BEFORE & AFTER: Wolfe Ranch & the Delicate Arch Trailhead. 1976 & 2016
Until the 1990s, access to the Delicate Arch Trailhead, the Overlook and Wolfe Ranch was via an unpaved gravel road.Superintendent Pete Parry resisted efforts to improve the road, hoping to leave at least one part of Arches in a primitive state. The crossings at Salt Valley Wash and Winter Camp Wash were unbridged and the narrow, low bridge at Salt Wash kept larger vehicles, including motorhomes, from reaching the overlook.
When the park received heavy rains, the crossing at Salt Valley Wash almost always flooded, though it sometimes took the water a while to get there. Flash floods in Upper Salt Valley could take an hour to reach the Delicate Arch road and when rangers warned tourists to leave the area quickly, due to imminent flooding, the responses were often skeptical. Those that dallied often spent the night on the wrong side of the wash, until the flood waters subsided.
And yet, despite the inconvenience, few if any of the Stranded ever complained. For most, it became the highlight of their trip, or at least their most memorable.
In the 1990s, management changed and millions of dollars in improvements were made to the road, though the crossings still wash out from time to time…JS