Monday, March 5, 2018

Fortress Butte Area Loop - 3/5/18

Hot Springs Canyon


Narrows Entrance

Saddle Trail
 Seven adventurers showed up for an exploratory hike leaving from the White Rock Canyon Trailhead off of Highway 93 just over the Arizona border in the Lake Mead NRA. It is always exciting to check out something new! But, the first part of today's hike was familiar to us as we dropped down from the trailhead and headed under the highway bridge. We could see the square topped Fortress Butte in the distance toward the direction of Black Rock Canyon. Rumor has it that this formidable butte can be climbed but that was not our objective for today.

Fortress Butte from Saddle
 We turned to the left as soon as we came out from under the bridge. There is a use trail that leads up to junction with the saddle trail here. It is somewhat easier than going down to the regular junction in the wash.

Descent into Canyon
 As we circled around to the saddle trail, we saw several rusted cans in the wash below. These are from the time of the dam building and mining in the area.

First Petroglyphs

Last Warning Petroglyph
 The cans are older than 50 years so they are now considered "artifacts" and cannot be collected. The trail led us up to a saddle with a great view of Fortress Butte. Over the saddle, we began our descent down through a steep and beautiful canyon. At the bottom, we dropped into the wide wash of Hot Springs Canyon. We turned to the left and began a hike up through the canyon using side trails whenever they were available. At a huge wash fork, we veered to the left and found the trail up on the right side of the wash. This passes by the first of many petroglyphs in this area.

Petroglyphs and Grinding Stone
 The petroglyphs are all found on the left side of the wash in a gathering of large boulders.

Resting just above Petroglyphs
 We went just beyond the petroglyphs and sat down for a break. As we ate a bite, we looked around for more petroglyphs but didn't find any.

Guest Speaker Spinning Tales

Chuck checks out Fortress Butte from Wash
 A local hiker came by and told some tales about the petroglyphs, etc. Then we hiked back down to the large wash fork and turned to the left into the other wash at the base of Fortress Butte. Now the hike up the gravel wash began. The trudge wasn't terrible. There were plenty of areas in the wash where the gravel was more solidly settled. We stuck to those areas as much as we could. Finally, we turned around the corner to the left and saw the entrance to the narrows; a very narrow passage between the rock walls that has been worn smooth by water flows.

Quail, Cleopatra-Like Conglomerate, Black Powder Can
 Inside the narrows were a couple of very large granite boulders which were likely sent down from the Wilson Range Wilderness in the distance over the past billion or so years.

Enjoying the Narrows
 We came out the top end of the passage and were, once again, in a large gravel wash. Trudge. Trudge. Trudge.

Large Granite Rock inside Narrows

Exiting Narrows
 At the first wide wash that forks off to the left, we turned onto what appears to be a road within the wash. There were many many rusted cans here and there. These cans once held black powder and were distributed by a company named Hercules. There was a lot of blasting going on back then! We could see Mount Wilson ahead of us in the V of the wash. Eventually, we reached a culvert that went under the old highway 93 ruins. Not too far after that, we went under the culvert of the new Highway 93. Just to our left and above, the game bridge crossing could be seen.

Junction with Rusted Can Wash/Road
 At the other side of the highway, we stopped for a water break and checked out our new surroundings in the desert. Ahead of us, we saw the utility road traversing from right to left.

Rusted Debris
We knew there was a road on the ridge to our left so our next move was to climb up to it.

Highway 93 Culvert (Game Bridge top Left)

High Point
 On the ridge, we felt the full force of predicted wind gusts. A right turn on the road put us on a path to the high point of the hike where we intersected with that utility road and turned left. Now, easy peasy (and less windy), we followed the utility road all the way back to the trailhead. (We did, however, take a shortcut route near the end.) In retrospect, this hike would likely be more palatable in a clockwise direction. It would take out a lot of the "trudging." Still, it is a good route that takes in a lot of the great views in the area. Fun! And, interesting!

7 miles; 1400 feet elevation gain; 3.75 hours

Down the Utility Road

Wilson Peak and Range from Utility Road

Returning to Trailhead

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