Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Simon Canyon Trail near the San Juan River

Simon Canyon is a side canyon along the San Juan River just below the Navajo Dam in northwest New Mexico. The trail head is at the end of 3 mile County Road 4280, off of New Mexico Highway 173 about 18 miles east of the town of Aztec. 

The Simon Canyon Natural Area is a 3900 acre BLM area adjacent to the Navajo Lake State Park.

The Simon Canyon Trail begins at the same point as the San Juan River Trail, which travels east along the clear cold tail water below Navajo Dam. The early part of the trail is a service road along the east rim to a gas well, with the River Trail splitting off to the right.

Past the gas well the foot trail continues along the ledge above the cottonwood trees and riparian habitat of the creek bottom. The habitat along the trail is Pinon Pines and Utah Junipers with scattered shrubs like sagebrush, Mormon Tea, and Prickly Pear Cactus.

About 0.8 miles along the trail is a small ruins site that is associated with the Gobernador era of the Navajos, from 1700 to 1775. There are several similar sites in the region of Navajo Lake, with this one being the northern most. This one is thought to have been vulnerable to Ute raids, leading to the abandonment of the area.

In the Gobernador era, it looks like Navajos were building village style structures, whereas they now live in more dispersed camps. The later Navajo structures that we see now emphasize the Hogans that used Juniper logs and were packed with soil for insulation.

The doorway for this small structure appears to be on the north side. Most current Navajo structures emphasize an eastern entrance to face the morning sun. There is an interpretive sign at the site that indicates that the roof is still mostly intact, but it would be difficult to climb up and view it. I turned around after viewing the ruin for a hike of about 1:00 hour. It looked like a hiker could continue further up the canyon shelf or along the creek bottom.

528614_Cool Camo Russell Outdoors

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

San Juan River Trail below Navajo Dam

The San Juan River Trail is a 2.5 mile round trip along the north side of the San Juan River below Navajo Dam in northwest New Mexico.

The trail head is at the end of County Road 4280, north off of New Mexico Highway 173, 18 miles east of the town of Aztec. The hike to the Simon Canyon Ruins starts at the same point.

The trail starts along a service road that heads up the east rim of Simon Canyon. The San Juan River Trail branches off to the right, heading up river. On the day I hiked, I saw a sign post at the trail junction, but not a sign.

The tail waters flowing below Navajo Dam are clear and cold and make this area a very good trout fishing area. On a cool but sunny late November day, I saw several fly fishermen standing thigh deep and casting for trout. One of the landmarks along the trail is called ET Rock. Further on is Lunker Alley. This area doesn’t allow motorized boats and I saw a few rubber rafts with paddles maneuvering in Lunker Alley.

The sandstone cliffs along the trail are part of the San Jose formation, deposited 50 million years ago. The San Jose is a relatively recent layer compared to what is mostly visible in the Four Corners area. The youngest rocks in view at the top of Mesa Verde are 70 million years old, and the Entrada Sandstones at Arches National Park are 180 million years old. The canyon sides are covered with Pinon Pines and Utah Junipers with patches of sagebrush. Close to the river banks are cottonwoods and tamarisks. There are a few benches and tables along the trail and several places to fish from the bank.

The trail seems to end sooner than it needs to. My hike took 1:20 hours for the 2.5 mile round trip on a 44 degree sunny day in late November. There is a similar Simon Point Trail along the south side of the San Juan between the fishing access points.

The area above and below Navajo Dam are mostly part of Navajo Lake State Park with many campsites, day use areas and boat launch facilities. Navajo Lake is 15,000 acres and is the second largest lake in New Mexico. Navajo Dam is 3800 feet long, 400 feet high, and was constructed between 1958 and 1962. The longest arm is 25 miles long and the elevation is 6085 feet. There is a short hiking loop at the Pine Campground from the campground to the lake.

The San Juan River Fly Fishing Guide (Below Navajo Dam, New Mexico) 18407_$5 Shipping on Orders of $99 or More!