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ATV Adventures: Riding Poison Springs Canyon to the Dirty Devil River

By Lynn Blamires - Special to the Standard-Examiner | Oct 28, 2021

Lynn Blamires, Special to the Standard-Examiner

Crossing the Dirty Devil River.

Those who go to Lake Powell to play on and in its pristine waters know that it is a world unlike anything we are used to on the Wasatch Front. It is part of the reason that it is the total escape from reality we seek when we take a vacation.

Well, there is another world totally different from the one Lake Powell offers and it is only discovered on an ATV. Capt. Ray Golden invited me to spend a couple of days at his Ticaboo Resort in the Bull Frog Basin to explore this amazing country.

Actually, there are multiple worlds to explore here. Aside from the water world of Lake Powell, there are the trails in the world of the Henry Mountains, and the washes, buttes and canyons in the world of the Burr Desert.

As we trailered along SR 95, I marveled that a road could even be cut through this rugged country. People have asked me to be more specific about where the trails are that I ride. Well, on SR 95 south of Hanksville, there is only one mile marker 20 and that is where we staged.

It is on the west side of the road beside the trail. The trail to the west goes up over Bull Creek Pass and into the Henrys. It is best ridden during the spring or early fall. Being Oct. 20, we took the trail east into Poison Spring Canyon.

Image supplied, Lynn Blamires

Our route to Poison Spring Canyon.

This is in the heart of red rock country and, as I have said, it is totally another world. The canyon walls are of red slick rock and are barren of any foliage; however, they are not without fascinating shapes and configurations. As we worked our way down the wash, every turn brought another panorama to view.

During our ride through the canyon, we came across Garfield County equipment grading the road. On Sept. 1, the Dirty Devil flooded and huge amounts of water came crashing through this canyon washing out this wash. A freshly graded road takes a while to smooth out so this trail was not as fun to ride as it will be.

Poison Spring Canyon yielded up some of its man-made secrets as well. Some pictograph panels contain some rare finds. The depiction of an owl was featured on one panel and another had an archer and some Kokopelli dancers.

One piece of information that added intrigue to our ride was that this canyon was used by Butch Cassidy to evade the law. It was easy to see how, as we wound our way through the twisty wash. Ray took us to a spot where a huge boulder had fallen by the trail. On the side opposite the trail, the outlaw Butch had carved his name into the rock. It was easy to imagine this band of thieves hiding out in this canyon.

Another fascinating stop on this ride was at the source of Poison Spring. There was water in the wash and Ray pointed out the source. It was actually under the massive wall of the canyon. A rock structure had been built with an iron door set into it for access to the spring.

Lynn Blamires, Special to the Standard-Examiner

Negotiating Poison Spring Canyon.

The door was lying to the side of a doorway and we could see a pretty good flow through the doorway. Even though I carefully approached the opening, I stepped into a hole and got soaked to my ankles. I slogged back to my Teryx4 and we continued the ride.

Reaching the Dirty Devil River, we stopped to assess its depth to determine whether we could safely cross. It is one of the muddiest rivers I have ever encountered, but we could see ripples in the water from the rocks on the bottom and decided to cross.

Still, I let Ray go first. When I went, it was deep enough for my riding buddy Fred to lift his feet to keep dry. I always love a good water crossing, but the Dirty Devil was very dirty.

We took in a view point on the other side and then crossed back through to have lunch in the shade of a rock wall. Paunches placated, we made our way back through this amazing canyon to the trucks, finishing a ride of about 40 miles. We picked up a Garfield grader driver on the way back and saved him a long walk to his truck.

When you go, take plenty of water, keep the rubber side down and prepare to be amazed.

Contact Lynn R. Blamires at quadmanone@gmail.com.

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