Winter Journey – San Rafael Reef – April 2017 (10)

Monday April 10th – we have decided to stay another day so as to explore the area a bit more. As we drive west on I-70, we talk about the battery situation, deciding to get better batteries, but not the expensive off-grid type that I was considering. Replacing Terry’s bent axle is a high priority and money will need to go to that.

Our first stop is the San Rafael Reef Viewpoint. From here one can see a portion of the 30-mile long sandstone barrier running north to south, cutting off east from west until 1970 when an opening was cut through the wall, allowing two lanes of traffic to pass through the San Rafael Reef and traverse the wild landscape of the San Rafael Swell to the west. As part of the growing interstate highway system, this was widened to four lanes in the mid-1980’s

San Rafael Reef
San Rafael Reef
Notice I-70 cutting through the Reef

Our next stop is the Black Dragon Viewpoint where some of the great mesas of the San Rafael Swell are seen.

A very red-rock mesa to the left of us…
A darker colored mesa to the right of us
Overview of mesas

About 30 miles west of Green River, we take exit 131, which leads through a BLM dispersed camping area and several miles of gravel road to the San Rafael BLM Recreation Site along the San Rafael River.

Pausing to consider whether we want to go all the way to the San Rafael Recreation Site

It is an interesting area, but the campground and facilities are not being well-maintained and cows are trashing the area. After looking around, we have a picnic at a table under a big old oak tree. This could be a very scenic place to camp, but because of the condition of the campground, we will probably not come again.

Formations near the San Rafael Recreation Site campground
Formations near the San Rafael Recreation Site campground

On our way back to Green River, we stop at the Spotted Wolf Viewpoint near the I-70 cut, but on the opposite side from our first stop at the San Rafael Reef Viewpoint.

Notice I-70 snaking through the cut in the Reef, this time looking east
Hiking to the Spotted Wolf Viewpoint, a fellow-hiker and I took photos of each other

This is a very interesting area and well -deserving of more exploration time, but that will have to wait for another trip to the Southwest.

Utah landscape from the Spotted Wolf Viewpoint