Quick Drive: Warner Valley, Southern Utah
Odometer (Legend): 531,910
Odometer (ILX): 106,356
Trip Distance: 12 Miles
As sunset drew near one evening during our visit to St. George, Utah for the Thanksgiving holiday, my friend Ryan asked me if I knew of “any good drives” in the area. “Pssssh” I thought. “Of course!” It wouldn’t be a Tyson-Ryan road trip if there wasn’t at least a little bit of off-roading, like that one time we drove Hell’s Backbone. That’s why, at first thought, the remote area of Warner Valley came to mind.
It had been a long time since I visited Warner Valley. Maybe 18 years? I know for a fact that we went camping there when I was in Boy Scouts, and I was probably 14 at the time. The landscape I’m sure hasn’t changed much, but the steadily sprawling urban development has encroached on what was once barren wilderness back then. This road trip didn’t just rewind the clock 18 years, though. It rewound the clock to 190 million years ago, back when dinosaurs roamed the earth. That’s because Warner Valley is home to some of the best-preserved dinosaur tracks in the southwest. There are, in fact, about 400 examples of dinosaur tracks that have been found in the area since it was originally mapped in 1989.
Ryan and I took to the dirt road with enthusiasm and started kicking up some dust. The red one-laner snaked its way through the sagebrush and led us past some areas where people were set up with firearms and doing target practice. We gladly continued onward from there. I did get a little nervous because the road conditions got a little sketchy – the gravel gave way to sand which was quite deep in places. Remembering that one time when I got the ILX hopelessly stuck in the sand, I knew that I needed to keep my momentum to avoid that. My car’s traction-control assistance did kick in a number of times as the front tires lost grip in the sand.
Luckily, Ryan kept a pretty good pace from ahead of me and I stayed on his tail despite being enveloped by a cloud of dust. The desert’s colors really took on vivid hues as the sun dipped down in the western sky. Soon, it became pretty clear we’d run out of daylight before getting down the road much further, so we opted to loop back once we arrived at the site of the Fort Pearce Historic Site. It’s a small stone structure that was built in 1866 during Utah’s “Black Hawk War.” Native Americans from the Ute tribe were trying to drive out the Mormon settlers. In a series of battles, 100 Indian lives were lost and 70 Mormons. The 42 x 22 foot structure was one of several guard posts that were built during that time. The war ended by about 1873 and the remains of Fort Pearce stand as a reminder.
(photo credit Washington County Historical Society)
I’ve heard of “instant karma” but never seen it in action until Ryan and I started heading back to toward civilization. Despite the fact that we were clipping along at 30 miles per hour, a Ford pickup came up in my rearview and got uncomfortably close. It was clear he wanted to blast past me, but the road was far too narrow at that time to allow it. At the next possible area, I did scoot to the right and he flew by, spraying a cloud of dust in my direction. It was just seconds later, as the driver took his truck halfway up the berm on the left side of the road in an attempt to pass Ryan, that he lost control of his truck and ended up spinning it sideways in the deep sand and having to stop. I passed him with a chuckle and Ryan and I continued on our merry way.
Thanks for joining on the trip!
Dinosaur track photos:
(photo credit stillexploring.com)
(photo credit stillexploring.com)
Heading out on the dirt road, following Ryan’s dust cloud
Quick photo op in the middle of nowhere
Love the red sandstone scenery
ILX + S2000
Great sunset skies out in the desert
And headed back to civilization
Return drive to Phoenix on Saturday morning
The Virgin River Gorge section of Interstate 15
The Legend getting out for its weekly “walk” around the block.