The Moab area is blessed with a number of State Scenic Byways that travel through some very rugged and beautiful countryside. We decided that today would be an easy one for us, so we just pottered along a couple of these roads and enjoyed a semi-restful day.
After breakfast, we drove north to the bridge where the highway crosses the Colorado River. It is shallow here – people were able to wade across some sections. We turned right at the bridge and drove upstream on a road that parallels the river along a narrow section of gorge. The views were a little like a mini Grand Canyon.
After 20 kilometres the gorge widened as the highway proceeded past the Castle and Professor Valleys, which have been the shooting locations for many western films (including Wagon Master and Rio Grande). The Moab to Monument Valley Film Commission has a museum at a very large and impressive lodge on a gentle bend of the river. I wondered whether we would meet any of the famous movie stars on this trip and, sure enough, there was John Wayne standing in the museum waiting to say hello to us.
The river here is very peaceful. You can look out from the ranch where the museum is located to this superb view across the river.
Not long afterwards, the road passed a viewpoint for what is billed as ‘one of the grandest views in the west’ – the red rock spires of the Fisher Towers set against the snow covered peaks of the La Sal Mountains..
After leaving the valley, the road wound farther up the river gorge until it arrived at the site of an old suspension bridge. Unfortunately the bridge was destroyed by a brush fire in 2008 and all that remains are the cables and dangling connecting rods onto which the road bed was attached. There is a new concrete bridge there now.
The road then followed the northern bank of the river for a few more kilometres before leaving the Colorado River Gorge altogether. At this point we drove across open desert toward the ghost town of Cisco. Cisco was founded as a water refilling station for steam locomotives along the main line of the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad. There is very little left other than some ruined buildings and a network of streets, some of which still have their original street signs.
From there, we drove back to the Interstate Highway with a 106 km drive back to Moab.
We had lunch in a fairly inauspicious restaurant / bar, did a bit if shopping in the local supermarket and then headed off for our second scenic drive. This one was on a road that followed the river downstream to a location named
Potash – so named because there is an active potash mine by the river. We were glad that we left this drive until the afternoon, as by that time of day, the sun was shining onto the rock faces along the river and produced some beautiful colours.
Just a little way along the road, the road runs beside some vertical cliffs which are a mega for rock climbers. It is known as Wall Street and dozens of groups of people were climbing on the rocks.
Further along were several more petroglyph panels. These ones were carved between 1000 and 8000 years ago. At that time, the valley was filled with sand and the artists could stand on the sand to do their work, Now the sand has been washed away and the art works are about eight metres above the road level. This makes then too high for people to interfere with and they still stand out clearly.
We stopped at an area where dinosaur tracks are visible but it meant doing a long walk from the carpark. Not only did I need to watch my time, but I also wasn’t ready for another day of long walks. Apparently, there are a series of three-toed dinosaur tracks in the rocks. We could see some other arches from the road and captured some more interesting views of the river.
We turned around at the Potash Mine and headed back to Moab for a quiet glass of wine and to catch up with some laundry and personal maintenance.