People show deep interest in Bluejohn Canyon |

People show deep interest in Bluejohn Canyon

Scott Condon/Aspen Times

Aron Ralston’s incredible experience is transforming Bluejohn Canyon from a “hidden gem” to a highly-sought curiosity among canyoneers.

Bluejohn was already on the map for its scenic, narrow sections among people who use climbing skills and technical gear to negotiate rugged canyons. A Web site called Climb Utah cites Bluejohn Canyon for having “premium narrows and enjoyable desert hiking.”

But since news of Ralston’s story of survival has circled the globe, the National Park Service in Moab has experienced a surge in inquiries about that particular canyon, according to Paul Henderson, a spokesman for Canyonlands National Park.

Many people who aren’t familiar with the desert southwest fail to grasp the enormity of the area and its remoteness, he said. Once they learn that the trailhead for Bluejohn

Canyon is more than 25 miles off the nearest paved road, their curiosity erodes, he said. And when they hear what it takes to negotiate the route many surrender any thought of visiting it.

But Ralston’s story has piqued the interest of serious canyoneers with the skills to tackle such terrain. Henderson said it’s impossible to tell how many people follow up on inquiries with trips into there.

Bluejohn Canyon is outside of Canyonlands National Park, although it is sandwiched between Horseshoe Canyon to the north and the Maze to the south. Both of those areas are part of Canyonlands.

Bluejohn is on land administered by the Bureau of Land Management, which doesn’t track visitation to the area.

After Ralston’s ordeal, park service workers in Moab started debating how often the canyon got visited.

“Everybody was confident in saying fewer than 100 people visit” the upper part of the canyon during the year, Henderson said.

The lower part of the canyon sees more visitors because climbing skills aren’t necessary. In addition, it ties into Horseshoe Canyon, an easily-hikable route that holds some of the best rock art in Utah.

The weather records at the Hans Flat Ranger Station in the Maze, about 20 miles from where Ralston was trapped, show that the high temperatures ranged from 59 to 67 degrees during his captivity. The coldest night was 40 degrees.

Ralston was in shorts and a T-shirt for the hike.

Fortunately there was no rain while he was trapped. A big spring shower could have doomed Ralston because all the water from the upper network of Bluejohn Canyon and its branches funnel down through the slot where he was trapped.

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