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.

 

Advertisements
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

 

Posted in Blanding, Edge of the Cedars, Education Centers, Museums, State Parks, Things to do with kids, Tours, Tours/Guided Trips, Travel, Utah | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

National Park Week- April 15th-23rd, 2017

Slickrock Trail- Needles District of Canyonlands National Park

Slickrock Trail- Needles District of Canyonlands National Park

National Park Week starts this Saturday with FREE entrance to all National Parks and Monuments on both the opening, and closing weekends of the 9-day celebration: April 15th & 16th and April 22nd & 23rd.

In addition to being home to one National Park (Canyonlands) and four National Monuments (Hovenweep, Natural Bridges, Rainbow Bridge, and Bears Ears National Monument), San Juan County, Utah is also within about 1 hour of two more National Parks! (Arches and Mesa Verde)

Visiting Utah’s Canyon Country with kids during National Park Week?  Check out the, ‘Things to do with Kids‘ tag on our blog for some ideas on shorter, easier trails for little hikers, and other fun places to take your kids in between the National Parks & Monuments!

Posted in National Monuments, National Parks, National Parks & Monuments, Things to do for FREE!, Things to do with kids, Travel, Utah | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Target Ruin & Ballroom Cave

Target Ruin – Bears Ears National Monument – San Juan County, UT

We always have a week or so of awesome weather in the beginning of March, and this year we were lucky to have just over two straight weeks of warm, sunny days!  On the first weekend of our stretch of nice weather, it got up to about 60 degrees in Monticello, which meant it was at least 5-10 degrees warmer everywhere else around us!    My family had  been out of town the previous week, and after returning home, the only thing I could think about the rest of the week was making it to the weekend so that I’d have a full day to just clean, put things away, and get our house back in order, but when we saw that the weather was going to be that nice, we couldn’t not get out to take advantage of it!  So at the expense of a clean, organized house, we decided to head out to Cedar Mesa (part of the newly designated Bears Ears National Monument) for a hike.

We decided to go with some friends who also live in Monticello.  They have a 3 year old and a 1 year old, and my son is now 4 1/2 years old, so we had 3 little ones with us on the trail that day.  At one point I think the four of us parents seriously questioned whether we’d actually make it out of the parking area and onto the trail at all.  Of course, it didn’t help that as we were lathering ourselves and our kids up with sunscreen, packing lunches, snacks, & water, putting kids in child carriers, etc., we watched another vehicle with 4 or 5 adults in it (no kids) pull up, everyone got out, they took about 3-4 minutes to grab backpacks, and they were on the trail.

I remember asking my husband and our friends if they remembered when hiking was that easy… I can’t remember what everyone’s answers were, but I do know that question came up several more times throughout the day as we did our best to keep our little ones entertained and happy as we attempted to make it down the trail.

Steepest part of the trail on the hike to Target Ruin – Bears Ears National Monument – San Juan County, UT

The last few steps before Target Ruin came into view – Bears Ears National Monument – San Juan County, UT

The main trail is relatively flat, which is great for hiking with kids, but each of the spur trails that branch off leading to Target Ruin and Ballroom Cave are very steep.  But wouldn’t you know it, after my son had wanted to be on my husband’s shoulders from the second we left the parking area, those were the parts of the trail that the kids wanted to walk themselves!  Sometimes they had to get down on all fours, but they both made it, which I think is great for such little kids!

Target Ruin – Bears Ears National Monument – San Juan County, UT

After making it up the steep part of the trail, you descend a little bit right as you come to the ruin.  Sometimes I feel like I’ve seen so many ruins, that it takes a lot to really impress me, but I was definitely impressed with this one!  It’s an amazing ruin!   It looks like it’s in pristine condition, and I’m sure the fact that it’s located up high in an alcove that’s not easy to reach helps a lot.

Target Ruin – Bears Ears National Monument – San Juan County, UT

Not only was the ruin itself amazing, but the location was perfect for kids.  Target Ruin is located in the end of a little canyon that’s mostly open slickrock with a few little potholes filled with water, (they had water when we were there anyway) so it was the perfect place to sit down for lunch and let the kids play.

I had to laugh a little bit when we decided that this would be our lunch place since it’s only about 1 mile down the trail!  But again, this goes back to the hiking with kids thing- we got a later start than we had planned, we had an unexpected kid-related emergency stop on the drive there, (I won’t even go into that!) it took forever to get packed up at the trail head, and it was pretty slow going on the trail.  I think my husband and I have accepted the fact that our old way of hiking (8-10 mile hike every weekend) is a thing of the past.  For now anyway… I’m hopeful that we can slowly work up to that in the next several years.

Pictograph at Target Ruin – Bears Ears National Monument – San Juan County, UT

We all finished our lunches and a few of us climbed up the rocky area on the southwest side of the ruin to try to get a look at the namesake pictograph- a target painted on the side of one of the structures just inside the outer wall.  You can’t see it when you’re standing on the ground looking up at the ruin, but once you climb up that rocky area, you are pretty much eye level with the ruin, if not a little higher, so you can then see about half of the target pictograph.  (In the photo above you can see the target on the side of the structure with logs sticking out of the roof)

Metates at Target Ruin – Bears Ears National Monument – San Juan County, UT

Pictographs at Target Ruin – Bears Ears National Monument – San Juan County, UT

Once you’ve climbed the rocky area, you can see that there’s a small alcove up there with some rock art, ruins, and a couple metates as well.  I didn’t see it at first, but my husband pointed out a couple target petroglyphs on the wall of the alcove, so it seems that there was some kind of significance with the target symbol at that site.

Target Ruin – Bears Ears National Monument – San Juan County, UT

Handprint Pictographs at Target Ruin – Bears Ears National Monument – San Juan County, UT

After climbing back down I walked over so that I was just under the ruin, and on the wall beneath it and just to the left (south west) a few more pictographs were visible including the handprint pictographs in the photo above.

I really liked the angle from just under the ruin, and tried to take my son’s picture there, but as you can see- he wasn’t very cooperative.  (This should give you a good feel for his cooperation level, or lack there of, that day)  With kids you just never know what you’re going to get!  Some days he’s an awesome, cooperative, independent hiker, and some days… not so much!

Hiking between Target Ruin & Ballroom Cave – Bears Ears National Monument – San Juan County, UT

Yucca near Target Ruin – Bears Ears National Monument – San Juan County, UT

Hiking to Ballroom Cave – Bears Ears National Monument – San Juan County, UT

Ballroom Cave – Bears Ears National Monument – San Juan County, UT

We made it back to the main trail and continued on another 1/4 mile or so before we came to Ballroom Cave.  You really can’t see much more than an alcove from the trail, and even as you get closer you still can’t see the caves.  It’s not until you’re actually inside the alcove at the very top, that you are finally able to see that there are two caves up there, and one of them is HUGE.

Looking back down the canyon from Ballroom Cave – Bears Ears National Monument – San Juan County, UT

Rock Art at Ballroom Cave – Bears Ears National Monument – San Juan County, UT

Corn Cobs at Ballroom Cave – Bears Ears National Monument – San Juan County, UT

The larger cave is on the left (south) side of the alcove, and it’s a little hard to get to due to all the loose rock that has fallen from the ceiling of the alcove. Once you climb up and over the pile of rocks, you can finally start to see how big the cave is.

Exploring Ballroom Cave – Bears Ears National Monument – San Juan County, UT

The back parts of the cave were really dark.  The photo above really doesn’t show how dark it was, but if you look at how close the kids are standing to my husband, that should be an indication that it was dark enough that they were scared to go too far by themselves.  🙂

Ballroom Cave – Bears Ears National Monument – San Juan County, UT

Ballroom Cave – Bears Ears National Monument – San Juan County, UT

The kids had so much fun exploring the cave!  It was really nice and cool in there, so I can only imagine how good it would feel to be able to take a break in there on a hot day.  All of us had been to the cave before, but my husband and I hadn’t been there since before our son was born, so it had been at least 4.5 years, (although I think we did that hike soon after moving to Utah, so it was probably closer to 7 or 8 years ago) and we almost felt like we were seeing it for the first time.  This hike has definitely made my Top 10 list- at only 2.5 miles round trip (or only about 2 miles if you just visit Target Ruin) it’s the perfect length for hiking with kids or anyone who only has time for a quick hike.

**Archaeological Site Etiquette**

As always, I want to remind readers to please be respectful when visiting our archaeological sites. Please refrain from touching or entering ruins, if hiking with your dog, please don’t let it enter ruins, and please leave any artifacts you may come across where they are.  Something as simple as picking up a pottery sherd and moving it, takes that artifact out of context and archaeologists are no longer able to get the information from it that they would have been able to, had it been left in place.

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.)

 

Directions:

From Blanding: Head south on Hwy 191 for 4 miles and turn right (west) on Hwy 95 toward Natural Bridges National Monument & Hanksville.  Continue on Hwy 95 for approximately 10.5 miles until you see a pullout on the right side of the road near the sign for the Butler Wash Ruins.  The trailhead is located at this pullout.  (If you reach the turnoff for the Butler Wash Ruins you’ve gone too far!)

 

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 Blanding, Hiking, National Monuments, Rock Art, Ruins, Things to do for FREE!, Things to do with kids, Travel, Utah | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments