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Dave and Jan's travels, day 110:
Dead Horse Point State Park

6 September
Dead Horse Point is a pretty well-kept secret. It's not part of the National Park system, and so automatically gets only ten percent of the volume of visitors seen at some of the more famous locations. And yet it's one of the most startling vantage points in the whole country.

A huge canyon sits twenty miles south-west of Moab. It's a couple of thousand feet deep, and a finger juts out from the northern side. Halfway along its length this finger narrows to just thirty feet across (still 2,000 feet high) before widening into a little island with plunging views into the Canyon on three sides.

In fact, the narrowness of this finger explains the rather macabre name. Apparently a number of cowboys were in the habit of driving mustangs onto the point, and then holding them there with the necessary thirty feet of fencing, whilst they selected those that they wanted. Then the fence was removed and the rejects left to make their own way back to the main plateau. Apparently on one occasion the horses never left, and eventually dropped dead from thirst on the point.

In any case, it's a simply stunning place to watch the sun go down. Our pictures don't do it justice. The highest rock layer visible is a vivid reddish-brown sandstone, but other layers intrude with lighter shades of sand and greens and greys as well. Looping through it all is the Colorado River, immense and brown with its huge silt load. The colours glow as the sun drops, and far far below you can see but not hear cars picking their way through this larger-than-life landscape along the Potash dirt road (named for the chemical plant for which the road was first built).

Naturally we immediately decided to follow this road the next day: it turned out to be a not-too-bad dirt road, with occasional potholes around a foot deep, but nothing that Beluga the car couldn't handle without breaking sweat (unlike the passengers, who felt every rut, bump, dry wash and rock). The views up were as stunning as those down, from above the cars look like ants, from below the driver feels like an ant.

The drive ended with a memorable switchback up the canyonside, Beluga remained unruffled, unlike her passengers who were frankly more than a little concerned - to the extent that we forgot to photograph the scene. One thing worth recording is that although all this fun is no problem for Beluga's engine and suspension, she does make a point of depositing the rear view mirror on the floor at least once for each major expedition away from the tarmac.

The road brought us directly into the heart of Canyonlands NP.


   (click thumbnails for a larger picture)

The view from Dead Horse Point

The Potash Road from above

From the Potash Road (1)

From the Potash Road (2)