Skip to main content

2016 Fall Mountain Trip Part 18; Utah State Route 261 the Moki Dugway

After leaving my hotel on US Route 191 in Blanding I took a westward turn on Utah State Route 95 towards UT 261 which is more commonly known as the Moki Dugway.


This blog serves as the 18th entry in the 2016 Fall Mountain Trip Series; Part 17 can be found here:

2016 Fall Mountain Trip Part 17; Utah State Route 275 and Natural Bridges National Monument

If you read Part 17 you may recall that I stated much of UT 95 lies within open range.  In an ironic twist immediately west of the US 191 junction I encountered a herd of deer just prior to the open range portion of UT 95.  I wasn't able to dodge as the last deer as it ran out onto UT 95 with about 40-50 left to spare.  The resulting impact heavily dented the hood of my car which at the time was a 2014 Chevy Sonic.  This picture from below is the resulting damage the week after I returned to California from my trip.


Luckily the impact of the deer smashing into the hood of the Sonic was largely cosmetic.  Although it did push the left front headlight in and the radiator back slightly.  After running the Sonic for about 20 minutes and not detecting any leaks from the radiator I decided the best course of action was to proceed as planned to the Moki Dugway.  The rest of my day was largely going to be spent driving through the Navajo Nation anyways and I wasn't missing the opportunity to drive the Moki Dugway.

After reaching the junction with UT 261/Moki Dugway I turned south and was immediately greeted with the first of many 10% Grade/Gravel Road signs on UT 261.  From the north terminus at Mile Marker 32.691 the route of UT 261 the highway runs 23 miles atop Cedar Mesa as a paved highway running southward to the gravel section which is the actual Moki Dugway.



UT 261 as a whole is an approximately 32.7 mile State Highway entirely located in San Juan County which traverses from UT 95 south to US Route 163.  UT 261 is mostly known for the 3 mile gravel section known as the Moki Dugway which was constructed in 1958 by the Texas Zinc Mining Company.  The purpose of the Moki Dugway was to haul ore from the Happy Jack Mine located on Cedar Mesa to a processing mill located in Mexican Hat.  UT 261 was approved by the Utah State Legislature in 1957 and the route is presently part of the Trail of the Ancients which can be seen on this map below.

Utah Section of the Trail of the Ancients

Approaching Muley Point Road the route of UT 261 enters the Moki Dugway.  Traffic is warned of the steep grades, gravel surface, and switchbacks over the next 3 miles.  Muley Point Road splits from UT 261 at Mile Maker 9.656




As the pavement ends UT 261 southbound traffic is greeted with a Moki Dugway sign.


At Mile Marker 9.278 there is a view point at the rim of Cedar Mesa above the grade of the Moki Dugway which views the area below.  To the east the Valley of the Gods can be seen in distance.








The gravel surface on the Moki Dugway is excellent for an unpaved roadway.  Despite the 10% grades I didn't find that it was difficult to maintain 2nd gear speeds descending downhill.


The first major hairpin on the Moki Dugway southward provides an excellent view of the grade below.



The first southbound hairpin also a great place for a panoramic.


The majority of the vehicles traveling on the Moki Dugway were trucks.  I passed several San Juan County Sheriff vehicles ascending the Dugway northbound, seeing a dented up Chevy Sonic must have been an odd sight.  As I was descending southbound I found it hard to envision ore trucks negotiating the Moki Dugway on a regular basis.






Half way on the southbound descent on the Moki Dugway there is a much better view of the Valley of the Gods off to the east.  The Valley of the Gods is a series of weathered sandstone bluffs similar in size and shape to nearby Monument Valley.  Valley of the Gods was briefly part of Bears Ears National Monument before it's area was reduced by 85%.


At the bottom of the 1,200 foot descent on the Moki Dugway there is one last hairpin before the asphalt surface returns.  At Mile Marker 6.448 UT 261 junctions Valley of the Gods Road which continues east to the aforementioned formations.




At Mile Maker 0.874 UT 261 has a junction with UT 316 which is the primary access for Goosenecks State Park.  Goosenecks State Park is located to the west on a bend in the San Juan River.  UT 261 terminates at US Route 163.





Part 19 of this blog series can be found here:

2016 Fall Mountain Trip Part 19; US Route 163 through Monument Valley

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Dummy Lights of New York

  A relic of the early days of motoring, dummy lights were traffic lights  that  were  placed  in the middle of a street intersection. In those early days, traffic shuffled through busy intersections with the help of a police officer who stood on top of a pedestal. As technology improved and electric traffic signals became commonplace, they were also  originally  positioned on a platform at the center of the intersection. Those traffic signals became known as  " dummy lights "  and were common until  traffic lights were moved  onto wires and poles that crossed above the intersection.  In New York State, only a handful of these dummy lights exist. The dummy lights  are found  in the Hudson Valley towns of Beacon and Croton-on-Hudson, plus there is an ongoing tug of war in Canajoharie in the Mohawk Valley, where their dummy light has been knocked down and replaced a few times. The dummy light in Canajoharie is currently out of commission, but popular demand has caused the dummy

Colorado Road (Fresno County)

Colorado Road is a rural highway located in San Joaquin Valley of western Fresno County.  Colorado Road services the city of San Joaquin in addition the unincorporated communities of Helm and Tranquility.  Colorado Road was constructed between 1910 and 1912 as a frontage road of the Hanford & Summit Lake Railway.  The roadway begins at California State Route 145 near Helm and terminates to the west at James Road in Tranquility.   Part 1; the history of Colorado Road Colorado Road was constructed as frontage road connecting the sidings of the Hanford & Summit Lake Railway.  The Hanford & Summit Lake Railway spanned from South Pacific Railroad West Side Line at Ingle junction southeast to the Coalinga Branch at Armona.  The Hanford & Summit Lake Railway broke ground during August 1910 and was complete by April 1912. The Hanford & Summit Lake Railway established numerous new sidings.  From Ingle the sidings of the line were Tranquility, Graham, San Joaquin, Caldwell, H

Madera County Road 400 and the 1882-1886 Yosemite Stage Road

Madera County Road 400 is an approximately twenty-four-mile roadway following the course of the Fresno River in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.  Road 400 begins at California State Route 145 near Madera and terminates to the north at Road 415 near Coarsegold.  Traditionally Road 400 was known as "River Road" prior to Madera County dropping naming conventions on county highways.  Road 400 was part of the original Yosemite Stage Route by the Washburn Brothers which began in 1882.  The Yosemite Stage Route would be realigned to the west in 1886 along what is now Road 600 to a rail terminus in Raymond.  Parts of Road 400 were realigned in 1974 to make way for the Hensley Lake Reservoir.  Part 1; the history of Madera County Road 400 Road 400 is historically tied to the Wawona Road and Hotel.  The Wawona Hotel is located near the Mariposa Grove in the modern southern extent of Yosemite National Park.   The origins of the Wawona Road are tied to the Wawona Hotel but it does predate th