Bull Valley Gorge, Pt. 1
I really don’t know why thy call it that. It’s a valley. And it’s most definitely a gorge. Never seen a bull in it and judging by what it takes to get down through it, I’m not sure a bull could make it. Nevertheless, I’m sure there is some folklore I’m not aware of from ages past from which it derives its name. What it’s known for today, however, is something far more intriguing and less nuanced. There’s a truck stuck in the gorge. Suspended somewhere in excess of 50’ above the floor of the gorge is an old truck wedged between the rocks.
In 2012, when my family and I first visited the area we were camped at the KOA campground in Tropic, just outside of Bryce Canyon National Park. Being curious to find new destinations we checked with the proprietor of the campground and inquired as to his personal favorite destinations. Maybe something a little more off the beaten path, so to speak. He immediately suggested Willis Creek down the Skutumpah Road out past Kodachrome Basin State Park. We told him that was already on our radar and he followed up with another oddity in the area called Bull Valley Gorge just a couple miles further down Skutumpah from Willis Creek.
He told us back in the 50’s a truck had rolled off into the top of the gorge and gotten stuck. Rather than recover the truck, they simply shoved boulders and logs into the gorge over the truck. They covered all that with dirt and gravel and to this day that’s where Skutumpah Road crosses Bull Valley Gorge. Well, a gorge might just be a gorge, but it’s something that has to be seen if there’s a truck stuck in it. So off we went to find this local legend and see it for ourselves.
We parked in the turnout just ahead of where the road crosses the gorge. We made our way through that cattle gate (maybe there is a bull after all) by the parking area and headed west along the north side of the gorge. Shortly after heading down the trail that meanders along the rim of the gorge you can look over the edge and back toward the road and see the truck hanging awkwardly at the bottom of all the debris that makes up the bridge. It appears that it could plummet to the floor at any moment despite the fact that it has been hanging there for more than half a century. In light of that mental image of plummeting and all we backed slowly away from the precipice and continued along the rim for another quarter of mile to where the gorge shallows out enough to safely descend into it.
Once in the gorge we made our way down canyon climbing over the piles of boulders and log jams that had been left behind by the flash floods that frequent gorges and slot canyons. At one point the trail descended over a rock jam a dozen feet to the floor below. At this point Randi and her dad waited while the boys and I dared the treacherous descent to continue our quest to see this bizarre situation from directly beneath.
After climbing over and crawling under the boulders that frequent the gorge we arrived at our destination. It is quite the sight to see, but the thing that piqued our curiosity was wondering where Bull Valley Gorge leads to when you continue beyond truck. But in light of the less adventurous members of our party that mystery would have to remain a mystery. Reluctantly we made our way back to Randi and her dad and regaled them with grandiose stories of what they had missed by not venturing beyond the obstacle that had stood in their way.
In 2016, Randi and I returned to the area after she had lost a significant amount of weight and she faced down that twelve-foot drop (I mean she met the challenge, not fell face-first down the drop) and saw the truck from the floor of the gorge. We also followed our curiosity and ventured another mile or so into the gorge. As we went the walls continued to rise higher and higher until they were upwards of 100’ and no wider than the span of my arms. The size of the gorge was both intimidating and captivating all at the same time. Unfortunately, we had to give up and turn around before finding what lay beyond the gorge because of time constraints on that trip. But we vowed to return at some point in the future and further explore the wonders of Bull Valley Gorge. This past May we did just that. I’ll tell you about it next week.
Have a great adventure this week,