Salt Creek Canyon

I’m spending all of March in Moab, with lots of mountain biking, assorted rambling, and several trips lined up. The first of these was over the weekend, a backpacking trip through Salt Creek Canyon in the Needles district of Canyonlands NP. This canyon is about 25 miles long, with probably hundreds of miles of smaller canyons feeding into it. I hiked maybe 35 miles over two days going from end to end, connecting back to my car with a bike shuttle this morning.

The lower parts of the canyon are narrow and twisty, following along as the floor goes from sand to damp sand to a nice stream and healthy riparian environment. This is one of the few canyons in the area where water flows most of the year.

The first day was overcast, with some spitting snow in the afternoon. Though it would clear in the evening, this put a bit of a damper on exploring the area. Towards the end of the day I did however make a side trip to see Angel Arch, a dramatic arc 1.5 miles off the main trail. There were several more very impressive arches along the trail, very neat to be walking along and suddenly notice such large holes in the rock.

Beyond Angel Arch the the canyon stops meandering and opens up. These upper portions are an ideal location for farming and have many Anasazi ruins scattered about. The trail passes close by or in easy view of several different sets of ruins, all of which I took the time to gawk at. Despite knowing next to nothing about how these people lived I was fascinated by the remains of their houses, granaries, and, especially, drawings. Hard to pin down but I think I was struck by seeing this work in such an impermanent landscape; who knows how long these ruins will still be here at all.

This hike was very nice, though I feel like I just barely scratched the surface of what can be seen here. Much of this was from breezing through at a quick pace; even more was from doing the hike blind. Going in I had no real idea for where to find or look for ruins, and saw only a fraction of those that dot the canyon. Someday I’d like to hike this canyon again with more time and preparation, but for now this has been a good lesson that the country around here doesn’t give up its secrets easily.

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