Recapture Canyon Ruins

Round Trip Distance: 4 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation: 5748- 5871 feet
Cellphone: 0 bars
Time: 3 hrs. 30 mins.
Trailhead: Recapture Canyon
Fee: none
Attractions: cliff dwellings, granaries, rock art

Recapture Canyon, near Blanding, Utah, stretches south from the dam for the Recapture Reservoir for over 8 miles. Ruins can be found throughout its length. This post covers a 2 mile stretch of the canyon and points out over 20 distinct sites. Included are the White House Ruin and its close neighbor that we are calling the Green Snake Ruin for lack of another name. This ruin includes a few pictographs of which one is what looks like a 'green snake'.

To get there drive about 3.5 miles north from Blanding on US-191. Turn sharply to the right after crossing the dam onto the road that drops down into the canyon below the dam. A 4wd vehicle is recommended for the 1.4 mile distance from the highway to the trailhead. There are two spots that are washed out a little where a shovel might come in handy if they become worse.

At the 1.4 mile point there are brown mylar markers that say 'No Vehicles' beyond this point. On our first trip into the canyon there were the 3 markers in this photo and the sign on the right. On our second trip the marker in the middle was missing as well as the sign on the right. You might say that the BLM and a few of the locals don't exactly see eye to eye on the access.

The first half dozen ruins are on the east side of the canyon. Most of them are very high up and might only be accessible from the rim. The very first ruin is actually way back at the start of the canyon not too far from the highway. This photo is of three or four side by side granaries.

The first noticeable ruins on the right side of the canyon are around this prominent sandstone block. One on the lower left side of the block can't be seen until you hike past it a little and then look back.

After crossing the creek the ruins become both closer and a little more substantial. This ruin is on the right side of the canyon.

This one is also on the right side of the canyon and not too far from the one in the photo above.

Another right side ruin that is up closer to the rim but still accessible from below for anyone that wants to spend the time and energy to scramble up the side of the canyon.

This right side ruin is down a lot lower in the canyon and looks in near perfect condition. We probably should have scrambled up to it to see if there was more to it and whether there were any pictographs.

Just past the cute little square ruin the trail veers off to the left. Way back at the base of the dam there is a concrete building that charges a water line that runs down the canyon to this point and then climbs out at the cut on the right. The single-track trail that branches off on the left is overgrown by oak and sagebrush but it's not too hard to pick out the best route.

About 3 tenths of a mile past the pipeline cut there is a stub canon that comes in on the left. Look high up on the west (right) side of the canyon and you should be able to see the very blackened alcove that holds the White House Ruin. The Green Snake Ruin is a hundred feet or so to the right of that. These ruins aren't really visible from below but the side canyon on the left makes it pretty easy to find them. As you climb up the side of the hill you will notice scores of potshards scattered all over the ground. It is interesting to see the large variety of colors and designs. Imagine to yourself that the potshards are part of the spirit of the canyon and place them back where they were found. It is illegal to remove them but the other thing is more fun to think about.

 There is actually a lot to see at the Green Snake Ruin. In front of the rooms that are closest in this photo there is a large boulder with a half dozen or so grinding grooves. Just beyond the boulder there are the remains of a probable storage cyst that was built into the ground and a few little corncobs.

In the middle of the alcove there is this green and red pictograph with a falling man off to the lower right. Fragments of other pictographs are also present but not enough to make anything of.

This little green snake is above the ruin on the right.

A little scrambling is required to get on around to the White House Ruin. You might notice that some of the walls were plastered and whitened at one time. Also notice the key shaped doorway that is similar in design to doorways at Chaco Canyon, Mesa Verde and other places. This portion of the ruin was originally 2 stories high.

There are at least four granaries and some other rooms on a recessed ledge at the back of the alcove and a prodigious amount of soot on the ceiling.

We hiked a little over a quarter mile past the White House Ruin and noticed 2 very minor ruins on the left, or east, side of the canyon before turning around. You will also want to know that if you do this hike while water is spilling over the dam you will have to wade through water at each of the creek crossings. It is manageable but the water can get almost up to your knees in places. For those that are looking for a free place to camp there are maybe a dozen or more primitive sites around Recapture Reservoir. Several of them can accommodate RV trailers. The little black dots for the ruins on our map are approximations to where the ruins are visible from the trail. You might find others as well that aren't marked on the map or in the GPX file. If you would like to see them for yourself all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.