Moab Happenings Archive
Return to home

DEAD HORSE POINT HAPPENINGS - May 2004

Visitor of the Month
by Don Bruce, Park Naturalist


Dead Horse Point State Park is perhaps Utah's most spectacular state park.

A visitor is selected and featured as Dead Horse Point State Park’s “Visitor of the Month.” Dead Horse Point employees hope it will be a fun way to show that visitors to the park are appreciated, welcome, and important. It may also be a way for local residents of the Moab area to get to know and appreciate some of the visitor’s who come to the area.

The mission of Utah State Parks and Dead Horse Point is “Enhancing the quality of life in Utah through parks, people, and programs” and the staff would like to show that they are dedicated to making your experience safe, clean, and friendly. Plan a trip to what many call the most spectacular viewpoint in the State of Utah. Who knows, maybe you will be chosen to receive the honor of “Visitor of the Month.”

After a more than excellent month of weather in March, April brought cooler temperatures, steady rains, and cloudy days. But that did not stop visitors from coming up to the park in big numbers to explore the magnificence of this awesome landscape. In fact the campground has been consistently filling up about everyday since mid-March marking a very busy spring so far.

The staff at Dead Horse Point announces its “Visitor’s of the Month” for the month of April as Laura and Bret Nicholson and their 1-year old son Max of Provo, Utah and Jody and Neil Johnson from Lehi, Utah. Both Bret and Neil are students at BYU and Jodi a student at Community College in Provo. Laura works for the Department of Workforce services in Lehi. They were all born and raised in Utah and had been to Moab many times growing up when their parents would bring them down on vacation.

Jodi and Bret are brother and sister and both couples drove down from Provo on April 22nd to celebrate the end of the semester at school. Leaving Provo at 4 a.m. to get an early start, they arrived at Dead Horse Point at 8 a.m. and got the first site available. They were tent camping and unfortunately the weather was cold with rain and even snow. But this was little Max’s first camping trip and they “didn’t want the weather to spoil their trip” Bret said.

After setting up camp they drove to Arches. They all love hiking and said they enjoy the hiking trails at Arches because as Laura said, “It’s good for kids. Especially when carrying kids.” They spent most of their day at Arches visiting the Windows section where they hiked the trail around Balanced Rock. “It looked like it would tip over on us at any time!” said Jodi. They said their favorite and prettiest view of all was Double Arch.

After their visit to Arches they drove down the Potash Road to see the rock art. Jodi said she took lots of pictures and finds petroglyphs fascinating and would like to see other rock art sites in the area.

For the rest of their trip they planned on going to the Island in the Sky district of Canyonlands and driving the White Rim Trail to Tower Ruin. They were also looking forward to doing some shorter hikes around Dead Horse Point. They all found the name of Dead Horse Point interesting after reading about how it got it’s name in the museum. It occurred to them how interesting all of the names around the Canyon Country are and how you can tell a lot of history about it by what people have decided to name the rocks, canyons, and mountains. They said they had fun coming up with names for different rock formations while driving through Arches. They said they saw one that looked like a hand showing a peace symbol sign and decided to name it “Peace Rock.”

In all they said they were having a great time despite the cold nights and think that Moab is a “fun little city.” Neil said, “Dead Horse Point is a hidden secret” and he hopes to spend more time here when the weather is a little warmer. The staff at Dead Horse Point would like to thank Neil, Jodi, Bret, Laura, and little Max for being our “Visitors of the Month” and hope they had a great visit.

Dead Horse Point is a peninsula of rock atop sheer sandstone cliffs. The peninsula is connected to the mesa by a narrow strip of land called the neck. There are many stories about how this high promontory of land received its name.

According to one legend, around the turn of the century the point was used as a corral for wild mustangs roaming the mesa top. Cowboys rounded up these horses, herded them across the narrow neck of land and onto the point. The neck, which is only 30 yards wide, was then fenced off with branches and brush. This created a natural corral surrounded by precipitous cliffs, affording no escape. Cowboys then chose the horses they wanted and let the culls or broomtails go free. One time, for some unknown reason, horses were left corralled on the waterless point where they died of thirst within view of the Colorado River, 2,000 feet below.

Naturalist’s Corner:  

Black-Tailed Jackrabbit (Lepus californicus):
Maybe one of the most observed but least mentioned desert animals at Dead Horse Point is the Black-Tailed Jackrabbit. The Black-Tailed Jackrabbit is a year-round resident to the flat open grassland areas that surround the park. Belonging to the Lagomorph family, which include rabbits, hares, and pikas, these “jackrabbits” are actually hares. The hare is larger than true rabbits, have longer legs and ears, and do not dig or live in burrows.

The flat open areas on the mesa tops around Dead Horse Point offer excellent habitat and escape- terrain from predators such as coyotes, foxes, and birds of prey. When pursued, the jackrabbit can reach speeds of up to 35 miles an hour and leap up to 20 feet in one bound. Like some rabbits, hares have the curious habit of thumping their hind foot when alarmed. It is said the thumping is a warning sign to other hares and rabbits, and can be heard up to 100 feet away.

The black-tailed jackrabbit can be easily identified by their large size (they can grow to over two feet long) and ears (which serve to dissipate heat during the hot summer months). They can be observed day or night, although they avoid midday heat, and also obtain most of their water from the foods they eat (leaves, stems, and bark from herbaceous plants and trees). Be extra careful and drive slow when traveling to Dead Horse Point, especially during night or early morning hours, to avoid hitting one of these truly impressive creatures.


Dead Horse Point is a peninsula of rock atop sheer sandstone cliffs and connected to the mesa by a narrow strip of land called the neck. There are many stories about how Dead Horse Point received its name.

According to one legend, around the turn of the century the point was used as a corral for wild mustangs roaming the mesa top. Cowboys rounded up these horses, herded them across the narrow neck of land and onto the point. The neck, which is only 30 yards wide, was then fenced off with branches and brush. This created a natural corral surrounded by precipitous cliffs, affording no escape. Cowboys then chose the horses they wanted and let the culls or broomtails go free. One time, for some unknown reason, horses were left corralled on the waterless point where they died of thirst within view of the Colorado River, 2,000 feet below.

Park Information:

• Dead Horse Point is open everyday from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.

• Visitor Center/ Museum hours are from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

• The 21-unit Kayenta Campground is open year-round with electricity, modern restroom facilities, dump station and will accommodate everything from tents to R.V.s.

• 11 miles of hiking trails.
• A self-guided nature walk.

• Gift shop, film, and snacks at Visitor Center. • Picnic areas.

• For more information call the park at (435) 259-2614 or visit the web site: www.stateparks.utah.gov
Return to Archive Index
 
Return to home

info@moabhappenings.com