Venturing downstream, we use binoculars to study a handful of granary and dwelling structures hundreds of inaccessible feet above the creek. All are well preserved. But several sites near the lake’s high-water mark have been destroyed, either by vandals or the reservoir. In fact, we can trace the high-water mark by graffiti scrawled on the canyon walls, perhaps over pictographs. (Last spring, a coalition of Navajo medicine men appealed to the U.S. Department of the Interior to protect sacred ruins and rock art that have been exposed. So far, their pleas have produced no action.)
Later, we set up camp on a high ridge with best-seat-in-the-house views. Neil finds a litter of petrified wood flakes and guesses someone sat here thousands of years ago making a knife. We sip beer and soak up the sunset, swapping predictions about what this vista–which currently includes the trapped blue waters of a shrinking reservoir–will look like in another thousand years.
Getting There From the north (Hanksville), take UT 95 and 276 south to the Bullfrog/Halls Crossing ferry at Bullfrog Marina. Once across the lake, drive 10 miles to a pullout on the left that is exactly 2 miles west of Cal Black Memorial Airport. From the south (Blanding), drive west on UT 95 and turn left (south) onto UT 276 toward Halls Crossing. Park your car at the same spot along UT 276 (UTM 12S 0536786E 4145428N).
The Route From the road, hike northeast and cross-country about 1 mile to the lip of Moqui Canyon (UTM 12S 0537205E 4146187N). Look for a 500-foot sand slide below the canyon rim; this is a lot more fun to go down than to come up, but it’s the best way in and out. (Try to hike this hot section in the morning or evening.) Occasional cairns mark the way down sandstone benches to the top of the slide. Once you reach the streambed, there are miles of exploration up- and downcanyon. USGS quad: Burnt Spring