Bull Canyon

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I've hiked hundreds of canyons in Colorado and Utah. Bull Canyon will always remain in my mind as a unique, special, and surprising place.

Richard Compton, Carbondale


Wilderness Qualities
Bull Canyon lies along the southern flanks of Blue Mountain, an uplifted, faulted plateau at the southeast end of the Uinta Mountain range. Bull Canyon has the same geologic formations found in Dinosaur National Monument -- green and purple Morrison shales, deep vermilion Triassic shale and sandstone.
Above these foundations lie massive pale pink outcrops of Weber Sandstone, the same rock as the Yampa River canyon just a few miles north in the Monument.

Below the National Monument's Plug Hat Rock Picnic Area, Bull Canyon reveals a little known world of intricately carved canyons. Palisades tower above the small creeks that drain the southern slopes of Blue Mountain. The richly vegetated riparian habitats of Bull Canyon and its tributaries are interspersed with small stands of Douglas fir in the deep shade of the canyon walls. Expanses of pinyon-juniper woodland range between valleys. At lower elevations, the wide valley basin is covered with sage, saltbush, greasewood, and grass.

The area offers historical interest as well. A documented campsite of the 1776 expedition of Dominguez and Escalante is located in Bull Canyon. The National Park Service has proposed that the Dominguez/Escalante Trail be designated a National Historic Trail.

Bull Canyon provides important habitat for an abundant wildlife population. Nearly all of Bull Canyon is considered critical winter range for mule deer, and the east portion is summer elk range. Nesting golden eagles and great horned owls are residents of the area, and it has been identified as potential peregrine habitat for the falcons of the National Monument.

Bull Canyon also is home to ancient pinyon pine forests. The University of Arizona has conducted a study of these relict pinyons and applied the results of tree-ring chronology to studies of climatic variability in North America.

Resource Information
No deposits of locatable minerals are known to exist within Bull Gulch. BLM considers that Bull Gulch has low potential for oil and gas reserves. There are no mineral leases within the area and no mining claims. The only well drilled in the general vicinity was on private land to the east and was a dry hole. The state of Colorado owns the minerals for 640 acres of the area.

Portions of five grazing allotments exist within the WSA.

There is no known potential for coal or oil shale or any hard rock minerals. No mineral leases or mining claims exist within the area.

The timber in the area is useful only for fence posts and firewood, the scientific value of the relict pinyon forest of Bull Canyon far outweighs the minuscule economic value of this noncommercial woodland. In any case, portions of two grazing allotments are contained within the proposed wilderness boundaries. Wilderness designation does not conflict with continued grazing.

Bull Canyon is essentially a headwaters area, but the watercourses are intermittent. There are seven stock ponds and one developed spring. The spring is located on the extreme western boundary of the area in the K Creek drainage and serves a nearby residence via a 3/4 mile pipeline.

Boundary Issues

BLM's energy and mineral resource evaluation concluded Bull Canyon has minimal potential for all minerals. The geological formations, which include thin sedimentary rocks, extensive Precambrian rocks, and poor hydrocarbon sourcebeds, have not provided a good structural trap for fossil fuels. This assessment is born out by exploration outside the area, such as a 10,000-foot dry hole east of Bull Canyon drilled in 1983.


bull canyon map
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 Hiking along the canyon floor.   (Mark Pearson)

Eroded sandstone of Bull Canyon.


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