When visiting Arches National Park, we camped at Wingate Campground, a new campground at Dead Horse Point State Park. The park got its name from the Dead Horse Point, a narrow bottleneck on the sheer cliff that was used as a natural corral by cowboys to catch wild mustangs in the late 1800s. Legend said that for unknown reasons, a band of wild mustangs was left corralled at the Point. And the horses died of thirst.
A relatively isolated park over 30 miles away from Moab, it is located on a high desert with an elevation of about 6,000 feet. Majestic La Sal Mountains, the second highest mountain in Utah, sits on the eastern horizon. Behind the red tall Wingate Cliffs is Moab Valley. It has extreme weather here with recorded wind speed at 80 miles per hour, and temperature varies from -14°F to 109°F.
It was cold and windy at the Dead Horse Point when we visited it for the first time. The panoramic view of a maze of canyons and Colorado River unfurled at the Point is breathtaking. 2,000 feet below the cliff lies the meander mighty Colorado River among the stairstep canyon. The course of the river has a gooseneck shape in the canyon. This is a small version of Grand Canyon! It is Colorado River that carved this canyon and Grand Canyon. The color of the river was muddy from the sand it took away from the rocks. The uplift of the Colorado Plateau about 10 million years ago forced the water to flow faster and triggered the downward carving of the river channel, and eventually created this amazing entrenched meander that the river cannot change its course. The layers of rocks on the canyon are formed in different times and varies in color. But most rocks have reddish color containing oxidized iron minerals. Rocks were weathered at different rates, thus created the stairstep like canyons.
Back to the campground, the setting sun gave the desert land a golden glow. Massive clouds suspended above the distant La Sal Mountains. From the white streams coming down from the clouds, it seemed that it was snowing above the mountains. The colors of the clouds and peaks changed from light yellow to light pink. What a dramatic scene!
We went back to the Dead Horse Point again after visiting Arches National Park. It was a nice and warm afternoon. We walked along the rim and had a close look at the Neck where the wild Mustangs were corralled at Dead Horse Point by the cowboys. Looking to the east of the canyon, some blue colored solar evaporation ponds laid on the desert floor. A company mines the salt deposit from an ancient sea. And a local refinery makes the potash into plant fertilizer. A geologist gave a field guide to a group at the Point. 300 million years of geological history laid in front of us. I didn’t catch much of what he said because of the terms. But it was nice to sit there and enjoy the grand vista.