the climate of this area during prehistoric times, now in this harsh, arid region visitors will be surprised to find that certain types of vegetation flourish. Pinyon-juniper woodlands and open grasslands cover higher elevations; shrubs and grasses flourish at the lower elevations; and riparian species thrive along the river and canyons. North-facing alcoves and slopes are dotted with Ponderosa pine and Douglas fir.
Vegetation supports wildlife such as antelope, big horn sheep, and mule deer. The abundant resources in the area make it one of BLM's most visited locations in all of Utah.
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Natural Arch In Eagles Canyon
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Bridge over Eagles Canyon and A View of The Devils Race Track

Dinosaurs
Millions of years ago the climate of eastern Utah was perfect for dinosaur life. As the great dinosaurs lived and died, many of their bones were deposited in the soil and preserved. Among paleontological discoveries are pterosaur tracks, early marsupial mammals, a duckbill hadrosaur, and a small nodosaur. Researchers today conduct digs at locations throughout Emery County. The most famous is the Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry where more than 12,000 bones have been excavated. This site has also yielded over 45 Allosaurus skeletons from its stony grip. Dozens of bones are still visible in the ground.

Native Americans
If there is anything that sets the San Rafael Swell uniquely apart from the other slickrock areas of the West, it is the footprints of human history upon its landscape.
Native Americans lived in this area thousands of years ago. These cultures hunted, gathered and farmed in the San Rafael. Petroglyphs and pictographs on the canyon walls are the only form of recorded history that exists.
Although interpretation of these artists' work varies, archeologist's have used certain characteristics in the art to date their originators.
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Buckhorn Wash Pictographs

Settlers and Miners
The Old Spanish Trail blazed by early explorers reaches its northernmost point in the San Rafael Swell. Explorers including Kit Carson and John C. Fremont traveled this route.
Explorers were followed by settlers traveling into the San Rafael to farm and ranch during the early 1800s. Although weather was harsh and water scarce, cowboys and numerous outlaws survived in the desert by finding springs hidden in rocks and canyons.
The Cold War was a hot time in the San Rafael Area. The need for uranium had prospectors feverishly filing mining claims throughout the area. Traveling into remote areas like Reds Canyon Loop, many of their abandoned, rusted automobiles tell the vivid story of these determined prospectors. Old mines like the ones at Temple Mountain and Tomsich Butte can still be seen today. Although mines are interesting historical sites, remember it is extremely dangerous to go inside of them.
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Joe Swasey in Joe's Office, Near Swasey's Cabin

Services - Plan ahead and be prepared. Although services are very* limited within the San Rafael, communities along the main" highways provide many of the services visitors need. Price and Green River have full services. Castle Dale and Huntington have restaurants, gas stations, community grocery stores, and motels. Smaller towns such as Emery and Perron have fewer services limited to gas. stations and small stores. Because the San Rafael portion of 1-70 is the longest stretch of highway in the U.S. without services, plan ahead to have adequate gasoline. For medical locations see "Emergency Contacts" on the opposite side.. Bring plenty of drinking water during summer months.

Rest rooms - Yes, usually located along more popular routes and at points of interest throughout the area.

Camping - Camping is a favorite activity in the San Rafael. The San Rafael Campground is conveniently located by the San Rafael River near Buckhorn Draw. No potable water is available at this site. Utah State Park's Goblin Valley also has a developed campground. Primitive camping is also allowed in the San Rafael. Please camp in previously impacted areas and follow the Leave No Trace Guidelines on this map. Carry in all water and wood for campfires.

Hiking and Backpacking - Ideal during spring and fall, hiking and backpacking are great ways to explore the San Rafael's rugged terrain. Hiking routes are mostly unmarked; however, locations with easier-to-find trailheads are marked the map. Many hiking routes are walks of varying lengths while others may require scrambling or use of ropes. Know your limits and be prepared with necessary supplies.

Floating Desert Waterways - During the spring runoff, the San Rafael River, Muddy Creek, and Price River are floatable with small craft such as kayaks and inflatable "duckies." Even though the waterways are small, personal flotation devices (life-jackets) are recommended since there are obstacles. Contact the BLM Price Field Office for current conditions.

Emergency services - Call 911 in emergencies. Medical Services are located in Price (Castleview Hospital), Castle Dale (Emery Medical Clinic), and Green River. This is a very remote area. There is limited cell phone coverage. It may be several hours before rescue services will be on site. Be prepared. Make sure you have a tow strap, tire repair kit and basic repair tools.
Emery County Sheriff - (435) 381-2404
Carbon County Sheriff - (435) 636-3251

Cautions
Travel restrictions - The trails traverse the perimeter of several Wilderness Study Areas some of which are closed to motorized travel. The remainder of the area is open for motorized travel on designated and established routes only. GET THE MAP! However, if you cannot read a map or are not with someone who is familiar with the area it is better to follow the signed route to avoid getting lost. Riders are required to stay on existing roads and trails to prevent unnecessary impacts to the land. Maps showing the designated routes are available from the Price BLM Field Office and many local establishments. You can also usually get the map from any Emery County Sheriff Deputy.

Check local weather forecasts - Many roads within the Swell cross soil types that are extremely muddy after storms and during snow melt. At such times, these roads may become virtually impassable.

Take precautions against heat exhaustion - Avoid overexertion, drink plenty of fluids, apply sun screen, and wear a hat.

Be aware of flash flood danger - Never camp or park your vehicle in a wash or stream bed. Avoid hiking in narrow canyons when rain is forecasted. Dry washes can flash flood in a matter of minutes even if clouds can't be seen directly overhead.

Let someone know where you're going and when you plan to return - If your vehicle should break down or you become lost, stay with your vehicle.

Do not enter or camp near abandoned mines - Adding to the danger of being caught in a collapsing tunnel or falling into a hidden shaft, uranium mines pose a unique hazard. Heavy concentrations of radioactive radon gas are known to accumulate at the entrances to these mines.

Gates - Leave all gates as you find them. If they are open, leave open. Close if closed.

Livestock - Do not harass livestock. Slow down and let them get out of the way.

Wildlife - Look, but don't disturb.

Hunting - A hunting license does not give anyone the right to travel on closed roads or trails. There are no exceptions for game retrieval on public lands.

Fire - Check with the BLM office in Price for any open fire restrictions. You will be responsible for any damage and cost associated with a wildfire you cause.

Waste - If you packed it in, pack it out. Do not bury trash.

Special equipment needed - Bring plenty of water during the hot summer months.

Difficulty Rating as noted and color coded on the printed versions of the San Rafael Motorized Travel map.
Easiest (solid green square) - Gravel or dirt surfaces which are relatively flat and wide. Generally wide enough for an ATV to pass a full-sized vehicle. May be dusty but are relatively smooth throughout with no rocks or roots protruding more than three inches above the surface.
More Difficult (solid blue square) - Loose gravel, sandy, rocky or slickrock surface. May have short sections which are narrow. Can have blind turns, steep or roller coaster grades, minor drop-offs, dust, ruts and frequent changes in riding surfaces. Occasional obstacles may strike the frame.
Most Difficult (solid black square) -Rocky surfaces, sharp turns, switchbacks, steep grades, narrow passages, low overhangs, ledges and large rocks. Can be slippery and muddy when wet. May have tree stumps, limbs or other debris. Machines with low ground clearance may strike or high center on obstacles. Some riders may be more comfortable using four wheel drive machines.
Extreme (solid red square) - May be extremely steep and rocky with ledges and drop-offs, narrow switchbacks, boulders and uneven or unbalanced trail surfaces. May be long stretches of loose rock or deep sand on steep grades with extreme side-slopes. Some obstacles will high center most machines. Four-wheel drive is recommended. In some areas it may be necessary to walk machines over or have a helping third hand. These routes require experienced riders with a full array of good riding skills. All users should consider riding abilities and machine capabilities before attempting these routes.

Here are the electronic versions of San Rafael Swell Motorized Travel Map.
They are NOT color coded for trail difficulty ratings. They are all named and color coded as to whether they are designated as Trail or County/BLM roads on the San Rafael Motorized Travel map.

National Geographic Topo:
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Have fun, ride safe, keepem wheels down, and see you at the Jamborees,
The ATVUtah.com Forums Team.
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