Exploring Butler Wash & Gold Mine Road
- Written by Lindsey Huster
- 4 min read
- Last updated a year ago
We had been hearing about Butler Wash Ruins ever since we arrived in Bluff. This area is known for its short hikes to view petroglyphs and a large number of ancient ruins.
Exploring Butler Wash
Exploring this area was high on our list, but it kept getting put off for various reasons. Butler Wash was located near where we were staying so this would make a good weeknight outing. At this time the biggest deterrent was the heat. There had been excessive heat advisories for days so hiking in the desert wasn’t something I pushed for. Note the temp and “sizzling sunshine” for Thursday, June 22! Yup, we picked the hottest day that week!
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We had picked up this map from the Bluff Fort and decided we were running out of time to explore Butler Wash so we decided to give it a go. We hoped to see about half of the sites (if not more) and planned to see the remaining sites on another night.
Our first stop was Wolfman Panel. The map indicated this was a 1-mile round trip, 1-2 hours, easy effort, and well-marked route. This was a bit harder than we expected with the heat and we planned to do several of these hikes. Returning to the jeep, driving to the next stop, and getting extra water with a snack gave us a needed break between hikes.
The Wolfman Panel is known in the area for its well-preserved petroglyphs. The carvings here are easy to see as they stand out against the dark rock. The panel includes birds, human-like figures, plants, masks, etc. Some of the petroglyphs are not as easy to identify. Part of the fun is trying to figure out what was being drawn and what that symbol would have meant to the people of that time.
Double Stack Ruins was our next stop. The map indicated this was a 2.5-mile round trip, 1-2 hours, easy effort, and route. This hike was much different from the first. There was much more sand and vegetation to navigate through. The ruin site was much larger than we expected since this was a hike as opposed to a visitor site. We were very impressed with the ruins and were shocked that you can walk right among the structures. There is a fence around the site with a sign that indicates you can walk through it while warning you not to touch these fragile ruins.
Driving Gold Mine road
After deciding it was much too hot to be hiking, we chose to explore Gold Mine road. This road leads you past the Bluff airport, which is a small airstrip and a pole barn. Once you pass the airport, the road becomes rockier and if you have a 4-WD vehicle you can continue to the San Juan River. We really didn’t know where to road led when we began driving but were pleasantly surprised to end at the river.
As we were driving toward the river, we continued to notice the rising temperature on our jeep thermometer. Look at Keith smiling at the 140-degree reading! We believe the hot sun was baking the rock and dirt we were driving on and that elevated the temperature reading in the jeep. It was plenty hot, but not quite 140 degrees!
As we arrived at the river we took a look around and dipped our feet into the cool water. There was a soft breeze off the water so we decided to stay for the sunset and eat our dinner. What a beautiful way to end the day!