Gemini Bridges – Moab

0

After my success navigating Long Canyon Road, I was itching to try out some more of Moab’s 4-wheel-drive paths.  A park ranger at Canyonlands had given me a flyer outlining several routes, and one in particular sounded promising: Gemini Bridges Road.

The turnoff from US 191 onto Gemini Bridges Road is well-marked.  Take 191 north from Moab, and go about 5 miles past the entrance to Arches.   Gemini Bridges Road is on the left (drive through the parking area and across the railroad tracks). 

For the first mile or two, Gemini Bridges Road parallels the railroad tracks and US 191.  It stays low at first, then starts to climb on a ledge…

… that provides a nice view back towards Moab, and the La Sal Mountains in the distance.

After about 2.5 miles, the dirt road curves to the right, leaving the shelf and US 191 behind.  Here, you head into a valley, surrounded by red sandstone walls.  You’re still gaining elevation, as you make your way to the top of the same plateau that’s home to Island In The Sky and Dead Horse Point.

The road squeezes by some unique rock features…

… before topping out at a great viewpoint, where you can see the La Sal Mountains stretched out as a backdrop behind a wide, red desert floor.

I had just topped out at this area, when my cell phone rang, jolting me back to reality.  I pulled over to talk to my friend, who couldn’t possibly have imagined the landscape that laid out before me.

On the way up the side of the plateau, the road was rough, but mostly dirt.  Here, it was much more rocky.  Huge slabs of slickrock created some big bumps.  The worst rough spots had been ground down — either by heavy equipment, or the scraping of undercarriages.  It’s this area that makes a high-clearance vehicle a necessity on Gemini Bridges Road.

I worried that I might drive by the trailhead for Gemini Bridges.  The flyer that I received from the park ranger made it sound complicated to find — spelling out exact mileage measurements, as if I would need to stop at an exact distance on my odometer, then search the area.  In reality, there’s a big parking area here, and it’s impossible to miss, thanks to a yellow rope that surrounds the whole thing.

Gemini Bridges

It’s just a short (less than 5 minutes) walk down a well-marked path from the trailhead to Gemini Bridges.  The bridges themselves are somewhat hard to photograph, especially at the time of day (late afternoon) when I was visiting.  The picture above shows both bridges — yes, there are two of them, side by side… 

… split by a narrow crack, that’s just a few feet wide.

Gemini Bridges are part of the wall of a small canyon (the open area underneath the bridges is about halfway up the canyon wall).  Standing on the bridge, or on any of the surrounding ledges, you get a great view of the valley below.

It appears that motorized vehicles aren’t allowed in this side canyon.  I noticed quite a few ATV riders parking, then walking up the canyon, to get a view of Gemini Bridges from below.  That’s a nice consideration that keeps the area quiet.

I wandered around and found plenty of isolated places to sit and admire the landscape — not only the bridges and the valley…

… but also the mountains in the distance.  The middle layer of this picture is a patch of sandstone fins (similar to what you find in Arches) which are quite isolated, on the top of a mesa that’s sandwiched in between the Colorado River and the Moab Valley.  From here, it looks like the fins are at the foot of the La Sal Mountains, but the valley and US 191 are in between them.  It’s hard to imagine how many more arches and other formations exist there, unseen by almost all of Moab’s visitors.

As I sat and pondered it all, with my feet dangling over the canyon (which must be at least 200 feet deep), a group of noisy visitors trampled down the path, and fanned out across the area.  I was a little annoyed that they were spoiling the silence of the area, until I started eavesdropping on their conversation.  Apparently, some of them knew a man named Beau James Daley…

… who died here, and is memorialized on a plaque on a rock near the bridges.  One of the visitors explained to the rest of his group that Daley and his fellow jeep’ers would drive their jeeps all around this area, including directly over the bridges themselves.  But something went wrong on October 9, 1999, and Daley either accidentally backed up or rolled forward at the south end of the bridge, and plunged directly over the edge of the cliff.

Once I determined that I had learned as much as I could from my eavesdropping, I left the noisy crowd behind and headed back to the car.

Gemini Bridges Road continues atop the plateau, until it eventually intersects with Utah Route 313, the road into Island in the Sky and Dead Horse Point.

Truth is, I think you could drive this part of the road in a regular, two-wheel drive.  There may be a few precarious bumps to navigate near the parking area for Gemini Bridges, but beyond that, the road is smooth and well-maintained.  I drove along quickly, and ended up back at the pavement without any effort.  If you only have a 2wd, low-clearance car, you should probably ask a park ranger before trying this part of the road, despite my recommendation.

Back at the main road, I turned away from Canyonlands, and headed back towards US 191.  As the road drops down to the highway, you’ll get a good view of the Monitor and Merrimac formations in the distance.

My off-road pamphlet included a map of another 4-wheel-drive road that, I hoped, would take me out to the Monitor and Merrimac buttes.  It turned out, Mill Canyon Road was much rougher than Gemini Bridges Road.  After a couple of miles, I began to get the feeling that it’s a road that’s only appropriate for Jeeps, not your run-of-the-mill SUV.  After squeezing through a narrow passage, and barely missing some threatening rocks, I found a place to turn around, and carefully backtracked.  If you’re equipped with a Jeep or ATV, however, you can take this road to get a close look at Determination Towers, an impressive sandstone formation with several towering columns.

With my Mill Canyon experience overshadowing an otherwise successful day of 4-wheeling, I decided to go somewhere simple and reliable for the sunset, which was quickly approaching.  For a second night, I headed into Arches National Park.

No comments

You might also enjoy this...

Council Grove, Kansas

You could make a good argument that the town with the richest history in Kansas is Council Grove.  In the Santa Fe Trail days, Council ...