A short trip to Emery County offers glimpse of our history and stunning landscapes
Reds Canyon is an easy and beautiful drive on a graded dirt Emery County road #1019, which is suitable for automobiles and two-wheel drive light trucks.
The exception would be rainstorms that may make the roads in the area impassible. This road ventures into the Hondu Country of the San Rafael Swell, with extensive remnants of uranium mining operation from the 1950’s and spectacular red rock viewpoints.
It is not unusual to see wild horses near the north end of the canyon. Unique Hondu Arch is a dominant feature at the end of the road. The Hondu country receives its name from the resemblance of Hondu Arch to the small loop knot at the end of a cowboy’s lariat (the Spanish spelling is Hondoo, the USGS topographical maps spell it Hondu). The area was first discovered by Ole Sorensen of the town of Emery, who started running cattle in the area in 1877.
The directions to this fascinating and somewhat remote area begins at I-70 Exit 131 on the south side of the highway called Temple Mountain Road. In about 9.7 miles it meets an intersection and a right or southwest turn will take you across Taylor Flats. In another 1.5 miles you will find a “T” intersection a right or westbound turn for about 0.9 miles will take you to the Reds Canyon road. The butte to your right or northwest the Family Butte and you can see the family members on top of it
The first part of the road winds through the canyon bottom and it is not unusual to see wild horses in this area. In about 8.1 miles, a spur road goes north a short distance to the old Lucky Strike Uranium Mine. There are numerous spur roads and old mines down the road toward Tomsich Butte, which was a major uranium mining district in its day. The butte is named after John Tomsich, who was the first to discover uranium in the area in 1950’s A right or westbound turn at Tomsich Butte will take you to an excellent view of Hondu Arch and the Muddy River.
You can make this drive a loop. From Tomsich Butte, drive eastward on Emery County 1021 and you will reach the McKay Flats Road in about 4.9 miles. Upon reaching the Mckay Flats Road, Emery County Road 1012, you have a choice of turning right to the Famous Hidden Splendor Mine or left to cross McKay Flats and return to the Temple Mountain Road. Because of erosion, the Hidden Splendor Mine requires a moderate hike. McKay Flats is another good place to see wild horses. It is about 8.5 miles back to the Reds Canyon / Temple Mountain Road, where you started this adventure.
Keep in mind this is a remote area without services and travel prepared by starting with a full tank of fuel. Bring plenty of water, lunch, and snacks. Take plenty of pictures. Most of the old mine entrances have been blocked off for safety. The area around the mines and mine structures have been decaying for half a century and may be unstable and hazardous. If you see wild horses, view them from a distance with binoculars or a telephoto lens. It is inconsiderate and illegal to harass the wild horses.
Ed Helmick has written a guide to 42 destinations in the San Rafael Swell titled San Rafael Swell Off Road that is available at Clegg Automotive and Dickerson Automotive in Spanish Fork. The book is also available from the author by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org . (Helmick is a Serve Daily contributor.)