Lots of Utah Land to See!

So much land to see, so little time! As the Blanding, Utah visitor center woman said, “there’s at least a million acres just with Bears Ears National Monument”. I was here to visit and see as much as I could, so she directed me to the Five Kivas Ruins within the town of Blanding. I am sure most out-of-towners do not know about this place, only 1.5 miles off the main road.

Five Kivas Ruins

Next stop: Fort Bluff. Amazing history of Mormon pioneers who were told by their religious leader to settle southeast Utah. As they were traveling from Escalante to what is now Bluff, scouts went north and south and returned thinking there was no good way. With great determination, they made their way, straight across … eastward. “I can do the hard thing”, was their mantra. Once you see the landscape in this part of Utah you would be more amazed at what they accomplished. I now also know more of the story regarding the Hole in the Crevice. They did what seemed impossible! They chipped away rock to widen a crevice, build a rocky one wagon lane road, and moved all supplies and 260 people through a spot thought impossible. They could do the hard things! They set up in Bluff, built cabins in a circle with no windows or doors facing outward and stayed. The historic site is worth visiting; it is free; has a very informative film; a delicious choice of cookies at the bakery.

Fort Bluff

Next stop: Onto a dirt road to visit the Valley of the Gods! Wow, some spots on the road I was unsure how my van would handle the rocky, steep uphills and downhills. I drove all 17 miles of this road in about 2 hours. Beautiful landscape and not sure the camera captures it all. You can camp out here since it is BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land. I saw 5 different camper set-ups along the 17 miles. The dark sky at night must simply be amazing! If I didn’t have other places to visit, I could have spent more time here.

I stopped at Bears Ears Education Center to understand their mission. Enjoyed talking with the man there who is quite passionate in the protection of the national monument. He answered my questions about the northern section which seems to be more remote. Here is the history about Bears Ears National Monument. It was established by President Obama in December 2016 to protect about 1.3 million acres of land surrounding the Bears Ears, a pair of buttes. This monument was reduced to 200,000 acres by the next US president, then restored in October 2021 by the next US president. The monument is co-managed by the Bureau of Land Management and US Forest Service along with 5 local Native American tribes with ancestral ties to the land: Hopi, Navajo, Ute Mountain Ute, Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah and Ouray reservation, and Pueblo of Zuni. President Theodore Roosevelt signed the Antiquities Act of 1906 providing presidents the power “to create national monuments”. The act was to protect sites of historical or indigenous importance from looters taking and then selling items on illicit markets. The process to protect this area started in 2009 … We have 423 national park sites in the USA: national monuments such as Bears Ears, along with national preserves, historic sites and memorials, and these do not include any of the 63 national parks.

Hovenweep National Monument: What is 25 paved miles after 17 dirt miles? A breeze… This national monument was not on my radar. I was in the area and I still had daylight, so off I went! Fascinating that these ancestral pueblos were set up in an area where there seemed to be no water. The thought is they damned an intermittent stream to get their water. I walked the 1.5 mile hike to see each of the double-walled structures they built along the canyon’s edge. There was only a steep downhill into the canyon and then back out of the canyon, otherwise an easy hike. 

Hovenweep National Monument

Finally back at my campsite for a late dinner and enough time to plan the next day. There are some areas I would love to visit, yet they are remote. To visit those areas, I think the smarter thing would be to have at least one other person with me, along with all water, etc supplies … and to be clear to a contact/emergency person elsewhere where we happen to be driving in. Remote here truly means remote and safety first is important. So … off to visit other areas tomorrow not so remote.