2019 San Rafael Swell

Pam’s brother, Allan, and his son Rowan were going to join us at Bear Lake, but the weather was a bit cold for tent camping. Therefore, we decided to head south and meet up instead in the center of Utah at the San Rafael Swell. It’s a favorite place for Allan, but Pam and I had never been there before.

Navajo sandstone cliffs line the road as you drop into the swell.

There is a lot of rock art on the cliffs. One place had amazing petroglyphs, images chiseled into the rock, and pictographs, images painted onto the rocks.

The pictographs were very intricate and full of images that archaeologists are still trying to decipher.

There is a campground at the swell, but there are also hundreds of places to disperse camp. Allan brought his dirt bikes so Rowan escorted us from the road to the campsite on his bike when we arrived. It was a nice spot at the base of a cliff and next to the San Rafael River.

Surprisingly there were beaver signs all around our campsite and in the river. They had downed several trees near the campsite.

And they had built a small dam on an offshoot along the river. Again, we never saw the rodents, but they must be around. It’s a good thing because the area could use more water and stop the river from eroding its banks down to the bedrock, both things beavers do for a river.

When we weren’t sitting around talking or “getting our redneck on” by plinking cans with a .22 from what we later paced off to be roughly 140 feet, we explored the area.

This area had a lot of geodes on the ground as the dry wash dumped into the San Rafael River just below here.

Allan and Rowan had to head on back for work and school, but Pam and I stayed an extra night just to enjoy the beauty and the non-freezing temperatures. The next day we continued south on the road through more spectacular country. We ducked under the I-70, and continued on dirt roads at a more enjoyable pace.

The road goes by Goblin Valley State Park, which we had never been to before, so we stopped. Turns out that many movies were filmed there due its unique, alien-looking rock structures, including one of our favorites, “Galaxy Quest”.

We hiked around the cool looking rocks that are roughly 10 to 20 feet in height.

These three are called the Three Sisters.

We entered the swell at Cleveland, UT and emerged near Hanksville, UT. What a great place. It’s now on our list of places to revisit.

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