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-   -   San Rafael Swell 9/18/10 - Day One (http://www.risingsun4x4club.org/forum2/showthread.php?t=14111)

MountainGoat 09-25-2010 01:46 PM

San Rafael Swell 9/18/10 - Day One
Spent last Saturday and Sunday exploring part of the San Rafael Swell with my brother who lives in Grand Junction. It was the first time either of us had been in the swell. It was totally awesome. The magnitude of it along with the lack of people was staggering. We only explored a small portion of it, but we covered a lot of ground nonetheless. I am breaking the trip report into sections so it will be obvious which pictures are from which areas.

First we exited I-70 about 10 miles west of Green River and headed south. We found a route that skirted Shadscale Mesa and then went north through The Squeeze, crossing back under I-70 at the entrance to Black Dragon Canyon.


Westbound on I-70 with the San Rafael Reef in the distance.

Westbound on the south side of Shadscale Mesa. My 85 mini truck (now my brother's) leading.

The trucks, looking north at the mesa.

The eastern edge of the reef.

Copper ore.

Uneva Mine Canyon


Looking south from the canyon trail.


Looking north through The Squeeze, the small white line in the center is a tractor trailer rig on I-70 in the distance.

The route under the interstate.

MountainGoat 09-25-2010 01:47 PM

After crossing back under I-70 we were at the entrance to Black Dragon Canyon.



The canyon entrance is narrow.

There are two routes initially, the road and the riverbed. We thought we were on the road, but found ourselves in the riverbed.

It was blissfully cool in the canyon bottom. We saw a red spotted toad, chipmunks and a gopher snake in there.

After the first squeeze, the canyon opens up a bit.

There are a lot of pictographs in the canyon.

This is the "Black Dragon", which is obviously actually red.

Looking back down the canyon trail.

The "Praying Dog" pictograph.

We found a shady spot for lunch about a third of the way up the canyon.

My brother puts his 25 year old drive train to the test on an obstacle.

Near the top of the canyon.

Exiting the canyon onto Jackass Flat. The plateaus in the background are called Jackass Benches.

MountainGoat 09-25-2010 01:48 PM

Next we headed southwest across Jackass Flat and Rattlesnakes Bench to check out another I-70 underpass. This one went to Cliff Dweller Flat on the south side, but alas, we opted to head north up Cottonwood Draw, past The Sinkhole and Bottleneck Peak toward the San Rafael River.


This is looking southeastward at the Manti La Sal mountains behind Moab.

Jackass Benches in the background (looking northward).

BLM Roadsign.

Looking southward at I-70 across a random stone wall ruin.

Another underpass. This one is for access to Cliff Dweller Flat.

This must have been interesting when outlaws like Butch Cassidy came through at night on the run from Johnny Law.



After traveling north for about 20 minutes we arrived at Bottleneck Peak just in time to get these shots.


Looking northward at the mouth of Buckhorn Wash. The San rafael River travels east and west just in front of those mountains.

MountainGoat 09-25-2010 01:49 PM

Next we encountered the San Rafael River. It was very like an oasis in the desert after the day's travels. We were getting near 6pm by now, so after checking out the river and the old swinging bridge, we began scouting for campsites. There is a fee campground here, but that isn't really our style (even though there was only one camper there). We went about a mile north up Buckhorn Wash but didn't see anything to our liking. Then we headed east down Mexican Mountain Road along the river. There are campsites galore on this stretch between the road and the river. Once again we only encountered people at the very first campsite. There was no one else to be seen. We made camp and had a great night's sleep.


The Swinging Bridge built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps.

The view west along the river.

The trees made it much cooler than out on the benches.

This tree had overgrown the bridge in the past 70+ years.

Here you can get a perspective on the hardware size and cable diameter on the bridge.

The tree branch enveloped the cable.

Our campsite with Mexican Mountain to the north.

Assembly Hall Peak to the southeast.

More views from camp.



So much for day one. We did a lot of moving. All the pictures in this trip report were taken between 10am and 7pm on Saturday the 18th.

Crikey what a long but excellent day. Let me tell you, the cold :beer: at camp was delightful. :thumb:

I will post up Sunday soon. What an incredible place. :D

bh4rnnr 09-25-2010 02:33 PM

Awesome Dan! It's always a good time in the Swell:cool:.

I was going to make a note that after the Castle Gate hold up, Butch and some of the gang used the Black Dragon canyon and relays of Horses to get the stolen money to Robbers Roost, but looks like your already up on the history:thumb:.


MountainGoat 09-25-2010 02:39 PM


Originally Posted by bh4rnnr (Post 163114)
Awesome Dan! It's always a good time in the Swell:cool:.

I was going to make a note that after the Castle Gate hold up, Butch and some of the gang used the Black Dragon canyon and relays of Horses to get the stolen money to Robbers Roost, but looks like your already up on the history:thumb:.


Yeah, I understand that back in the day Black Dragon was the only route into the swell. :cool:

Jacket 09-25-2010 10:41 PM

Great trip report and pics Dan. Almost like you're running the CM Overnighter in reverse....

All these Utah desert pics are hurtin' me.

nattybumppo 09-27-2010 02:17 AM

Anxiously awaiting day two!

MDH33 09-27-2010 07:39 AM

looks like a great time. :thumb::beer:

subzali 09-27-2010 08:22 AM


Originally Posted by Jacket (Post 163140)

All these Utah desert pics are hurtin' me.

x2 Great trip report Dan, and thank you for the maps along with the pics!

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