A skinny two-lane road departs from the small town of Emery and leads down into Miller Canyon. Photo by Jason Bailey.
Two steel suspension bridges span Eagle Canyon - one for the westbound lanes and another for the eastbound lanes. Photo by Jason Bailey.
Interstate 70 passes through the San Rafael Reef at a narrow point in the canyon known as "The Squeeze" as it heads eastbound towards the city of Green River. Because the San Rafael Reef is essentially the eastern edge of the San Rafael Swell, The Squeeze is almost like a gateway to the inside. Photo by Jason Bailey.
Before construction crews widened Spotted Wolf Canyon in 1967, it was only 16 inches wide in some places. In fact, some people claimed to have seen Bighorn Sheep get stuck in the narrowest parts of the canyon. While the canyon was widened greatly to accommodate the road, it's still relatively narrow.
Winter has come to an end and Spring is just beginning to take shape. The snow in the valley has melted away, exposing ground that will soon be covered in flora and fauna. The sun stays in the sky just a little longer than before, and the temperature outside taunts us to abandon our heavy coats. After all of the many days we've spent cooped up inside, it's finally time to get out of the house!
But there's a problem. The weather just isn't cooperating today. The sky is overcast with grey rain clouds and the wind whistles past our windows, reminding us why our coats haven't yet been relegated to the closet for the remainder of the season. It's too windy and cold to go hiking or biking. On the other hand, a bad case of cabin fever is a very strong incentive to leave the house anyway. What to do?
On days like these, a day long road trip might just be the cure. But it has to be a worthwhile journey. With gas prices hovering ever closer to $4 a gallon, there's no reason to travel the path of the mundane.
After a long Winter season, it's easy to forget about many of the scenic routes that the Castle Valley has to offer. They can become the perfect rainy day getaway, especially the ones that are paved all the way through.
One popular route leads through the town of Helper, up Price Canyon, across SR-96 to Scofield Reservoir. SR-264 then leads past Skyline Mine to the top of the mountain where some fantastic views can be enjoyed. SR-31 then winds back down the mountain by way of scenic Huntington Canyon down to the city of Huntington in Emery County. This route travels much of the Huntington-Eccles Canyons Scenic Byway.
But another route less traveled by many Carbon County residents actually visits one of the last frontiers of the American West where outlaws traveled to evade the law. It the believed that Butch Cassidy and his cohorts crossed this route as they escaped lawmen after they had robbed Castle Gate of its payroll back in 1897. A number of maze like labyrinths similar to those that helped the gang elude their pursuers can be seen from several scenic overlooks along the route, which bisects the San Rafael Swell into two halves.
To follow this route from Price City, begin by traveling southbound along SR-10 into Emery County to the town of Huntington. Continue on the same highway through the towns of Castle Dale and Ferron.
Ferron is a good place to fill the ole' gas tank if it isn't already near full. There is only one gas station south of Ferron for miles, and it isn't always open. It's also a good place to buy some drinks, snacks and other munchies for the trip ahead.
Continue along SR-10, traveling south. Nearly 14 miles down the road lies Emery, the quaint little community that was once called "Muddy" after the Muddy Creek that passes close to the town site. As the highway approaches the little town, it bends to the right. At that bend, turn left onto 3rd East. The turn is fairly easy to spot, as it happens to be the first road on the left that is paved. Once on 3rd East, continue south past the Live Earth Products facility for nearly a half mile until the road ahead turns to gravel. Follow the pavement to the left.
This narrow little road leads into Miller Canyon where it parallels the Muddy Creek. Looking at the distinct coal cliffs along the road, it's no surprise that this canyon has had its share of mining and industry in days long since past.
Less than 10 miles from the town of Emery, the Miller Canyon road crosses paths with Interstate 70. Here the Quitchupah and Ivie creeks flow into the Muddy Creek. Further downstream, the Muddy Creek combines with the Fremont River to become the Dirty Devil River.
Take the eastbound ramp on the left and enter Interstate 70. This part of the interstate, which actually stretches all the way from the town of Salina to the city of Green River, is a very curious section of road. It is the longest stretch of interstate highway anywhere in the contiguous United States without services - no gas stations, motels or any other kind of amenity. It's arguably one of the most beautiful sections of Interstate 70 as well.
There are a number of rest stops along both sides of the interstate. Each of them present unique views of the surrounding landscape. Take the time to stop at each one to enjoy the view. Take a bathroom break if needed.
Informational plaques also line the viewing area. Some highlight the geology of the area and the natural processes that brought the Swell into being. Some talk about the ancient Native Americans who once called the area home. Some touch on the explorers and outlaws who made their way through this territory. Others elaborate on the construction and development of the interstate itself.
Along the way Interstate 70 crosses Eagle Canyon by way of two large steel suspension bridges. The canyon was so named by a Swasey who, as the story goes, proclaimed to his brother that the canyon was so deep an eagle couldn't fly out of it.
Further down the road at the rest area near Ghost Rock, the rugged landscape is visible for many miles. As many old timers will tell, when the fog descends, Ghost Rock is often seen peering out and above, almost like it is hovering on the fog.
On the far eastern edge of the San Rafael Swell, the interstate descends into a place called The Squeeze, a narrow and windy section of rock. Once through The Squeeze, the road levels out and continues east.
If the car is thirsty for gasoline or the stomach is crying for food, continue along Interstate 70 to the city of Green River, which is about 10 miles away, for some gasoline and some lunch. Otherwise, use the SR-24 (Hanksville) exit just east of The Squeeze to turn around and head back the opposite direction, heading on westbound I-70, to enjoy scenic views from the north side of the interstate.
To make the journey back to Carbon County more interesting, leave I-70 by way of the Moore exit. This road, which has recently been straightened and paved, cuts through a different part of the San Rafael Swell and meets back up with SR-10 just a few miles south of Ferron. Once the road does meet up with SR-10, turn right and head north to Ferron. From here it's a 40 minute drive back to Carbon County.