Little Park Wash and Turtle Canyon

Alan and I originally had plans to ride motorcycles into Little Park to search for a petroglyph panel that I’d read about in a cultural resource inventory for a nearby coal mine, but with a 40% chance of rain on Saturday I chickened out on the motorcycle part. Instead we ended up driving, and before reaching our intended parking spot and beginning the hike it rained briefly. However, within minutes of starting our hike the clouds cleared, the sun came out, and we had to shed our rain jackets. The sun stayed out the rest of the day–it would have been perfect for a ride.

BLM sign along Little Park Road
BLM sign along Little Park Road

Bear claw marks
Bear claw marks

Mouth of Horse Canyon
Mouth of Horse Canyon

Mt. Elliott enshrouded in a rain storm
Mt. Elliott enshrouded in a rain storm

Sunny conditions for the hike into Little Park Wash
Sunny conditions for the hike into Little Park Wash

It was an easy walk into Little Park Wash. I was expecting a two-mile round-trip hike to the petroglyph panel and back, but we didn’t find it where I was expecting it to be. Alan and I hiked upstream and downstream in Little Park Wash and never did locate it, but we did find one faint zig-zag pictograph and a snake pictograph with some dotted lines below it. We’d hiked 7.3 miles total by the time we returned to the Jeep.

Little Park Wash side canyon
Little Park Wash side canyon

Faint zig-zag pictograph
Faint zig-zag pictograph

Faint zig-zag pictograph enhanced with DStretch
Faint zig-zag pictograph enhanced with DStretch

Snake and dot pictographs
Snake and dot pictographs

Cap on a drill hole
Cap on a drill hole

Small shed deer antler
Small shed deer antler

Our turnaround point in Little Park Wash
Our turnaround point in Little Park Wash

It was late enough that we could have called it a day, but Turtle Canyon was calling. Alan had heard that the road through the canyon was badly washed out and impassable. We decided to see if that was true. Little Park Road descends into Turtle Canyon and connects with Range Creek, and losing access to that area would be a bad deal. While descending toward Turtle Canyon there were a few washed out road sections that were easy enough to pass over. Once the road connected with Turtle Canyon, however, it became fairly difficult. Judging from the tracks in the wash some ATVs and UTVs had passed through, but it didn’t appear that any full-sized vehicles had done so. It was slow-going but we managed to get almost all the way to Range Creek. The Jeep got stuck a few times and even high-centered pretty badly once, but with some digging, rock-stacking, and other road work, we pressed on. It was clear that even ATVs had scraped and high-centered in some of the places we had trouble. Alan was out of the vehicle a lot acting as a spotter and road builder, so while I was driving he was able to take many of the following photos which he allowed me to use (thanks, Alan!).

Foot-in-Mouth Arch
Foot-in-Mouth Arch

Former road in Turtle Canyon (photo by Alan Peterson)
Former road in Turtle Canyon (photo by Alan Peterson)

One of many rocky entrances into the watercourse (photo by Alan Peterson)
One of many rocky entrances into the watercourse (photo by Alan Peterson)

Scouting the route ahead (photo by Alan Peterson)
Scouting the route ahead (photo by Alan Peterson)

Rough wash crossing (photo by Alan Peterson)
Rough wash crossing (photo by Alan Peterson)

High-centered
High-centered

Me getting a shovel from the roof box (photo by Alan Peterson)
Me getting a shovel from the roof box (photo by Alan Peterson)

Scrape marks from being high-centered
Scrape marks from being high-centered

We had 0.2 miles left to go before reaching the road junction with Range Creek when the Jeep got hung up once again. I was certain we could make it the rest of the way with a little more work, but it was getting late and my worry was that Traci would be itching to call search and rescue if I didn’t get back into cell service soon and let her know that things were okay. Instead of digging and stacking rocks to make it the remainder of the way to Range Creek, we backed up and found a spot to turn around, then reversed course over all the obstacles we’d descended. It still took some work to get back out. I needed to get a run at some of the embankments out of the watercourse so we cleared rocks from the path to get a smoother run. Once I regained cell service, we’d covered a total of 25 miles of road in 4.5 hours since the end of the hike. The remaining two hours of driving home was done in the dark. I was glad to have made it out, but still wishing we’d made that last 0.2 miles.

Turnaround point in Turtle Canyon (photo by Alan Peterson)
Turnaround point in Turtle Canyon (photo by Alan Peterson)

View down Turtle Canyon at dusk
View down Turtle Canyon at dusk


Photo Gallery: Little Park Wash and Turtle Canyon

2 thoughts on “Little Park Wash and Turtle Canyon

  1. hey Dennis,
    been wondering about this area in general.
    looks wonderfully wild and that road is going to keep the traffic down for sure which I suspect is the goal of the state now that they own Range Creek.
    Range Creek is full of 12 inch trout and we found a bunch of rock art on a short hike in there a few years back.
    the post answers some critical access questions.
    thanks, steve

    1. I heard secondhand that the BLM was fixing the road as of last week. I might hop on the motorcycle to check it out in the coming weeks. Since this road is the only unrestricted public access to Range Creek it’s important to me that it remains open and accessible.

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