Nov. 2008 Oil & Gas Leases Threaten Arches National Park
On May 27, 2008, we jumped in the truck and drove north from Moab, Utah on Highway 191. About four miles short of Crescent Junction, we departed the highway on the right and took the dirt road that heads of on a diagonal "Valley City Road" towards Thompson Springs, a small town where the steam trains of old found a reliable source of water for their boilers. Although there are few descriptive road signs in the area, we had a DeLorme Utah Atlas & Gazetteer which indicated that "Valley City Road" connects to the Salt Valley Road, in turn leading to the little-used northeast entrance to Arches National Park. Since as of this writing, there is no Google entry for the "Valley City Road, Grand County, Utah", perhaps this article will help create a search result for that road
As we drove from the parched bottom lands at the beginning of the road to its junction with the Arches main road, our elevation and the apparent water table rose steadily. Soon, the temperature cooled and we saw grassland and wild flowers in bloom.
Once inside Arches National Park, the first thing we saw was the road to Klondike Bluffs. Having taken that road part way the previous autumn, I knew that our Nissan Titan did not have sufficient ground clearance for that trip.
From end to end, the trip from Highway 191 to the Arches main road is about eighteen miles of well-graded dirt or gravel road. On the Salt Valley Road, we saw only one motorcycle and one other four-wheel drive vehicle. If you like to visit out-of-the-way places with unique and expansive views, Salt Valley is another “must see” while in the Moab area. With no development or litter along the road, you will find a near-wilderness experience that is accessible by truck or SUV.
Edward Abbey spent six months at Arches in the mid 1950s, when it was a remote and little-visited national monument. Residing in a trailer near the campground at the end of the Arches main road, Abbey studied and wrote extensively about the fauna, flora and geology of the Salt Valley in his classic book, “Desert Solitaire”, first published in 1967. Over forty years later, essentially nothing has changed in Salt Valley. Let us hope that the BLM keeps possible mineral and oil exploration at bay for at least another forty years.
Once we were back on the paved road, we proceeded to the “Devils Garden” area at the end of the road. Devils Garden, a mixed juniper and piñon forest, contains most of the red rock formations in the park. It features an easy and well-maintained trail that leads to many of the park’s spectacular natural arches, including Landscape Arch, with a span of almost 300 feet.
If you like to see animals in clouds or rock formations, there is no place like Devils Garden to find your rock-bound spirit friends. Some are in plain sight and others show up only when you review your pictures, back at camp. Either way, this area that Abbey referred to as the hoodoos offers great views in all directions, including the Book Cliffs to the North and the La Sal Mountains to the east.
Most visitors to Arches National Park enter at the Main Entrance on Highway 191, just north of Moab. After stopping at every natural wonder along the road, by the time they reach Devils Garden, often they have “seen enough” of the Arches. If so, they tend to use the return trip as an opportunity to speed back to the entrance as fast as possible. In “Desert Solitaire”, Abbey tells a story about a visitor who asks:
“You just got here, sir.”
“I know, but how do we get out?”
“Same way you came in. It’s a dead-end road.”
“So we see the same scenery twice?”
“It looks better going out”.
For many, it is all about the destination, not the journey.
Author's Note - December 2012: Thanks to filmmaker ML Lincoln, we shall soon hear again from the spirit of Edward Abbey in her new feature documentary, titled "Wrenched". For a synopsis of the movie, click HERE.