2017 Bluff Solstice Celebration- Dancing Bears Sculpture

2017 Bluff Solstice Celebration- Dancing Bears Sculpture

After missing the past two Solstice Celebrations in Bluff, my husband, 5 yr-old son, and I braved the 17 degree weather and several inches of fresh snow in Monticello, and made our way down to Bluff for one of the most unique events in southeast Utah!

After the snow we received last Wednesday night and during the day on Thursday, it took some convincing to get my husband to agree to go, but we were glad we did- by the time we arrived in Bluff the temperature was up to 29 degrees, and the ground was dry- perfect conditions to celebrate the first day of winter and the shortest day of the year!

2017 Bluff Solstice Celebration- Dancing Bears Sculpture

With the snowy roads leaving Monticello, we ended up getting to Bluff a little later than we’d planned, and barely had time to get a photo of the sculpture before the celebration began.

As always, the celebration started with a few words from Joe Pachak- the artist who oversaw the creation of the sculpture with help from volunteers.  While I couldn’t hear everything he was saying due to the size of the crowd gathered around the sculpture, I also read a Salt Lake Tribune article that came out the day before the Solstice Celebration where Joe discussed his reasoning for sculpting the two dancing bears this year.

While I’m sure many people immediately assumed it had to do with the designation, and subsequent shrinking of Bears Ears National Monument, that wasn’t the only reason he chose bears for his annual sculpture.

If you live in the area, you know that we had a very late frost this year, which resulted in our fruit trees in Monticello producing absolutely no fruit this summer.  So if we had no fruit in town, you can imagine that the berries, acorns, and other regular foods that bears eat in the Abajos, were also affected.  Here in Monticello we had bears wandering into town and ending up in trees in people’s front yards, and on the San Juan River there were reports of bear sightings at camps along the banks of the river.  The bears definitely had a hard year, so the sculpture was constructed partially to acknowledge that.

So if this sculpture was constructed to acknowledge the bears’ hard summer, why the ‘dancing’ bears, you ask?   Pachak said that he consulted local Ute flute maker, Aldean Ketchum and his wife, and they persuaded him to to change his bear sculpture into a dancing pair in a posture from the Ute Bear Dance.  Pachak liked the idea, feeling that this would make the celebration much more meaningful, and went with it!

If you’ve been to previous Solstice Celebrations in Bluff, you may remember flaming atlatls being thrown at the sculpture to light it on fire.  To light the sculpture this year, a basket of nuts and berries was placed on hot coals at the bears’ feet, symbolically feeding them and hoping that 2018 will be a better year for bears in the area.

After Joe spoke about the making of the sculpture and the meaning behind it, Aldean Ketchum played a song on his flute, followed by a couple dance performances, then it was time to light the sculpture!

2017 Bluff Solstice Celebration- Lighting the Sculpture

2017 Bluff Solstice Celebration- The sparks were the best part!

2017 Bluff Solstice Celebration

As always, it’s quite a sight to see a 15 foot sculpture go up in flames!  And while it’s an awesome thing to get to experience, it also makes me a little bit sad to see these beautiful sculptures burn.  Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE a good bonfire!  But knowing how much time and work is put into these sculptures does weigh on my mind as I’m watching them burn.

We stayed about an hour until the flames and the nice, warm, heat of the fire started to die down a little and we remembered how cold it was out there!  Another great Bluff Solstice Celebration is in the books and winter is officially here!  (Although you’d never know it with the dry and unseasonably warm weather we’ve been having!)

Mark your calendars for the 2018 Bluff Solstice Celebration!  (It’s on a Friday- yay!) Can’t wait to see what they’ll construct next year!

For more information or to request travel brochures, please call Utah’s Canyon Country at: 800-574-4386

Or e-mail us at: info@utahscanyoncountry.com


Posted in Bluff, Events, Things to do for FREE!, Things to do with kids, Travel, Utah | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Annual Bluff Solstice Celebration

Dancing Bears Sculpture by Joe Pachak- 2017 Bluff Solstice Celebration

Bluff’s Annual Solstice Celebration is only a day away, so we thought we’d take a look back at some of the previous solstice sculptures from one of southeast Utah’s most unique events!

This year, local artist Joe Pachak has constructed two 15 foot- tall dancing bears in a posture from the Ute Bear Dance with guidance from local Ute flute musician, Aldean Ketchum.  As always, Joe’s solstice sculpture is impermanent, and is scheduled to be set on fire on the night of Thursday, December 21st in celebration of the Winter Solstice.  Anyone who has been to one of Bluff’s previous Solstice Celebrations can tell you that it’s an event unlike anything you’ve ever seen, and is definitely worth the drive!

Mammoth Sculpture- 2012 Bluff Solstice Celebration- photo: Wayne Ranney

Mammoth Sculpture- 2012 Bluff Solstice Celebration- photo: Wayne Ranney

Mammoth Sculpture- 2012 Bluff Solstice Celebration- photo: Wayne Ranney

Paleo Bison Sculpture – 2014 Bluff Solstice Celebration

Paleo Bison Sculpture – 2014 Bluff Solstice Celebration

My favorite solstice sculpture was definitely the Paleo Bison constructed in 2014.  Look at the detail in the bison’s face!  These sculptures are works of art, and as much as I love the Solstice Celebrations, it does make me a little sad to see them go up in flames!

2014 Bluff Solstice Celebration

Paleo Bison Sculpture – 2014 Bluff Solstice Celebration

Paleo Bison Sculpture – 2014 Bluff Solstice Celebration

2016 Bluff Solstice Celebration- Herons

2016 Bluff Solstice Celebration- Herons

If you’re considering making the drive to Bluff for the Solstice Celebration tomorrow night- DO IT!  It’s sure to be the most memorable Winter Solstice you’ll ever experience!

Bluff Solstice Celebration- Thursday, December 21st @ 7:00pm- On Hwy 191 across the street from Recapture Lodge

Posted in Bluff, Events, Things to do for FREE!, Things to do with kids, Travel, Utah | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

13 Family-Friendly Activities in Southeastern Utah

Planning to visit Utah’s Canyon Country with your family this fall and looking for things to do?  This list of family-friendly activities is for you!

1. Go Back in Time at the Bluff Fort


No trip to Bluff is complete without a visit to the Bluff Fort, where kids can don period clothing while trying their hand at roping wooden cows, pulling handcarts, and panning for gold.  Stroll the grounds and visit each cabin to hear stories of the families who were part of the Hole in the Rock expedition, and who settled in Bluff in 1880.  Enjoy some soft-serve ice cream in the Co-op Store, or buy some fresh baked cookies and Bluff Fort Root Beer to take with you on your way to your next adventure!  (*Also, while you’re there, find out how Camp Stickie-ta-tudy got its name!)

Bluff Fort: 550 Black Locust Ave, Bluff, UT 84512, 435-672-9995

San Juan County Patch

**If you’re a geocaher, don’t miss the cache hidden on the grounds at the fort- one of five official San Juan County caches included in the Visit Utah Geocache Program.  If you find at least 3 of the 5 caches in any county in the state, you’ll receive a custom made county patch!  Read more about the program and the San Juan County geocaches HERE!

2.  Float the San Juan River with Wild Rivers Expeditions


There’s no better way to enjoy the summer in southeast Utah, than a float trip on the San Juan River!  Book a trip with Wild Rivers Expeditions and sit back and enjoy the scenery and Class II & III rapids while your guide expertly navigates the river.  Highlights including stops at archaeological sites such as River House Ruin and the Butler Petroglyph Panel, as well as viewing 300 million year old fossils, and desert bighorn sheep are sure to keep your kids entertained!

3. Goosenecks State Park

Goosenecks State Park

Often mistaken for Horseshoe Bend on the Colorado River, at Goosenecks State Park the San Juan River twists and turns through sinuous ‘goosenecks’ as it flows toward Lake Powell traveling over 6 miles, while it advances to the west only 1 mile.  The Great Goosenecks of the San Juan River is the largest entrenched river meander in North America- it’s Horseshoe Bend times three!

**Visit Utah Geocache Location**

4. Take a Tour of Monument Valley


Monument Valley, spread across the Utah/Arizona border at the southern edge of San Juan County, is one of the most photographed places on earth!  It’s been featured in films, as the eye-catcher for ads, and on television, and the best way to see it in person is on a guided tour with one of the many tour companies in the valley, where guides will teach you about the Navajo history & culture of the area, as well as the Hollywood film history.  Open air vehicle tours, horseback riding tours, ATV tours, take your pick- just make sure to go with a guide to get the most out of your visit!

While in Monument Valley, be sure to stop by the Stagecoach Restaurant at Goulding’s Lodge for one of their delicious Navajo Tacos.  Based on the sheer number I’ve consumed over the years, I consider myself to be a Navajo Taco connoisseur, and these are THE BEST Navajo Tacos around!

Goulding’s Lodge & Stagecoach Restaurant: 1000 Main St, Monument Valley, UT 84536, 435-727-3231

5. Natural Bridges National Monument


Geared toward kids ages 4 yrs and up, the Jr. Ranger booklet at Natural Bridges National Monument is one of the best in Utah!  (trust me- I’ve done a lot of these booklets around the state with my son!) And your kids will have no problem completing it in this small 7,636 acre monument.

With a short 8 mile loop road taking you through the heart of the monument,  it’s easy to get up close and personal with all 3 bridges- Owachomo, Kachina, and Sipapu.  Whether you check out the bridges from the overlooks, or take the short hikes down to each, Natural Bridges may very well be the highlight of your family’s trip to Utah’s Canyon Country!

6. Hike to House on Fire Ruin


Thanks to its extreme photogenic nature and proximity to the highway, House on Fire has become one of the most popular archaeological ruins in southeast Utah.  The round trip hike of less than a 3 miles with no noticeable elevation gain, is the perfect length for kids. Upon arrival, visitors can witness the phenomenon that this ruin is named for- the colorations on the rock above the ruin that give the appearance of smoke and flames coming out of the roof, which is enhanced by the lighting early in the day.  A photographers dream- this ruin won’t disappoint!  Just don’t forget your camera!

7. Butler Wash Ruins

Butler Wash Ruins, San Juan County, UT

Located approximately 15 miles west of Blanding on Hwy 95, Butler Wash Ruins is a great, quick stop to check out an amazingly preserved cliff dwelling site.  Built by the Ancestral Puebloans in approximately 1200AD, this site includes habitation, storage, and ceremonial structures including four kivas.  While parts of this site have been stabilized and reconstructed, the majority of the site remains as it was found in the late 1880s.  Round trip hiking distance to the overlook is approximately 1 mile.

**Visit Utah Geocache Location**

8. The Dinosaur Museum



The Dinosaur Museum in Blanding is my 5 year old son’s absolute favorite place EVER!  We’ve been to quite a few dinosaur museums in the area including Moab Giants and the Prehistoric Museum at USU Eastern in Price, and The Dinosaur Museum in Blanding is still our favorite!

Open mid-April through mid-October each year, The Dinosaur Museum features exhibits including ; skeletons, fossilized skin, eggs, footprints, and sculptures of dinosaurs from the Four Corners region and throughout the world.  The highlight of the museum is the 14 ft tall Therizinosaurus, a towering feathered dinosaur with a 20 foot wingspan, that dominates the special exhibits room.  One of my favorite parts of the museum, which seems very unexpected in a small town in southeast Utah, is their huge collection of dinosaur movie posters from around the world. (Makes sense once you learn that the owners of the museum got their start sculpting dinosaurs for the motion picture industry!)  The Dinosaur Museum in Blanding is a true hidden gem, and is sure to capture the attention and imagination of dinosaur lovers of all ages!

The Dinosaur Museum: 754 South 200 West, Blanding, UT 84511, 435-678-3454

9. Edge of the Cedars State Park


Another must-see in Blanding, for both kids and adults, is Edge of the Cedars State Park.  This park is made up of three parts; a world-class museum that houses the largest collection of Ancestral Puebloan Artifacts in the Four Corners area, a one-thousand year old Puebloan Village site located behind the museum, and the facility is also a federal repository housing artifacts from the area, as well as other parts of the country.

Kids will love climbing the ladder down into the kiva located behind the museum, as well as exploring the children’s area- a large room full of books, puzzles, drawers with various activities, and hands-on play areas including a Puebloan dwelling where they can stack ‘stones’ to build their own walls.

Edge of the Cedars State Park: 660 W 400 N, Blanding, UT 84511, 435-678-2238

10. Nations of the Four Corners

Nations of the Four Corners is a network of trails and an interpretive cultural area made up of sites representing the different groups that contributed to the history of this area; Ute, Navajo, Hispanic, and Pioneer.  It sits right on the west edge of Blanding making it very convenient to visit as you’re just passing through, or even as an evening outing if you’re spending the night in town.  In addition to the structures, there are a couple of archaeological sites along the trails, as well as an arch (Prayer Arch) and a natural bridge! (Nations Natural Bridge)  Since it’s a network of trails, you can make your outing any length you want, from just a quick 10-15 minute stop, all the way up to a 5-6 mile roundtrip hike if you hike all the way out to Nations Natural Bridge and Five Kiva Pueblo.  (You can also access these sites by vehicle from the south end of town)

As you visit the structures representing each of the groups, it offers a great opportunity for kids to learn about the diverse cultural history of southeast Utah.  And be sure to visit the observation tower in the center of the site for spectacular views on the surrounding countryside!

Nations of the Four Corners: 461 W 500 S, Blanding, UT 84511, 435-678-4000

11. Discover the Colorado Plateau at the Canyon Country Discovery Center


The Canyon Country Discovery Center is a science and nature center, with indoor and outdoor learning stations. Developed for culturally diverse audiences, the facility allows children and adults to explore and discover the natural history and landscapes, people and places, land use and energy, astronomy, water, and climate of the Colorado Plateau.  The center also houses a rock-climbing wall, nature playscape out front, and numerous walking trails on the campus grounds.

Canyon Country Discovery Center: 1117 N Main, Monticello, UT, 800-525-4456

12. Finders Keepers at the Hideout Golf Club


From Memorial Day through Labor Day each year, locally made Cedar Mesa Pottery is hidden along the cart paths at the Hideout Golf Club.  Rent a cart or walk the paths, (especially nice in the evening when the deer are out) and if you find a piece of pottery- it’s yours to keep!  Kids will love the treasure hunt, and even if they don’t find a piece of pottery, chances are they’ll at least find a golf ball or two!

**Visit Utah Geocache Location**

13. Kid-Friendly Hikes in Canyonlands National Park


There are several great, kid-friendly hikes in the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park. Here are a couple of our favorites…

Cave Spring

At only .6 miles, this short loop trail is a great hike for kids.  The trail first takes you past an old cowboy camp nestled in an alcove with tables, dishes, a cookstove, and many other items still in place.  As you continue down the trail you’ll come to Cave Spring, which is one of the few year-round water sources in the area.  If you look closely, a smoke blackened ceiling and pictographs confirm that this area was used by the Ancestral Puebloan Indians long before the cowboys came along.

After passing Cave Spring, two ladders take you up onto the slickrock above and provide you with amazing panoramic views of the Needles Rock formations, North and South Six-Shooter Peaks in Indian Creek, and the Abajo and La Sal Mountains.  This hike provides a great opportunity for kids to learn first-hand about the history of Canyonlands.

Pothole Point

Pothole Point is another great hike for kids in the Needles District of Canyonlands.   Again, at only .6 miles, there’s no time for kids to get bored on this hike, especially if you go after an early spring or late summer rain when the potholes are full of water and creatures such as Fairy Shrimp, Beetle larvae, Tadpoles, Snails, and Tadpole Shrimp.  Since water never lasts long around here, the potholes provide a great opportunity for learning about the lifecycle and adaptations of these desert dwelling organisms.

For children ages 5 and up, there’s also the Junior Ranger Program that they can complete to earn a special Junior Ranger Badge!  Just pick up a booklet at the Visitor Center when you arrive!

This list could go on and on, but these are my top 13 picks for the best family-friendly activities in Utah’s Canyon Country in the southeast corner of the state.  For more ideas, click, ‘Things to do with kids‘ in the tag cloud on the right hand side of the blog or feel free to contact us at: info@utahscanyoncountry.com.


Posted in Blanding, Bluff, Bluff Fort, Canyonlands, Canyonlands National Park, Edge of the Cedars, Hiking, Monticello, Monument Valley, Museums, National Monuments, National Parks, National Parks & Monuments, Navajo Tribal Parks, San Juan River, Things to do for FREE!, Things to do with kids, Tours, Tours/Guided Trips, Travel, Utah | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Utah Symphony’s ‘Great American Road Trip’ Tour Coming to Bluff!


Photo: Utah Symphony

Three years after the Mighty Five® Tour brought the Utah Symphony to the state’s five national parks, the symphony is embarking on another tour, this time with performances in rural communities in or near state parks and national monuments throughout Utah.

On Thursday, August 31st, Bluff, UT will host a performance of the ‘Great American Road Trip’ tour with conductor Thierry Fischer leading the orchestra.   Pairing live, classical music with the natural landscapes of southeast Utah, this free outdoor concert will feature the full Utah Symphony, as well as opera singers from the Utah Opera, and music by Native American composer/musician Brent Michael Davids.

Two works by Davids will be featured in the concert including his original piece, ‘Fluting Around’, which Davids will play on a traditional Native American wooden flute.  Utah Opera’s resident artist soprano, Abigail Rethwisch, will sing Davids’ ‘Spirit Woman Song’, and will join her husband, baritone Andrew Paulson in operatic and musical theater selections.

All performances in this tour, including the Bluff performance, are free of charge, but tickets are required and a limited number of advance tickets will be offered.  Tickets are available through the Utah Symphony by calling 801-533-6683 or online at www.utahsymphony.org

Based on availability, walk-up tickets may be available the night of the performance, but are not guaranteed.  The Bluff performance will be held at 8:00pm at Camp Stickie-ta-tudy located just off Hwy 163, 2.3 miles west of the Bluff Post Office.

For more information or to request travel brochures, please call Utah’s Canyon Country at: 800-574-4386

Or e-mail us at: info@utahscanyoncountry.com

Posted in Bluff, Events, Things to do for FREE!, Things to do with kids, Travel, Utah | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

2016 San Juan ATV Safari- Elk Ridge Trail Ride

San Juan ATV Safari- Elk Ridge Trail Ride- San Juan County, UT

San Juan ATV Safari- Elk Ridge Trail Ride- San Juan County, UT

After the designation of Bears Ears National Monument in the end of December, our office was hit pretty hard with calls, many from ATVers, asking about the status of the ATV trails in our county.  Many people seemed to assume that all our trails were closed, but in fact, the proclamation did not open or close any roads.  All roads and trails that were open before the designation are still open, and anything that was closed before the designation is still closed, which means that all our ATV trails are still OPEN!   And with the 2017 San Juan ATV Safari quickly approaching, (Sept. 14-16) I thought I’d go ahead and post this short write-up on the ride I got to go on at last year’s Safari.

Last year about a month before the Safari, I was lucky enough to be put in contact with a man named Russ- a rider who was going to be bringing his side-by-side and had an extra seat that he offered to me if I wanted to ride along.  I definitely wanted to take him up on it, but the weekend of the San Juan Safari is always a busy weekend in San Juan County- it usually falls at the same time as the Utah Navajo Fair in Bluff, and as I mentioned in one of my last blog posts, we never miss the parade, so Saturday was definitely out.  I ended up riding along on Friday on the Elk Ridge Trailride, which was awesome- perfect weather, beautiful scenery, and great company!

The host city for the San Juan ATV Safari switches back and forth each year between Blanding and Monticello.  Last year the host city was Blanding which really just means that registration and the closing banquet are held in that town.  Riders can stay in either Monticello or Blanding, and I think there are probably quite a few people who have been coming for years and have a favorite place to stay, but I think others probably just stay in the community where most of the rides they’ve signed up for will be leaving from.

Since I was going to be riding along on the Elk Ridge Trailride, we were meeting bright and early in Blanding to check in with the guides for the day and then caravan out to the staging area where we’d unload our machines and start the ride.  I think we ended up with about 13-15 people on our ride- there were several from Montana, Arizona, & Utah, and at least one rider from Texas, as well as a couple locals.

Small ruin right beside the road- Elk Ridge Trailride San Juan ATV Safari

Small ruin right beside the road- Elk Ridge Trailride San Juan ATV Safari

Our first stop was just about 10 minutes into our ride, and it was to look at a small granary right along side the road.  It was very small, but it’s always cool to get to see ruins, and it was nice that it was right along the road- we really didn’t even need to get out of/off our machines to see it, but many of us did anyway to get a better angle for photos.

Elk Ridge Trailride- San Juan ATV Safari

Elk Ridge Trailride- San Juan ATV Safari

Elk Ridge Trailride- San Juan ATV Safari

Elk Ridge Trailride- San Juan ATV Safari

We continued down the trail, which was actually a county road not a true ATV trail, until we reached the Gooseberry Guard Station.  It was really gorgeous up there, and it couldn’t have been a more perfect day for riding- sunny, but a little on the cooler side in the morning which turned into the perfect temperature by the afternoon.  I was surprised to see that the Forest Service stocks this location with free maps & information, which made it a great spot for a break.  And thanks to another unexpected surprise- an actual vault toilet- it was a good restroom break as well!

Elk Ridge Trailride- San Juan ATV Safari

Elk Ridge Trailride- San Juan ATV Safari

Elk Ridge Trailride- San Juan ATV Safari

Elk Ridge Trailride- San Juan ATV Safari

Elk Ridge Trailride- San Juan ATV Safari

Elk Ridge Trailride- San Juan ATV Safari

The views from the road were gorgeous- my photos don’t even begin to do it justice.  It was a completely cloudless day, and I think that most of my landscape photos were taken pretty close to noon, so maybe the sun was directly overhead or something… I’m not sure, but my photos don’t at all show how beautiful it was up there!

Elk Ridge Trailride- San Juan ATV Safari

Arch Canyon Overlook- Elk Ridge Trailride- San Juan ATV Safari

Arch Canyon Overlook- Elk Ridge Trailride- San Juan ATV Safari

Arch Canyon Overlook- Elk Ridge Trailride- San Juan ATV Safari

We stopped for lunch at an overlook into Arch Canyon.  This overlook was really interesting to me because I’d been to the main Arch Canyon Overlook before, (Read my blog entry on it HERE) but this spot was on a different rim of the canyon, so it took me a while to get my bearings and figure out where exactly we were in relation to the other overlook.  I think I finally figured it out though- it helped that the Sleeping Ute Mountain was in the background- distant landmarks always help with orientation!

We all got out our lunches and sat around enjoying the great view and chatting while we ate.  We had enough time after we were done to walk around a little before it was time to mount up and head out again.

Elk Ridge Trailride- San Juan ATV Safari

Elk Ridge Trailride- San Juan ATV Safari

Elk Ridge Trailride- San Juan ATV Safari

Elk Ridge Trailride- San Juan ATV Safari

The views after lunch were just as nice as the views before had been, and the nice fluffy clouds that had moved in by that point didn’t hurt either! With full stomachs, we happily enjoyed the laid back ride to our last stop- Over Under Ruin.

San Juan ATV Safari- Elk Ridge Trail Ride- San Juan County, UT

San Juan ATV Safari- Elk Ridge Trail Ride- San Juan County, UT

Getting from the main road to the ruin was the only technical part of the ride that day.  To me it was pretty rough, in fact, there was a parking area just off the main road where several passenger vehicles had parked and the people were hiking in from there.  But since we were on ATVs, we were able to drive almost right up to the overlook for the ruin.

Over Under Ruin - Elk Ridge Trail Ride- San Juan ATV Safari

Over Under Ruin – Elk Ridge Trail Ride- San Juan ATV Safari

Over Under Ruin - Elk Ridge Trail Ride- San Juan ATV Safari

Over Under Ruin – Elk Ridge Trail Ride- San Juan ATV Safari

The ruin was awesome!  It’s really unique- I’ve never seen one in two separate alcoves stacked on top of each other like that.  I’d heard about Over Under Ruin before, but didn’t really know where it was located, so I was happy to find out and to see that it’s so easily accessible even if you have to walk from the parking area- it couldn’t have been more than about half a mile or so.

After visiting the ruin, it was a fairly short ride back to the staging area.  The Elk Ridge Ride is one of the longer rides that you can do on the San Juan ATV Safari at 63 miles, (the only ride on the Safari that’s longer is North Long Point at 76 miles) but since it’s mostly on maintained gravel roads, it’s a fast ride, and I think we were back to our vehicles by 3:00pm or so.

If I hadn’t had this blog to look back on, I would have guessed that it had been 3 years or so that I first rode along on the San Juan ATV Safari- I was so surprised to see that it had actually been FIVE years!  Luckily, Russ and I got along great and he has given me an open invitation to ride along with him any time he comes down for the Safari!  I’ll definitely be taking him up on his offer… and I won’t wait another 5 years to go this time- hopefully it’ll be a yearly thing from now on!

The 2017 San Juan ATV Safari will be held on September 14th-16th.

Please visit www.sanjuansafari for more information or to register! 

For more information or to request travel brochures, please call Utah’s Canyon Country at: 800-574-4386

Or e-mail us at: info@utahscanyoncountry.com


Posted in ATV, Blanding, Events, Fall, Scenic Drives, Tours, Tours/Guided Trips, Travel, Utah | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

International Dark Sky Week 2017

Tents with Milky Way in Canyonlands NP- Emily Ogden

San Juan County, UT is proud to be home to FOUR International Dark Sky Parks! (Canyonlands National Park, Dead Horse Point State Park, Hovenweep National Monument, and Natural Bridges National Monument)  What better place to celebrate International Dark Sky Week than right here in Utah’s Canyon Country?!

San Juan County offers some of the darkest night skies in the contiguous 48 states.  It’s possible to see over 15,000 stars throughout the night, whereas in many urban areas it’s only possible to see around 500.  Living here, I think we sometimes forget how lucky we are to live in a place where the Milky Way is visible to the naked eye from our backyards- that’s definitely not the case everywhere!

In 2007 Natural Bridges National Monument was designated the world’s first International Dark Sky Park and is well known by night sky enthusiasts for its almost perfect lack of light pollution.  Since its designation, three other San Juan County Parks & Monuments have also been named as International Dark Sky Parks; Hovenweep National Monument in 2014, Canyonlands National Park in 2015, and most recently, Dead Horse Point State Park in 2016.

Canyonlands, Hovenweep, & Natural Bridges all hold regularly scheduled ranger-led Night Sky Astronomy Programs throughout the summer.  Please check each park’s website for more information on dates & times.

Milky Way Over Chesler Park- Canyonlands NP- Emily Ogden

Milky Way Over Hovenweep Nat. Monument- Jacob W. Frank

Owachomo Bridge- Natural Bridges Nat. Monument- Jacob W. Frank

Owachomo Bridge- Natural Bridges Nat. Monument- Jacob W. Frank

While International Dark Sky Week ends this Friday, our dark skies are here year-round!  Whenever you happen to visit our area, be sure to take the time to step outside and look up at our gorgeous night sky- it just might be the highlight of your trip!

For more information or to request travel brochures, please call Utah’s Canyon Country at: 800-574-4386

Or e-mail us at: info@utahscanyoncountry.com


Posted in Canyonlands, Canyonlands National Park, Evening Programs, National Monuments, National Parks, National Parks & Monuments, Things to do for FREE!, Things to do with kids, Travel, Utah | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Back Room Tour at Edge of the Cedars State Park Museum

Wooden Bird & Fur Wrapped Yucca Cordage – Edge of the Cedars Back Room Tour – Blanding, UT

A few weeks ago I got to go on one of the coolest tours ever- a back room tour of Edge of the Cedars State Park Museum!  If you follow my blog, you’ll remember the trip out to Arch Canyon Overlook and Cave Tower Ruins with Four Corners Adventures that I organized for our county visitor center staff back in November… I’ve been wanting to make these familiarization tours a regular thing for quite a while now, and so for our second outing I contacted Chris Hanson, the director of Edge of the Cedars, who put me in touch with Jonathan Till, the curator of collections, who was extremely accommodating and more than happy to take our group on a tour of their repository.

Edge of the Cedars is made up of three parts; the museum, the archaeological site out behind the museum, and the federal repository.  The museum and the ruins are open to the public, but the repository is not, so it was a HUGE treat for all of us to have the opportunity to go behind the scenes and see some of the artifacts that aren’t on display to the public.

San Juan County Visitor Center Staff at Edge of the Cedars for a Back Room Tour – Blanding, UT

I was thrilled to have 23 visitor center staff members take me up on the offer and join us for the tour!  We met at Edge of the Cedars at 10:00am and congregated in the auditorium where we did a round of introductions and were then greeted by Chris and Jonathan.  Jonathan went over a brief history of the museum and told us that this year the museum is celebrating their 50th anniversary of when the land was purchased by the Blanding Chamber of Commerce, and next year will be the 40th anniversary of the museum’s completion and when it opened to the public.  (He told us that they will be having special events to celebrate, so be sure to follow their Facebook page or check the events calendar on their website so you don’t miss out!)

Bluff Fort Staff Exploring Edge of the Cedars State Park – Blanding, UT

Visible Storage at Edge of the Cedars State Park Museum- Blanding, UT

When the time came to start the tour, since space in the back rooms is limited, Jonathan had us break into two groups.  While the first group was taking their tour, the rest of us who would be on the second tour were free to explore the museum and archaeological site out back.

Since the visitor centers are a huge contact point with visitors to our area, my main goal for these outings is to provide opportunities for the staff to get out in the field and become familiarized with San Juan County.  I know that most everyone gets out on their own, but for those who are newer to the area, or maybe haven’t visited some of these places in a long time, hopefully these outings will help!

My other motivation for these outings, and the reason I’ve limited it to our visitor center staff, is to provide the opportunity for them to get to know each other and build relationships with the staff members at other visitor centers.  I think it’s important for all of us to know each other so that we can reach out when something comes up.  And I feel like this is exactly what we had the chance to do while the first group was on their tour- get to know each other a little as we explored the museum together.

Edge of the Cedars Back Room Tour -Blanding, UT

When it was finally our turn, we excitedly followed Jonathan into the back of the museum.  He gave us the run-down on how the museum is set up before leading us into the ‘Sensitive Collection’ room.  The room was filled with shelves and cabinets, and as Jonathan started opening drawers and we started to catch glimpses of all the artifacts inside, it definitely hit me that this was a really amazing experience, and I felt extremely fortunate to be there!

Beaver Tail Rattle at Edge of the Cedars State Park Museum – Blanding, UT

Jonathan showed us so many amazing artifacts, I don’t even know where to start!  One of my favorites was definitely the Beaver Tail Rattle in the photo above.  I had actually seen it once before- in 2011 my husband and I attended an evening program at Edge of the Cedars called, ‘Back Room Perishables‘ where Dr. Laurie Webster brought out quite a few of the museum’s ‘perishable’ items (made from; wood, bone, animal skin & fur, various fibers, human hair, etc.) to show to the public.

A few of the items really stuck with me, and the beaver tail rattle is one of them.  Rattles are very rare to find in archaeological site in southeast Utah.  This rattle is made from a beaver tail which was folded over and sewn around a stick and was found in Cottonwood Wash near Bluff.  After we had all gotten a good look at it, just before putting it back in the drawer, Jonathan very gently tilted it back and then forward so that we could all hear the rattle.  So amazing!

Human Hair Legging at Edge of the Cedars State Park Museum – Blanding, UT

Edge of the Cedars State Park Museum – Blanding, UT

Twine at Edge of the Cedars State Park Museum – Blanding, UT

Another item that Jonathan showed us that really stood out to me was the bundle of twine in the photo above.  At first glance it may seem very utilitarian and not nearly as impressive as some of the other items we had already seen, but as we were looking at it, it really struck me that something so practical and useful had been preserved all this time.  In my mind, this is something that would have been put to use right away, so to see this perfect, seemingly unused, bundle of twine still rolled up as it may have been when it was made, is absolutely amazing to me!

Woven Sandal at Edge of the Cedars State Park Museum – Blanding, UT

Woven Sandal at Edge of the Cedars State Park Museum – Blanding, UT

Woven Sandal at Edge of the Cedars State Park Museum – Blanding, UT

We also got to see several different styles of sandals in varying stages of completion and wear.  Of course, seeing the pairs that were unfinished makes you wonder why they were never completed.  One of the pairs is extremely detailed and it’s obvious that a lot of time went into making them.  Not only the intricate weaving itself, but the time it took to gather the materials and prepare them for weaving.

Some of the other sandals we saw had obviously been worn and used, and may not have been as fancy as the intricately woven, unfinished pair, but to me the fact that they had been worn and are still here for us to see, made them just as impressive to me.  It really is amazing that so many of these artifacts made out of perishable materials have survived hundreds of years, or more.  And outdoors, no less!  I guess the climate must have to be just right for that to happen, and with the dry climate we have down in this area, it seems that if these items were protected from the elements in caves and alcoves, they had a good chance of surviving!

As the tour wrapped up, I was sorry to see it come to an end!  From the feedback I received, everyone really enjoyed the it and felt very lucky to have had the opportunity to see such amazing artifacts.  Sometimes I think we all get so busy in our daily lives and jobs, even those of us who are involved in the tourism industry sometimes forget what an amazing place we live in.  To be able to see all of these artifacts and to know that most of them came from right here in San Juan County, was a really good reminder of what an amazing place we live in!

Animal Effigy Pitcher – Edge of the Cedars – Blanding, UT

And of course I can never visit Edge of the Cedars without stopping to look at one of my favorite artifacts on display- the animal effigy pitcher in the photo above.  This pitcher is part of a display in the main lobby area of the museum that showcases artifacts that were found by hikers, were left in place, and then reported to Edge of the Cedars or the BLM.  The hikers who found each of the artifacts in this display were then able to return with archaeologists to help with the excavations.  When you visit the museum be sure to stop by and take a look at all the amazing artifacts found by members of the public, and read the stories of their discoveries.

**Archaeological Site Etiquette**

Here’s a really informative video that goes over some basic archaeological site etiquette…  (If you’d like to view the rest of the videos in the ‘Visit With Respect’ series, please click HERE.)

For more information or to request travel brochures, please call Utah’s Canyon Country at: 800-574-4386

Or e-mail us at: info@utahscanyoncountry.com


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