Press "Enter" to skip to content

Moonshine Wash

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Today I headed back into Utah so I could visit Moonshine Wash in the San Rafael Desert which has been on my list of places to visit for way too long, especially since it’s not too far away from home! Moonshine Wash received it’s name from the moonshiners who were active here during prohibition. While I didn’t have a chance to visit the cement tanks near Moonshine Spring that were used to make the moonshine, I was finally able to visit and photograph the narrow slot that makes up part of this canyon.

It just so happened that there was also a Lunar Eclipse early this morning so I made sure and left home early enough so that I could stop in Rabbit Valley to photograph the Blood Moon.

A simple photo of the Blood Moon that I took from Rabbit Valley near the state line.

Blood Moon

The partially eclipsed moon sets over the desert at the base of the Book Cliffs in Utah near Thompson Springs.

Lunar Eclipse Moonset

After stopping to fuel up in Green River, I took the Green River Road south into the San Rafael Desert to begin my adventure. It had been pretty cold overnight (compared to the recent warmer temperatures we’ve been having) and when I passed by the Horse Bench Reservoir I noticed that it was covered with a thin sheet of ice.

Icy Reservoir

I took a short side trip to Fossil Point.

Fossil Point

Layers of the desert to the Book Cliffs from the edge of Horse Bench.

Desert Layers

After reaching the trailhead, I hiked down a shallow wash to where it dropped down into Moonshine Wash, which I followed to the slot.

Moonshine Wash

I followed the shallow slot which got progressively deeper…

Reflected Light

Shallow Narrows

…until I reached this bigger drop that led into the deeper part of the slot canyon. I could have easily climbed down this drop, but I didn’t think I would be able to get back up it by myself if I needed to, and since I wasn’t quite sure what was ahead, I decided to be cautious and not go any further this way.

The First Drop

I knew there was a steep exit down below the narrows somewhere, but I wasn’t sure what it was like and didn’t want to take the chance that I would be able to get up it. I’m not the best climber around, so I’m usually pretty cautious when I’m hiking alone. I decided to retrace my steps so I could find the escape route after the narrows and try coming back up the slot.

The Beginning

As I hiked across the sandy bench above the canyon I came across this old 1911 survey marker.

1911 Survey Marker

I took a short detour to visit the Moonshiner Bridge that crosses the narrow slot canyon. I have read that this bridge was used by the old bootleggers so that they could drive their cars from the San Rafael and walk across the bridge to reach their operations at Moonshine Spring. I certainly wouldn’t trust this bridge today!

Moonshiner Bridge

There was a lot of sand to hike through on my way across the top of the mesa.

Sandy Hike

After finding the exit route out of the canyon, I followed it down to the wash at the bottom and hiked back up to the narrows. The light inside the exit (entrance for me) of the slot was very nice when I arrived.

Moonshine Exit

It was a fun little slot canyon to climb up with nice light around every bend. There were a few places I had to climb that would have been easier coming down, but I managed to get through it OK.

Light Chamber

Dark Passage

A view of the Moonshiner Bridge from below.

Moonshiner Bridge Above

Moonshine Passage

Since I wasn’t able to climb back out of the canyon this way, I had to turn around return the way I had come in. Before exiting the canyon I decided to see if I could get up the West Fork to the old cement tanks near Moonshine Spring.

Shortly after entering the West Fork, I was stopped by this climb and turned around again to exit the canyon the way I had originally come down.

West Fork Climb

After returning to my Jeep at the trailhead, I decided to take a quick side trip over to the Trin-Alcove Bend of the Green River since it was nearby and I hadn’t been there in years.

As I hiked to the edge of the Trin-Alcove Bend from the end of the road, I passed this large hand made out of dark-colored rocks on the lighter sandstone.

Big Hand

A view over the Trin-Alcove Bend from the point of the confluence with Three Canyon.

Trin-Alcove Bend

As I drove back towards Green River I noticed that the ice on the Horse Bench Reservoir had melted off and now there was a muddy reflection.

Muddy Reflection

Before returning to Green River I took one more detour so I could try and find a few petroglyphs at Butterfly Bend along the Green River.

Following this wash through the badlands on my way to Butterfly Bend.

Badlands Wash

Colorful Butte

I found a few boulders with petroglyphs on them, but I’m sure that I missed some since I was getting short on time. This was one of the better panels I found.

Boulder Petroglyphs

This boulder was separate from the rest and closer to the Green River. I was actually standing on top of the boulder looking down to take this photo.

Butterfly Bend Boulder

Before leaving the area, I spotted what I thought looked like a small panel of Barrier Canyon Style pictographs on the ledge below me, so I found a way to reach them. Unfortunately, it looks like I was deceived since I’m pretty sure these are fakes based on the ‘DINASAR’ written above them in the same pigment.


One last photo of the Green River at Butterfly Bend before I hiked back to my Jeep.

Butterfly Bend

After reaching the trailhead it was a short drive back to Green River where I stopped for the obligatory burger at Ray’s Tavern before the drive home.

>> Moonshine Wash Photo Gallery


    • Randy Langstraat
      Randy Langstraat April 6, 2015

      Thank you Richard!

  1. Cathy
    Cathy April 6, 2015

    Interesting that my son and grandchildren just made this same hike a week ago, we walked in as far as we could and knew that we could get over the chockstones, but might not be able to get out, so we turned around also,I did not realize there was an escape route where you could walk in from the bottom, how would I find this would love to go back and see the bridge you got some beautiful photos. Thank you.

  2. AlanJPeterson
    AlanJPeterson April 19, 2015

    Randy, did you find a single black glove on the ground near the “fakes” near the Green River at Butterfly Bend? I lost it a couple weeks ago. I backtracked looking for it, but failed to locate.
    Alan J. Peterson

    • Randy Langstraat
      Randy Langstraat April 19, 2015

      Didn’t see one.

  3. Rj
    Rj May 25, 2015

    I wonder about that “DINASAR” in red ink. Any dinosaur tracks nearby? Does the lettering look added to in a different pigment?

    In northern AZ there are a few sites from the turn of the century where a few remaining Indian holdouts started to integrate elements observed from white men, even drawn in crayon(!) they had traded for. Likewise there are some original panels that were added to by early settlers who were basically illiterate, so they’d scratch in the only word or few they knew, sometimes with letters backwards. Who knows?

    Perhaps worth asking a parklands archaeologist if there is any legitimacy to it? Could be a fake too, of course. Here in the PNW I’ve found more than a few sites with elaborate fake kokopelli drawings added in (not a figure with any local relation), infuriating all the more so since clearly the vandal had a knowledge of rock art, but somehow forgot the etiquette.

    Anyway, loving this site! Keep adventuring!

    • Randy Langstraat
      Randy Langstraat May 27, 2015

      Not aware of any nearby dinosaur tracks. The lettering looked like the same pigment used in the figures below, leaving me to believe they are more recent and not authentic.

Leave a Reply