Attending the 10th Annual Tri-State ATV Jamboree in Washington County, I was interested to learn of a conflict between the desert tortoise population and the ATV jamboree.
Each year this gathering of riders has been held before March 15 to avoid disturbing any turtles just coming out of hibernation. The chance of good weather is better in the last half of March, but the concern for a turtle encounter is greater at that time. The number of riders attending this popular event reaches 400, which is also a concern.
Jamboree officials, in cooperation with the BLM, have decided to remove one trail from the list offered. This would reduce the risk of a turtle meeting an ATV rider and allow the jamboree to be held toward the end of March.
The trail being removed is the Castle Cliff Trail. This was the last year the ride was offered and I was invited to go.
The trailhead is located just off Old Highway 91 on the Shivwits Indian Reservation near the Arizona border. It is referred to as old because it was the main route from St. George to Mesquite before I-15 was cut through the Virgin River Gorge.
We unloaded our machines at the base of Castle Cliff and rode northeast up the highway, which runs through Castle Cliff Wash. Turning left off the road, we climbed northwest through a canyon until we topped out on a ridge.
Here the trail took on a ghostly look. A recent fire reduced the juniper trees to twisted, white-washed skeletons whose tentacles pointed in all directions. Our route wound through this graveyard following the top of the ridge to the base of the Beaver Dam Mountains, where we took a break.
Rested, we started down a canyon that was filled with snow. It was important to stay in the track of the person in front. Riders had broken a snow trail the day before, so no one got stuck. With a snowpack of more than 160 percent in Washington County, we were not surprised to run into snow at an elevation of 6,100 feet. Coming out of the canyon, we turned onto the Lytle Ranch Road past Indian Canyon, where we stopped for lunch at the entrance to the ranch.
In contrast to the ride we began in the morning, this section of the trail took us into the desert. We were in the heart of cactus country. It was as if the different sharp-needled plants were daring us to go off-road. Of particular interest were the Joshua trees. These desert plants don't bloom in dry years but because of this year's moisture, the trees are expected to bloom all summer. The profusion of bright yellow blossoms will be well worth seeing. We saw tops of the trees just beginning the blooming process.
Turning off the ranch road, we crossed Reber Wash and came out on a point overlooking Beaver Dam Wash. We took a break to enjoy the view. This is Beaver Dam Country, and not being a swearing man, it is kind of fun to point out all the dam features. The dam mountains, the dam wash; there is even the town of Beaver Dam; an Arizona town with a dam gas station. Dam signs label the store, gas pumps, and other amenities. Stop by and put some dam air in your tires.
We followed the ranch road back through the desert to Castle Cliff and Highway 91, where we started this adventure. We rode through a storm of sleet all the way back to the trucks. You don't pay much attention to the scenery in a sleet storm.
The best time to ride this trail is in April before the weather gets too warm. When you go, take plenty of water and keep the rubber-side down. If you see a desert tortoise, don't bother it. You have no idea how long it took to get there.
You may contact Lynn Blamires at email@example.com.