If all goes as planned, mountain bikers, hikers, and paddlers will once again be able to access the Green River and tie into the White Rim Trail in Canyonlands National Park via the Mineral Bottom Road switchbacks late this month.
Part of the switchbacks were washed out last August by a powerful thunderstorm. As a result, while portions of the White Rim Trail loop have remained accessible, since the storm it has been impossible to make the complete loop if you either wanted to enter or exit via the Mineral Bottom Road.
But thanks to emergency funding through the U.S. Transportation Department's Central Federal Lands Highway Division, and efforts by officials from Grand County, Utah, the National Park Service, and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, the switchbacks should be ready for traffic on March 29.
Last October nearly $2 million was made available through the U.S. Transportation Department to rebuild the switchbacks. However, Grand County officials say the project is expected to be completed for about half that amount, or roughly $990,000. And they point out that the scheduled March 29 opening date is well ahead of the initial projected completion date of late summer or early fall.
The need for rapid completion of the repair work was highlighted by an economic study conducted by the BLM, county officials said. That analysis estimated that loss of access to the road for use by outfitters, residents, and visitors would have resulted in a negative fiscal impact of nearly $5 million per year to Grand County’s economy, the county said in a press release.
Meanwhile, Canyonlands officials announced this week that free permits will be required for folks wanting to venture down the White Rim Trail in the park between now and June 1. The permitting system is seen as necessary for safety and to minimize resource damage while repairs to the road are ongoing, park officials said.
The free permits are required for day use from March 1 through May 31, 2011, and may be obtained in advance. Group size for day use is limited to 15 people, and no more than 3 motorized vehicles (including motorcycles).
Permits are available at the following locations:
• Arches National Park Visitor Center
• Canyonlands National Park Island-in-the-Sky Visitor Center
• National Park Service Southeast Utah Group office at 2282 S. West Resource Blvd, Moab
• Moab Information Center, Center and Main, Moab
• Permits are also available for customers at Jeep rental businesses throughout Moab
To help make travel along the White Rim Road a safe and rewarding experience for everyone, visitors are asked to follow these guidelines:
• Use caution: the road is two-way and often one lane.
• Look ahead for on-coming vehicles: passing takes planning.
• Use established pullouts or slickrock to pass as needed: don’t pull off the road!
• Carry out all trash, even if it’s not yours.
• Share the road and treat everyone with the same respect and courtesy you expect.
Additional information on this new White Rim Road Day Use Permit may be obtained on the park’s official website (www.nps.gov/cany) or by calling the park’s Reservation Office at 435-259-4351.