Amasa Basin is located in the remote backcountry of Utah’s western desert. The turnoff to the trailhead is located at mile 51.5 on Highway 6 southwest of Delta. We took advantage of accommodations there rather than roughing it in the high desert.
Established in 1906, it went through a series of name changes before becoming Delta. Beginning as Aiken, a switch on the railroad, it was changed to Melville when Millard County planned to build a dam for irrigation purposes.
Free land was offered to attract residents, but the name sounded too much like Millville, Utah so it was changed to Burtner in 1908. Finally in 1911, the name was changed to Delta because the area was a delta on Lake Bonneville.
The distance to our trailhead was through some of the most desolate country I have ever seen. Our staging area was at the mouth of Miller Canyon which was made more pleasant by an outdoor toilet and covered picnic table.
From this point, trails go south up Sawtooth Canyon, west up Miller Canyon, and north skirting the base of the mountains. We choose the trail marked #1 that went north.
We watched the desert come alive as we began our ride. A coyote exploded from the brush racing across the trail in front of us and disappearing as quickly as he had emerged. Lizards darted in and out of the undergrowth. We had not gone far when an antelope dashed across the trail. We watched with fascination at the speed of his travel.
Working our way around the base of the mountains, we passed Big Horse and Little Horse Canyons as we began to climb North Canyon. I was curious about the names of the horse canyons – were the canyons big and little or was it the horses?
Our climb up North Canyon brought cooler temperatures and amazing scenery. I have never been to The City of Rocks in southern Idaho, but some of the people on this ride said that this area reminded them of that place. Of course there were trees, we were in the mountains, but they were hardly noticeable because of the rocky outcroppings.
The rocks are round and enormous. They appear to have been stacked carefully in interesting configurations. Every turn presented a new Kodak moment.
As we climbed up North Canyon, I was surprised to learn that at 7,600 feet, we were passing below Amasa Valley which is situated at 8,000 feet. On the map, Amasa Valley appears to be a part of a ridge.
Turning off onto Trail #2, the track became challenging. I was riding with Fred Newton in a Polaris Highlifter4 1000. Spring runoff had rutted the trail and exposed some big rocks. He was having a ball negotiating these challenges.
However, we had some new riders who were having trouble with the ruts. One Can-Am driver dropped a wheel into a deep rut and tipped over. We got them upright and moving again only to have them tip over again.
Ruts can be daunting and learning how to negotiate them is a skill important to learn. A critical thing to remember is to keep the machine level – that means straddling the rut. The machine will not be level with one wheel in the rut.
There is usually a track that runs alongside a furrow that will allow you to avoid the rut, but sometimes that track can become too steep forcing you to ride off-camber. To keep your machine level you may need to abandon the off-camber track and straddle the rut. When the rut turns perpendicular to the trail, drop into it and climb out. Anyway, Fred was enjoying this section more than some of the other riders.
Passing near Baldy at 8,400 feet, we dropped below a ridge and worked our way toward Pine Peak where the trail faded out. Turning around, we worked our way back down to a copse of aspen trees shading a beautiful grassy area. I had noted this place on the way up and it was the perfect place for lunch.
Descending the canyon onto less challenging trails, we finished a ride of about 40 miles. This trail is best ridden in the spring or fall and is suitable for ATVs and UTVs. When you go, take plenty of water, keep the rubber side down and stay out of the ruts.