Burr Trail Side Roads
In 1882, southern Utah’s Burr Trail was called the most God-forsaken and wild-looking country ever traveled. It continued to be a rocky trail until it was improved in 1967 by uranium miners. A federal judge threw out a lawsuit in 1990 aimed at preventing the road from being improved. That same year, Lone Writer and his pals crossed the Burr Trail for the last time before it was paved.
Josephine Catherine Chatterly Wood was a midwife who worked the communities between Bluff and Monticello. She was very well known and respected for her talents in treating all kinds of injuries and in handling difficult childbirth situations. We are not sure why she was on the Burr Trail but we found a journal entry written by her with several descriptions of the wild country the trail crossed.
The Burr Trail was originally established in the 1870s by a rancher named John Burr. He needed to move his livestock between pastures and to the market. The trail spanned nearly 70 miles across a part of the country where nothing else existed. After paving was completed, the trail lost most of its wild appeal. On the other hand, using all that pavement is a matter of choice. To experience the wild country described in 1882, a detour along the Wolverine Loop is the perfect option.
Lone Writer and Happy Jack arrived in the Bullfrog area on a sunny warm day in March. They had intended to get there by way of the ferry but it was dry docked for repairs. That being the case, they decided not to pay the fee to enter the park. One gas station was open outside the park boundary near the intersection for the Burr Trail.
The first part of the Burr Trail skirts along that which was once beach area for Lake Powell. Low water levels have changed those sandy beaches into dry sand dunes. The access roads to them were closed when we were there in March. Lone Writer and Happy Jack reminisced about a night during the 1990s when a night of winds turned their beach camp into a raging sand storm that blew some tents into the lake.
One of their favorite stories involves the people who lost their tents. They went into Bullfrog looking for a motel room. The entire group had been camping all week with no access to showers. About six of them stood at the counter waiting for the attendant to decide what to do with them when a little girl walked by with her father. She looked at the ragged group and said, “Daddy, it stinks in here.” The attendant handed a key to one member of the group and told them they would all fit in a trailer parked in the back. In other words, he wanted them out of his hotel.
The Burr Trail crosses wide-open lands and eventually enters Capital Reef National Park. The first significant change in the roadway is when the Burr Trail turns to climb the cliffs at Waterpocket Fold. Prior to the switchbacks being widened, they were described as dangerously narrow where boulders rolled down the cliffs and threatened travelers. It is now wide enough for cars to pass and offers scenic views of the Henry Mountains.