September 27-28, 2019
I had been wanting to hike to the old May Ranch along the Price River for at least a couple of years, but the logistics of removing the roof box from the Jeep, loading the canoe, and figuring out a shuttle seemed like a lot of work for what is a relatively short day-hike. However, since I had a long river trip coming up the following weekend and had to do all that work anyway, this weekend seemed like the perfect time to make it happen. Chris met me at my house and we loaded his gear and hit the road toward Green River. I had the canoe on top of the Jeep and my mountain bike on the back for the shuttle. We headed up Hastings Road, checked out our intended takeout and put-in spots, looked at some familiar rock art, and then made camp just across from the Price River confluence.
We weren’t in any particular hurry to get on the river Saturday morning. After packing up camp we drove to the Nefertiti put-in and unloaded the canoe and other river gear. I drove down the road about 2.5 miles and parked the Jeep, then rode the mountain bike back and we launched on the Green River. Nefertiti Rapid hadn’t really worried me, but as we approached it in the canoe I began to wonder whether we’d have trouble. We sailed straight through smoothly, though, and continued on easily to the Price River confluence.
After changing into hiking shoes and shouldering our packs, we climbed the river bank and walked a fairly well-used trail to some boulders covered in petroglyphs. One of the boulders appears to have fallen over because all the rock art is now sideways. A little beyond the rock art boulders was another big rock with some well-made cowboy glyphs from 1894 that included five sets of initials and a couple of unusual figures.
The next stop along the river was an area that piqued my curiosity in Google Earth. Starting in 2012, the satellite imagery shows some sort of structure next to the river, as well as something in the river itself. I’d assumed it was a gauging station, but when we arrived at the location the structure was gone–it may have been wiped out by the September 2016 flood that affected my river trip that year. In the river, however, there was some sort of pipe grid extending out into the water. It didn’t look like any gauging equipment I’ve ever seen, but I can’t imagine what else it could have been. We continued upstream and encountered some rock art, a pit house, and a single inscription. Strangely, a couple of the petroglyphs were also sideways.
We reached the May Ranch and I was surprised how well-built the cabin was. According to Utah’s Canyon Country Place Names the ranch and cabin were built by Albert J. May, and later abandoned by him in about 1930, after which a sheep operation moved in. The cabin is mostly built from railroad ties and possibly larger bridge beams. Some of the ties still have railroad spikes in them, and I found at least one rail tie plate lying around along with other miscellaneous refuse.
We continued farther upstream, walking along an old canal that was used by May to water his crops. Curiously, my GPS showed a trail along the canal named “Roar Then Canal.” I haven’t been able to find any other references to that name other than this map. I really wonder what data source was used for the map! We saw several more pit houses and some rock art. In one area, a village of several pit houses were joined against a large circle of rocks, and one of those rocks had some circular petroglyphs on it. I found a single potsherd there, the only one I saw all day.
It was getting pretty warm in the afternoon. We took shelter in the shade of a boulder and ate a late lunch before heading back downstream. From then on there was nothing new to see so we just picked up the pace and made good time back to the canoe. The round-trip hiking distance was about seven miles, though it took much of the day because we were going slow and looking for rock art. It was a short float of less than half a mile back across the Green River to where the Jeep was waiting. We opted to take out at a very steep spot of the river bank closer to the Jeep, which allowed us to avoid a longer walk back carrying the canoe and gear along the road.
There’s still a large section of the lower Price River that I haven’t seen and isn’t accessible by day-hiking, so my next trip will have to be an overnight backpack which I’m not sure I’m looking forward to anytime soon but will be worth it when it happens.
Photo Gallery: Lower Price River III: May Ranch