Thursday, May 22, 2014

Moab's Uranium King in San Juan County, and Macomb Arch.

The former home of Moab's Uranium King, Charlie Steen, is now a restaurant called the Sunset Grill.  While he may have put Moab on the map, it's San Juan County he should have been thanking for his big score.  His mine, Mi Vida, is located in the Big Indian Wash - Lisbon Valley area, but like many uranium mines nowadays, is no longer in operation.  So, what does San Juan County have to show for all the money made on that mine?  A road named after Charlie...Steens (or Steen depending on the map) Road (CR 114/2447) which is also an OHV (off highway vehicle) road, staging area for Hook and Ladder, and location of two formations: Red Rock and Casa Colorado Rock.  I better post the map I fixed up, so you can follow along as I write up sites I've found.

Steens Road is 22.7 miles from the the intersection of Main and Center Streets in Monticello, heading north on Route 191; after you go down a small dip in the road and cross over an arroyo, you'll see a sign and the road to your right.  To the left though is another road which is Old Highway 191 and can also handle ATVs and 4-wheel drive vehicles; it takes you all the way up to Wilson Arch on Route 191.

The staging area for Hook and Ladder is 1.2 miles up Steens Road; at the informational board is a box which holds free maps.  Sometimes the box is empty and the local welcome center might not have any either; go to the SPEAR (San Juan Public Entry & Access Rights) site at: , click on Maps ( , choose the route(s) you want and print it(them) out.

Dwarf Evening Primrose scattered throughout the staging area.

At 2.5 miles you reach Red Rock; this formation can be seen from Lisbon Valley Road and looks like a castle or gothic mansion.  From Steens Road, it looks like a sleeping stegosaurus from one angle or an elephant's head between its front feet from another angle.  Stop though and take in the scenery of the road you just traveled up; isn't that beautiful?

Casa Colorado Rock is at the 3.7 mile mark; a formation of pillars often sort out by climbers.  It is part of the formation, again seen from Lisbon Valley Road which was simply named "Cave Rocks" by William Henry Jackson.  There is a large amphitheatre upwards from Steens Road; Roy and I enjoy hiking up there, having our picnic lunch and just looking out at the scenery.

At mile mark 5.1, the road splits off; straight ahead CR 114 continues down into a canyon and beyond; it becomes very rough riding and is best for ATVs or specialized 4-wheel drive vehicles. There are several other trails that lead to closed off areas due to poisonous gas from the pipelines throughout.

Going right, the road now becomes CR 111/2447 aka Big Indian Spur which leads to the Lisbon Valley Gas Plant; a right onto Rankine Road will bring you to Lisbon Valley Road in 1.6 miles.  You then have to decide to either go left to explore L.V. Road or go right back to Route 191; but before you do that, stop on Rankine Road at 4/10ths of a mile from the plant and explore the riverbed.

Canaigre Dock (Buckwheat family) grows throughout the riverbed

So there's Steens Road for you; Hook and Ladder I hope to explore at another time, but wait, this adventure tale is not over yet.  Doing my research about Steens Road, I saw mention of "Macomb Arch" and two posted photos of it; only problem, no substantial information about it.  Online map sites listed it as "Name Unrecognized", or a little ballon vaguely positioned between East Canyon Road (CR 105) and Lisbon Valley Road.  I couldn't even find out why it was named as such online or in any of my San Juan County books; probably some rancher named Macomb who lived or still lives out there is my best guess.

Anyway, heading back south on Route 191, I made the turn onto East Canyon Road (CR 105) to see if I could find this arch; a photocopy along to help me recognize the landscape.  At mile mark 2.7, a shaft of sunlight going through the arch helped me find the location; unfortunately, a road at mile mark 4.7 ends at a closed gate, so that wasn't getting me out there.  These photos are the best I could do with my zoom lens, until I can finally find the correct road out to it.  It looks to be part of Deer Neck Mesa, so I've got a pretty good idea of two possible ways.

Macomb Arch

Deer Neck Mesa

 Just for a lark, I drove up Peters Wash Road (CR 108) from East Canyon Road (on mile mark 1.8) up and over to White Rock and down to Lisbon Valley Road.  At a post and wire fence that you can go through, just remember to close it again once you pass through, there is a corral and this old windmill. 
...and that's that for this write up.
Mary Cokenour


1 comment:

  1. Interesting and beautiful country. Macomb Arch is named after Captain John Macomb, who led an expedition from Santa Fe through the area in 1859, in search of the confluence of the Colorado and Green Rivers.