Thursday, March 20, 2008

Cave Springs Trail

The Cave Springs Trail in the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park is a short 0.5 mile loop that features some of the human history of the area, along with the natural history.

The trail leads to some alcoves that were used as cowboy camps from the late 1800s until as recently as 1975, when grazing was discontinued inside the Park.

A collection of cowboy artifacts are on display, although you can't get up close to see them. The cowboys had a tough life, leading the herds over a large rugged area. The trail guide says that the Scorup-Sommerville Cattle Company had up to 10,000 head ranging over 1,800,000 acres.

The Cave Spring was the reliable water source for the cowboys, though it doesn't look like much. The water seeps down through the porous sandstone until it reaches an opening. Maidenhair fern adds a nice touch, growing along the alcove walls.

On the alcove wall above the Springs there are some pictographs indicating the past use of the same site by Ancestral Pueblo people. There are a few ruins sites in other parts of the park such as the Roadside Ruins and Tower Ruins and a small granery near Paul Bunyan's Arch.

After the cowboy alcoves, there are two ladders to climb to get up on the sandstone slickrock, where there are scenic views. Along the trail, the local plants are well marked.

The lower area of the trail has a lot of sagebrush, salt bush, and greasewood, plants that look similar from a distance. The slick rock area has Pinon Pine and Juniper trees. This is a botany trail also, with several of the native plants identified with signs.

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