After 22 years, SUWA finally wins in Canyonlands National Park

Long battle to keep off-roaders out of the bottom of Salt Creek-

Salt Creek is a wet canyon in Canyonlands National Park. So it is rare and very valuable. Way back near the time the national park was created, NPS left it open to ORVs, not realizing how the use would grow. The mudboggers surely did use it, but the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA) forced it closed about a decade ago. Rural Utah county commissioners used their favorite weapon, RS2477, to try to open it. They have failed.
Victory! Protection for Salt Creek in Canyonlands NP. by Scott Groene. Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance

We hiked up Salt Creek about 20 years ago. It was scenic, but the damaged condition of the small stream precluded our return.

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More news on this . . . Judge rules against Utah’s bid to control roads in national parks. LA Times. These rural Utah county commissioners want to have roads everywhere. They have no respect for the public lands, a healthy outdoors, or the rights of those who want some places free from vehicles.  Worse, the RS2477 stuff can apply to national parks and public lands outside of Utah.

RS2477 is an old Civil War era law intended for other purposes than providing routes for ATVs, other uses and values to the contrary. It was intended to be repealed with the passage of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act in 1976, but it was somehow missed when hundreds of other obsolete public land laws were repealed under that Act of Congress.






  1. Chris Avatar

    It’s been a long while since I’ve been in the Salt Creek Drainage and at the time it was beautiful and quiet. A real chance to experience solitude. Hopefully this will not only protect the drainage’s environment but also the many Native American artifacts – particularly the pictographs. One in particular is a mural of 10 figures known as “The 10 Faces” It’s a miracle it has remained intact for as long as it has.

  2. WM Avatar

    I first went into Salt Creek in the mid 80’s. My host, a good friend, took several of us up the creek in his jeep to his secret places, where we hiked and explored for the better part of a week and saw no one else. You would just drive the creek bed, sometimes at good speed, which is surprisingly level and consistent natural roadbed comprised of sandstone and sand (with water less than a foot deep, for much of the way. On a hot day (and it does get hot there after May), the roostertail spray from vehicle is a welcome escape, and kind of cool to see, as well.

    Although legal at the time, driving the creek bed really didn’t “feel right.” But there was not alot of use of the area back then. Salt Creek has since been found, like so many places, and abused. Once lazy and laid back, nearby Moab is now a beehive (Mormon pun intended) of chain hotels and fast food restaurants for the mudders and mtn. bikers. The character of the town is gone; the quality of life is gone.

    This gives added meaning to the term, “Koyaanisqatsi” and the Philip Glass music in the film of the same name.

    I am eternally grateful to Scott Groene (who I have not seen in many years) and his legal staff at SUWA for their effort to protect this unique area.



    I hope the faces still survive. It can be a bit dark with the shade of the overhanging sandstone cliff that protects it, which means some who take photos use a flash. That instanteneous burst of high temperature light over and over and over again is not good for the pigments. Then there are always some idiots that just have to touch the faces and the wall with their dirty, greasy (sunscreen contaminated) fingers. I have often wondered how well this irreplaceable art and history of the area is doing.

    When I was there, not many people knew of its location. I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if NPS has it signed now, and its all over the internet with some person’s compelling need to tell where such stuff is for personal commercial gain. Another of the last best places hits the dust.

  3. Chris Avatar

    That was about the same time frame I went into Salt Creek. At the time, The faces were easy to miss given the proximity to the “trail” I would almost be afraid to seek them out again for fear of being really ticked off about vandalism. I didn’t get a picture but retain a vivid memory.

  4. skyrim Avatar

    Like the others have mentioned above, Salt creek has a very special place in my heart. 20 years ago or more. Landcrusier (for the most part) in an out. Barely beat a monster flash flood out by not more than 20 minutes. Never saw another soul for 6 days. What joy…..


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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