National Geographic : 1955 Sep
The Escalante Cuts a Twisting Path Across Southern Utah A tributary of the Colorado, the stream passes through a desert; one town, Esca lante, lies along its main course. (-Page 400, upper: Burnett Hendryx (right) does the cooking at the Desert Diner. Others are the author's son, Bob Moore (standing), and Jerry Roundy and McKay Bailey, Escalante cattlemen. Lower: The Desert Diner goes aboard a pack horse at Willow Tanks. © National Geographic Society Kodachromes by W. Robert Moore, National Geographic Staff Half an hour later the rain stopped, the sun peeked through a rift in the clouds, and the stream level started dropping fast. We crossed in a splay of water and mud and rode on to Willow Tanks, 46 miles southeast of Escalante, with a double rainbow arching the sky. Near Willow Tanks lies Dance Hall Rock, an outcrop of red sandstone eroded into an amphitheater. Here, in the winter of 1879, a band of about 250 Mormon pioneers halted briefly on their dramatic desert trek across southeastern Utah to the San Juan Valley.* Here they danced. But at the rim of the Colorado, 15 miles southeast, the pioneers spent wearisome weeks in the snow blasting a slit in the cliff, still known as Hole in the Rock, through which to let down their wagons and horses. Seeing the hole now, one won ders how the trekkers made the precipitous descent to the Colorado, for the rock chute appears more like a goat path than a wagon passage. Willow Tanks, like Dance Hall Rock, is a red splotch in the desert. Here an outcrop 401 forms nearly a full circle of walls around a narrow depression. Cattleman Rex Whittaker of Circleville, who holds range rights here, has fenced the hollow into a corral. A spring, piped into tanks, affords a supply of water. Here, too, is a rude cabin, built against the cliff side. "All the comforts of home," Bob com mented, as he surveyed the rusty kitchen range and a sagging iron cot in the cabin. "If She's A-smoking..." Burnett had arranged for our two wran glers, McKay Bailey and Jerry Roundy of Escalante, to meet us at Willow Tanks with saddle horses and pack animals. We were still unloading the jeep when they arrived. With them came Brownie, an energetic, tail wagging cattle dog, who immediately adopted me as a friend. "What a ride!" Jerry complained, tenderly * See "Desert River Through Navajo Land," by Alfred M. Bailey, and "Utah's Arches of Stone," by Jack Breed, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, Au gust, 1947.