Friday, May 22, 2009

Campground of the Week: Memorial Day, May 23-30th

Its that time, Memorial Day weekend, the official beginning of the summer recreation season. Campers will be out in force this weekend, so I'm suggesting a little used corner of the San Rafael Swell to avoid everyone else. "The Swell" is one of Utah's lightly used treasures. It's a great place to escape the crowds and see some amazing geology. Dirt bikers, ATV riders, mountain bikers, hikers, canyoneers, rock climbers, and river runners will all love the opportunities in San Rafael Swell. There are lots of undeveloped spots to camp in the Swell, but if you're looking for something that's established, Buckhorn Wash offers a beautiful, low key campground.

Buckhorn Wash
This minimally developed campground sits in an alcove of Navajo Sandstone in the lovely Buckhorn Wash. Buckhorn Wash, like San Rafael Swell in general, is stunningly beautiful yet relatively undeveloped compared to many of Utah's parks. It offers an opportunity to see the distinctive architechture of the Navajo formation and find solitude at the same time. The campground is just a 1/2 mile from the Buckhorn Wash Pictograph Panel. The Buckhorn Wash Panel is done in the Barrier Canyon style. "A style consisting of often life-sized, dark, painted, ghostly, figures with atenuated (stetched out), tapering bodies, frequently without arms painted in alcoves or overhangs. Sometiomes they have arms holding snakes, strings (like Inca Kepu's?), giving an "angel-like" apearance, sometimes mummy-like, often with dots, rays, and crowns above their heads and accompanied by birds, snakes, insects, and dogs. Mostly pictographs but some petroglyphs. Abstract elements at sites are rare." From: The Buckhorn Wash Pictograph Panel visitor's brochure (Emory Co. Lasting Legacy Project). The campsites themselves don't offer anything other than rock fire and a natural setting to camp it. You will be able to find a flat sandy spot to pitch a tent or park a self-contained camper. This one of the best free camping options in Utah. In addition to these sites there are another handful of sites scattered along the road near the Buckhorn Pictograph Panel. The road to the camping area is unpaved and a four-wheel-drive vehicle is recommended.

Campsites, facilities:
There are about a half dozen campsites off two spur roads in the campground. The left road is in better shape than the right, which is best navigated with a high clearance vehicle. An open air toilet and fire rings are provided. There are no picnic tables or drinking water. Leashed pets are permitted.

Reservations, fees:
Reservationa are not accepted. There is no fee. Open year-round.

From Huntington, follow the BLM signs for San Rafael Recreation Area. Turn left on Center Street toward Lawrence. Turn left again after 2.8 miles, continue for 0.5 mile, and take the right fork to Buckhorn Draw. After 11.7 miles, you'll see a small campground with a toilet. The campground isn't labeled but is in a huge natural rock amphitheatre on the east (left) side of the road. Look for the cave to the left.
GPS coodinates: N 39 08.023' W 110 41.726'

BLM Price Field Office, 435/636-3600

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