Tag Archives: Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument

Grand Staircase-Escalante Cottonwood Canyon Road

I love the Grand Staircase-Escalante area because of its relatively unspoiled wilderness and unique geography, flora and fauna. It’s a short ways away from Lake Powell and for those who want to see what rugged Southern Utah has to offer it is relative accessible.

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument is responsible for land use planning efforts on approximately 1.9 million acres of public land within the Monument’s boundaries in south central Utah. The planning area also includes an additional 200,000 acres of public land that falls within the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.

Here are some photographs I took on a trip along Cottonwood Canyon Road as a scenic short-cut to Kodachrome Basin and Bryce. And Yes, I was shooting Kodachrome 64.

I brought along a first-aid kit (which I kept on myself), a gallon of water and some trail-mix. It was hot, dusty and absolutely mind-bending – worth the experience in dry weather, 100% to be avoided if wet.

Grand Staircase Escalante Sign
Grand Staircase Escalante Sign
Grand Staircase Escalante Cactus Copyright © Ryan Hertz
Grand Staircase Escalante Copyright © Ryan Hertz
Grand Staircase Escalante Cottonwood Canyon  Copyright © Ryan Hertz
Grand Staircase Escalante Cottonwood Canyon Sandstone Formations Copyright © Ryan Hertz
Cottonwood Canyon
Cottonwood Canyon Sandstone Formations Copyright © Ryan Hertz
Cottonwood Canyon from Road
Cottonwood Canyon from Cottonwood Canyon Road Copyright © Ryan Hertz
Lone Cottonwood, Cottonwood Canyon Road Copyright © Ryan Hertz
Lone Cottonwood, Cottonwood Canyon Road Copyright © Ryan Hertz
Indian Paintbrush Flower
Indian Paintbrush Flower Grand Staircase Escalante Copyright © Ryan Hertz
Grand Staircase Escalante Canyon
Grand Staircase Escalante Canyon Copyright © Ryan Hertz
Cottonwood Canyon
Cottonwoods in Cottonwood Canyon Copyright © Ryan Hertz

From WikiPedia:

Road 400 (Cottonwood Canyon Road) is a scenic 47 mile dirt road connecting U.S. Highway 89 with Utah S.R 12 at Cannonville. It traverses portions of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument offering a unique view into the heart of the Monument. The only other road (Smoky Mountain Road) crossing the entire Grand Staircase is also unpaved, nearly twice as long, and requires at a minimum a high clearance vehicle.

Road 400 is a reasonably good quality dirt road (mostly sand and clay over a sandstone foundation) during dry weather. If the road has been recently graded it may be suitable for passenger cars, however high clearance vehicles are recommended.

Originally constructed as a maintenance road for power lines following the canyon, it is considered impassable in wet weather. Many sections traverse ancient seabed deposits of mudstone, silt, and shale. When wet the clay surface becomes exceptionally slick, rendering even four wheel drive useless. Additionally many drainages cross the road in various locations, and these may wash out during periodic flash flooding, particularly during summer thunderstorms. Even in dry weather the road can be muddy to the point of being impassable in low areas.

Old Paria Movie Set Grand Staircase-Escalante NM Utah

We are continuing down memory lane with the Old Paria Movie Set near Pahreah Townsite, UT. Around 1999 the original structures/facades had been removed much to my dismay after bringing a friend to see it. According to the BLM:

In September 1998, flash floods undermined the buildings and created a safety hazard. In November of 1999, 87 local residents from Kane County, Utah, and Page, Arizona, pitched in to disassemble the Movie Set and salvage the old boards to reconstruct two of the buildings. Meticulous drawings were made of the original structures, but when work began in November 2000, builders determined that most of the salvaged lumber would not be structurally suitable for construction. Even so, the original wood holds special memories, and therefore will be included in the overall design. Plans are underway to incorporate the old boards in interpretive displays for inside and outside the reconstructed buildings.

Unfortunately I have not been back to the movie site since then, so I am curious to see how the reconstruction compares to what I remember.

I have taken numerous photographs of the Paria/Pahreah area because I really loved the “painted” stripes of the surrounding sandstone and mud. What I was missing were photos of the actual set which, although reminded us of a foregone era, were obviously “Hollywood” and didn’t fit into my landscape photographer aesthetic.

Alas, I have found one image of some of the movie set which was built in the early 1960s for the movie Sergeants Three, a Western featuring Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra. It also provided settings for the television series Death Valley Days and Gunsmoke. The last movie filmed there was The Outlaw Josie Wales in 1976.

Old Paria Movie Set
Old Paria Movie Set, Red Rock Saloon (left), Lost Lady Hotel (right) Copyright © Ryan Hertz
Paria River
Paria River Copyright © Ryan Hertz

Pareah Townsite Grand Staircase-Escalante
Pareah Townsite Grand Staircase-Escalante Copyright © Ryan Hertz

Paria Pareah Townsite River Valley Utah
Paria Pareah Townsite River Valley Copyright © Ryan Hertz

Alstrom Point, Lake Powell – Part 4

So now that I’ve tried to scare you from driving your car to Alstrom Point I thought I’d throw out a photograph of the nearly perfect vehicles for exploring around Glen Canyon NRA and Lake Powell.

These Honda ATVs (all terrain vehicles) made for a fast and nimble arrival to Alstrom Point and continued to be our modern horses for some exploration off-lake around the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument.

Honda ATV Lake Powell Arizona Utah
Honda ATVs Lake Powell Arizona Utah

I will venture off virtually to the Grand Staircase Escalante in some future posts.

Alstrom Point, Lake Powell – Part 3

Crossing Wahweap Wash
Crossing Wahweap Wash
You never know what the flow of the Wahweap Wash will be like until you get there but most times it will look like this.

If the water is moving rapidly or the soft prehistoric muck is wet this area can be impassible. I strongly encourage that if you attempt this adventure please do not take any unnecessary chances with getting stuck or injured. The local authorities do maintain this County Road a couple times a year but if the wash has been flowing it will cut into the route deeply.

If the pass is clear you will eventually be rewarded with a fantastic elevated view of Lake Powell.


View Larger Map

I will leave the rest of the navigation up to you. The Google Map may not include all of the jeep trails. I have a U.S. Geological Survey topographic map (USGS Topo) that I purchased at Glen Canyon Dam Visitor’s Center that I used to learn the area.