Scenic Roads Happenings March 2010
Article and photos by Rob Cassingham
Mile 10.1 Chicken Corners. It is a LONG way down!
The Chicken Corners route leads visitors through a land bordered by sheer cliffs 1000 feet high on your left and the Colorado River hundreds of feet below you on the right. Affording views few visitors to Moab will ever experience, intrepid travelers can enjoy balanced rocks, a naturally formed limestone bridge (a rarity in the region), a large red rock mass riddled with water-formed tunnels and caves, and a short but thrilling traverse across a narrow ledge high above the river-the appropriately named Chicken Corners.
In last month’s (February) issue of the Moab Happenings, the route to Hurrah Pass was detailed. This month, we detail the remainder of the route from the summit of Hurrah pass to the road’s end, just beyond Chicken Corners. The portion of the trip up to Hurrah Pass is fine for 2wd vehicles. Beyond the summit the road is a little rougher, though still easily traveled by stock 4wd vehicles. For more details on the route to Hurrah pass, you may pick up the February 2010 issue of the Moab Happenings at the Canyonlands Copy Center, located at 375 South Main Street.
To begin this road log, start at the intersection of Main and Center Streets, then head South .6 miles to Kane Creek Road. Turn right, and follow the road another .7 miles. When the road forks, continue straight head. At every intersection thereafter, continue driving forward. You will reach the summit of Hurrah Pass 15.2 miles from the Main and Center Street intersection. Reset your tripmeter, and when you have finished enjoying the view, continue your trek to Chicken Corners!
Most mud puddles are easily avoided.
Mile 0 You are at Hurrah Pass. Start this road log by driving downhill to the west. The road comes closer to edge several times than it did on your way up to Hurrah Pass, so drive carefully.
Mile .4 A photogenic ‘balanced rock’ is just to the left of the road.
Mile 1.8 The road has reached a broad limestone bench, and you are no longer near the edge of sheer drops. For the time being, anyway.
Mile 2.5 The road to the right is a 4x4 route that leads to Jackson Hole, which is an abandoned meander of the Colorado River. You should continue straight ahead. Just past this point, your route goes over a small rock ledge. This is the biggest obstacle your vehicle will have to surmount on this route.
Mile 2.8 At this intersection, you can go either straight or to the right-they both lead to the same place. However, the road log mileage is based on turning right at this point and heading uphill.
Mile 6.1 Rico Bridge
Mile 3.7 The grayish hills to the right are piles of river gravel deposited when the Colorado River was at this elevation.
Mile 4.2 Continue straight at this intersection.
Mile 4.4 At this intersection, you are to continue straight ahead . The road to the left leads to ‘Dripping Springs’. A few hundred yards down this road is a large mass of red sandstone on the right. ‘Catacomb Rock’, as it is known, is riddled with passages, tunnels and caves. This is a great spot to get out and stretch your legs and explore. Kids love this place, but you should accompany them. Though there is little to no chance of collapse or yawning chasms to fall into, the rock is still mighty hard if you fall! If you should visit this spot on your way out to Chicken Corners, your mileages will be off from those listed in this article. Adjust your mileages accordingly, or visit Catacomb Rock on your return trip.
Mile 4.9 At this intersection, continue straight. The road to the right leads to the river. When ranching was still king in Moab, ranchers would often pasture their cattle where the modern day Island in the Sky district of Canyonlands National Park is today. When the cowboys would round the cattle up and move them to Moab, they would drive the cattle down the Shafer Trail and eventually across the Colorado River. Reaching dry ground, the cattle were then herded up the canyon at this intersection, then over Hurrah Pass and into town.
A short distance down the road towards the river is the husk of a late 1930s International pickup. One story concerning how this truck came to be here is as follows: In the late 1940s, the truck became stuck in deep sand. The driver labored to free the vehicle from the sand, but the exertion caused a fatal heart attack. The truck remains to this day, subject to repeated flash flooding and bullets.
Mile 6.1 Approximately 15 feet to the right of the road, you may spot Rico Bridge, a natural limestone span. It may be easier to spot the bridge on your return trip. The limestone layer the bridge is formed from was once known as the Rico Formation, but that term fell out of favor with geologists in the 1980s. The layer is now known as Upper Hermosa formation, and was deposited in shallow seas approximately 300 million years ago.
Mile 6.8 Continue straight at this intersection. The road to the left is a rugged 4x4 route that passes by Lockhart Basin, eventually reaching pavement just outside of the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park. If you choose to take this route, know that is a very rough, and will require a night camping en route. It is very remote, and it is advised you travel with at least two vehicles.
Mile 10.1 You have arrived at Chicken Corners. Though it is only a short distance traversing the narrow ledge, the road is quite narrow and nearly 300 feet straight down. Those afraid of driving across the ledge often turn around at this point or walk the route rather than riding or driving. This is why Chicken Corners has received that name.
Mile 11.5 End of the line. You have reached a view area high above the Colorado River. Across the river, high on the cliff top, you may be able to make out the viewing platform at Dead Horse Point State Park. Also across the river, at the same elevation as you, is where the climactic scene of the movie ‘Thelma and Louise’ was filmed-they drove their car off of the cliff. Down below, the river starts making a dramatic bend, forming the ‘gooseneck’ easily viewed from Dead Horse Point.
When you have finished enjoying the view, return to Moab via the same route you just drove.
Thank you for visiting Chicken Corners, and pick up next month’s issue of the Moab Happenings for another great drive!