Chasing the Totality

Day 18: Burr Trail

We had an approximate itinerary for our trip to Wyoming, but we deliberately left the return trip flexible. As we sprawled in the "Guernsey" chairs sucking down the good internet at our hotel in Park City, I saw something unusual. If I zoomed way in on Open Street Map, there appeared to be a road across Lake Powell! Zoom in even more and UT 276 changed to a dotted line identified as "Bullfrog Ferry". Incredulous, we located a website and called the number for information. Yes, there really is a ferry across Lake Powell, operated by the Utah Department of Transportation, that runs from Bullfrog Marina 3.1 miles to Hall's Crossing. That opened up a more interesting way to cross Escalante/Grand Staircase, by taking the Burr Trail from Boulder to UT 276. After coffee and homemade berry muffins at the delightful Burr Trail Outpost, we were on our way!

There aren't enough superlatives to describe the Burr Trail. For 67 miles, it slices right through the heart of southern Utah's red rock canyon country. I spent much of the trip hanging out the passenger window, my foot braced against the dashboard, camera in hand.

Near Muley Twist Canyon, the road drops 800 feet in about a mile while zig-zagging down the Waterpocket Fold. The Waterpocket Fold is a nearly 100-mile long warp in the earth's crust that formed between 50 and 70 million years ago when a major mountain building event in western North America, the Laramide Orogeny, reactivated an ancient buried fault in this region (scroll for panorama).

When the fault moved upwards, the overlying rock layers were draped above the fault and formed a monocline. The rock layers on the west side of the fold have been lifted more than 7,000 feet.
Burr Trail

Below Burr Canyon, the road drops into Grand Gulch and the deep red Moenkopi sandstone of Long Canyon gives way to layers of buff-colored Cedar Mesa sandstone streaked with layers of red, gray and white shale and sandstone (scroll for panorama).

Burr Trail

This is a heroic and almost entirely empty landscape. Past Muley Twist, we also saw one other vehicle — the local sheriff (scroll for panorama).

When you think the views can't get any higher or grander, you roll out onto Middle Point, where Bullfrog Canyon yawns 1000 feet to your left, and ahead, you catch your first dizzying glimpses of Lake Powell.
The Bullfrog Ferry is the only auto ferry in the state of Utah and began operations in 1985. The original vessel, named the John Atlantic Burr, which was constructed in pieces in Salt Lake City and hauled in pieces to Bullfrog for assembly. A second boat, the Charles Hall, replaced the John Atlantic Burr in 2000. The ferry had been closed until late July for extensive renovations, including engine repairs and and rebuilding the ramp to compensate for declining lake levels
Gull-like bird — possibly a jaeger — and colorful reflections from the deep blue sky and red rocks lining Lake Powell.
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