San Rafael Reef Exploration


Still right here.
Jan 17, 2012
On the last day of my four-day weekend I met up with Nolan and Donna, Facebook friends who I'd never met before Monday, for a hike in the San Rafael Reef. We met in the parking lot of their motel in Green River and they hopped in the Jeep with me. We set out for the Farnsworth Canyon area to hike an old mining track up the inside of the Reef. I had previously hiked part of the mining track in 2010 for a short distance in order to gain access to a steep gully leading to the top of the San Rafael Reef, but this time we stayed on the track and followed it until it topped out on one of the lower plateaus of the Reef. Along the track we saw a lot of interesting textures in the rocks, including one wonderful boulder that held many septarian concretions.

Old mining track up the back of the San Rafael Reef

Massive Wingate Sandstone walls

A large boulder full of septarian concretions

Septarian concretion

Septarian concretion

Chinle and Moenkopi formation layers


Panorama including Temple Mountain in the distance

Twisted pinyon pine root

Where the old dozer road reached the top of the plateau we found rows of drill cores laid out, almost certainly done while prospecting for uranium. We also saw a lot of prominent cairns in the area, most of which hid rusty old cans containing mining claims. We checked out a few and found the papers inside very brittle. We were unable to unfold them without destroying them, so we couldn't determine how old the claims were. There were a lot of boulders that would have made decent Indian shelters. I checked several of them out and found one with a pile of old wood stacked up and a few pieces of chert on the ground.

Drill pipe

Drill cores

Brittle old mining claim that I found in a rusty can buried in a cairn

Chert flakes found under a boulder shelter

Old wood piled up under a boulder shelter. I'm unsure if this is prehistoric or done by miners.

Shelter under a boulder

Another mining claim can--possibly orange juice?

Old mining claim documents

We descended a small canyon and started seeing a lot of petrified wood, at first small chunks then huge tree trunks that were tens of feet long. I scrambled around some cliffs hoping to find some new rock art but got skunked on that front. The various mining relics alone were worth the trip, however. We didn't even follow the mining track to its end but I suspect I'll be back to do that another day. Having had our fill of exploring and with evening approaching, we descended the mining track back to the Jeep and reached Green River just as it got dark. It was a fun experience hiking with Nolan and Donna. They saw and photographed a lot of things along the way that I would normally take for granted and just walk on by. It's great spending time with others who have a different perspective on things.

Huge petrified tree with my foot for scale

Donna and Nolan looking at petrified wood

Nolan on a boulder looking for a better view

View down from halfway up the cliffs

Small natural arch

Hiking up the mining track with petrified wood littering the ground

Velvet Pipe & Cigarette Tobacco can

Sun and clouds over Temple Mountain

Purplish and orange layers on the mining track

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That's some interesting artifacts to find. Very cool!
Those left over core thingys are crazy. I love old mining relics! puts perspective on things. Where they easy to spot along the trail?
Those left over core thingys are crazy. I love old mining relics! puts perspective on things. Where they easy to spot along the trail?

Yeah, the drill cores were right alongside the old mining track--very easy to spot. There are many miles of dozer tracks like that in this area (especially south of Farnsworth Canyon), so I'm sure there are at least several more drilling sites as well.
thanks for the info. I'll look for them this spring when its swell time!!