Monday, December 15, 2008

Desert Destination: Ibex Practice Rocks

About an hour west of Delta, Utah, steep cliffs descend to a dry lakebed called the Tule Hardpan. Over the last couple decades, these cliffs have been "discovered" by rock climbers as an excellent place to climb without crowds. About two miles to the northwest is a smaller rock outcropping, known (at least by me) as the Practice Rocks.

These Practice Rocks are sedimentary rocks called Eureka and Watson Ranch Quartzites. Fossils are rare, but occasionally found. The name Watson Ranch refers to Jack Watson, who moved to the southern end of the big Ibex crags in 1911. He developed a ranch and operated a small store for sheep herders and anyone else wandering around the West Desert for about 20 years. Nowadays, no one lives out here. In fact no one lives for at least 40 miles in any direction.

Because the practice rocks are so much smaller than the main crags, they don't get much attention. But there is a campfire ring, and after scrambling around on the rocks for twenty minutes, I decided I'd like to make use of it sometime. There is plenty to see and do to make camping a good option.

Many of the rocks are parallel to each other, allowing hallways, and in some cases, tunnels, to get between them. There are easy and difficult ways to move about the rocks, and it would be an awesome place to play hide and seek. (I can't help it, scrambling on rocks brings out the kid in me. In fact, I kept thinking how fun it would be to bring a bunch of kids out here and play--but I would give each one a whistle because the area is big enough it might be hard to hear a shout.)

The views are spectacular, with distant mountain ranges appearing in all directions. Notch Peak is to the north, which is a fun climb I'll cover someday in a separate post.

One of the surprises at the Practice Rocks is the corral, which was built using the rocks themselves on one side to help keep the sheep in place. The corral is in pretty good shape, so I expect it may still be used once in awhile.

The Practice Rocks are only about two miles south of Highway 50, and they're worth the detour to scramble around and take in the outstanding views. It's always fun to stop and find something is more than it seemed while passing it at 65 mph on the highway!


Annette said...

I always thought that place looked pretty cool driving by, but never have stopped there. Looks like I better actually do it sometime. :-)

The Incredible Woody said...

What a great place!!

eped said...

good photos. I think this place will have to go on my list.

Dessert Survivor said...

That looks like a fun place to explore.

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