An ATV adventure through the Black Dragon

Lynn Blamires
ATV Adventures
(LYNN BLAMIRES cortesy photo)
A view looking back on the other end of the Black Dragon.
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When I first heard about the Black Dragon ATV Trail, the name alone was enough to put it on my have-to-ride list. I was all about slaying the Black Dragon on an ATV.

Traveling west of Green River, we passed the State Road 24 exit and the bridge over the San Rafael River. Turning off I-70 to the trailhead was tricky because there is no off-ramp. When you see the dirt road, you need to be going slow enough to make the turn off the freeway. If you miss it, finding a turn-around is not a short trip; believe me, I know. In my search, we stopped at a rest area. Looking across the canyon, I could see the trail we were supposed to be on. It was a long way back, but this time we made the turn.

Unloading, we got our bearings and followed Black Dragon Wash, then found ourselves at the gaping mouth of Black Dragon Canyon. This chasm has the feel of a slot canyon, only wider. It likely gets its name from the black patina coating the walls. With a little imagination we were absorbed in the adventure ahead of us.

Entering the maw, the walls closed in around us and the Dragon began to give up her secrets. We came upon a panel of Indian Pictographs and stopped to examine them. I have wondered about the significance of the works of art I have seen in various places in the San Rafael Swell. Each panel displays a style of its own, bearing the signature of its creator. Was it the work of men who hunted and provided for their people or of children who got in trouble for writing on the walls?

The sides of the Dragon rose high and sheer, blocking out the morning light. We faced a cool breeze as we continued to pick our way through the wash. While this trail is not difficult, it is technical. The choice is to follow the wash or a trail that drops in and out of the wash. Every time there is a significant amount of water making its way down the Black Dragon, the trail changes, exposing some rocks and covering others. These changes affect the technical aspects of the ride.

Resuming our adventure, we climbed out the other end of the Dragon and found ourselves on the rim of the wash looking down into a deep gorge. The trail followed the edge until we passed Jackass Benches on the way to Jackass Flat. I can say that because that is what it is; I checked the map.

Along this route, I found a trail that looked like it would connect to trails in the San Rafael Swell. The map indicated a route to the Head of Sinbad and the Swasey Cabin, but that was a trail for another day. We came to another junction that offered access to Swazy’s Leap. It was interesting to note that the map spelled Swasey with a “sey” when referring to the cabin and with a “zy” when marking the leap.

We headed out to see how close we could get to Swazy’s Leap because the map indicated that the view would be worth it. We were disappointed to learn that the trail was closed two miles before reaching the leap, but it did make a good place to stop for lunch, so we did.

Back on the trail, we passed the Jackass Benches, closing a loop and putting us on the track back through the Black Dragon. I looked forward to this because, as I have discovered with other ATV trails, tracking back is like riding a new trail. It is a different time of day so the light is different, and we were seeing everything from the opposite direction.

Our ride was a 37-mile venture through some very rugged country. The best time to take this ride is in the spring or fall. When you go, take a camera, plenty of water, keep the rubber side down, and don’t miss that turn.

You may reach Lynn Blamires at quadmanone@gmail.com.

Lynn Blamires

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