Above Canyonlands – Part 1

Abajo Mountains, near Monticello, Utah.

Abajo Mountains, late February snowstorm.

For the next part of my excursion, I drove north from Bluff and Blanding, Utah to San Juan County’s other little town, Monticello. Which is also the county seat, there being no sizable towns in all of sprawling San Juan County. Plenty of room to roam, and much to see.


After three weeks of unseasonably warm February weather, a small winter storm front was moving in to make things a little more interesting. The Abajo Mountains (often called the “Blues” by locals, who also pronounce Monticello (like “Montisello”) were wreathed in a veil like snow squall already.

The Horsehead, Abajo Mountains from Monticello, Utah.

The Horsehead, a distinctive grouping of forest patches on the mountain slopes above Monticello.

But I was still able to easily pick out The Horsehead on one of the most prominent peaks above town.

Wind farm at Monticello, Utah.

Wind farm just north of Monticello.

On the northern outskirts of town I drove back a public dirt road to get a closer look at the massive structures of the new wind farm.

Monticello, Utah, in winter.

Monticello, Utah: gassing up before heading in toward the Needles district of Canyonlands.

Then it was further north on U.S.191 to Canyonlands country.

La Sal Mountains and red sandstone, Utah.

Red sandstone, sagebrush, and the La Sal Mountains, from the Needles Overlook Road. (Click on image for larger version).

Canyonlands National Park is divided into three huge sections, Island In The Sky, The Maze, and The Needles. The dividing lines are the two major rivers, the Colorado and the Green, which join within the park to rather divide it into thirds.

In fact, the Colorado River above the confluence used to be called the Grand River. But the state of Colorado wanted it all named for itself, since the river’s source is high in the Rockies in their state. It got its way, too. Ever since then, the Green has joined the Colorado, not two rivers meeting to form a third one. I hope that clears thing up for you.

La Sal Mountains, Utah.

La Sal Mountains telephoto panorama shot.

I wasn’t going into the park itself on this trip, but to an adjoining area of public land called the Canyon Rims Recreation Area. The entrance to this area is called the Needles Overlook Road, because…guess what it overlooks? You got it.

Needles Overlook, Canyon Rims Recreation Area, Utah.

Needles Overlook, in the Canyon Rims Recreation Area.

Needles District of Canyonlands National Park, from Needles Overlook.

The Needles district of Canyonlands, from above. The Abajo Mountains are in the distance.

Needles District of Canyonlands, from above.

The Needles, from above at Needles Overlook, Canyon Rims.

Lockhart Basin area of Canyonlands, from Needles Overlook, Utah.

Red rock canyon country: looking down onto Lockhart Basin and the Colorado River (barely visible), from Needles Overlook.

Colorado river and Canyonlands from Minor Overlook, Canyon Rims.

Colorado River, from the Minor Overlook (named for a person, not because it’s a lousy view. Obviously).

I then worked my way north from the Needles Overlook. North up the length of Hatch Point, toward the Anticline Overlook. I intended to make camp near there, in case the clouds would clear in time for the rise of the Full Moon. Stay tuned.

Photo location: Canyon Rims National Recreation area, San Juan county south of Moab, Utah.

© 2016 Stephen J. Krieg



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