A look back: More than five decades of Jeep Safari
by Compiled by Greg Knight
The Times-Independent
Apr 05, 2018 | 1093 views | 0 0 comments | 66 66 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Safari History
1968 — The Moab Rim may be the scene of future tourist-oriented facilities. Ideas for a sky lift rising from the valley have been entertained. Other possibilities include the construction of a restaurant that could be served by the sky lift. Jeep shuttle runs into the rugged Behind the Rocks could also be made available.    T-I file photos
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With the 2018 Easter Jeep Safari now in the rear-view mirror — and no major incidents reported by City of Moab or Grand County law enforcement officials during the weeklong affair this year — The Times-Independent takes a look back at five reports we filed over the past five decades. Starting with 1968, we reprint here photos and excerpts from some of the stories that have graced our pages.

1968 Jeep Safari

Plans for the big annual Moab Easter Jeep Safari are nearing completion, it was reported by Moab Chamber of Commerce committee chair Izzy Nelson. A full day of activities on Saturday, April 13 is planned, beginning with a big breakfast at Lions River Park. A number of large Jeep clubs have announced their intention to come, and it appears that well over 300 units will be taking part, according to Nelson.

Three routes are being mapped in this year’s safari, all located southwest of Moab. Although it was announced earlier that part of the caravan would move over the Sand Flats Road for a trip across Fisher Point and down Fisher Valley and Onion Creek, reports of snow and mud have required an alternate route to be chosen.

Probably the most popular route will be the one into the Land Behind the Rocks, with a special feature being Pritchett Arch. Part of the route chosen for this year’s tour in Behind the Rocks is different from last year’s. The route will run from Blue Hill north into Pritchett Canyon and connect with Cane Creek Road. Another loop trip will begin along the south bank of the Colorado River on the Cane Springs Road and will continue throughout the length of Cane Springs Canyon. This route is rugged in places and entirely enclosed by precipitous walls until its emergence near Hole N’ the Rock.

Harold Jacobs and several members of the Grand County Jeep Posse spent a day in hard labor working on trails. With picks, bars, sledge hammers and dynamite the posse members smoothed a few of the worst barriers. In some places they filled in and in others they widened. One large step-like ledge was blasted to make for more comfortable driving.

1978 Jeep Safari

The Moab area had more visitors over the Easter weekend of 1978 than it has had at any other time in history. Educated estimates put attendance at the annual Jeep Safari at about 2,000 people, and the Sand Drag races brought in about 5,000. The local population doubled for a two-day period.

In general, reaction to the temporary crowds was positive. Law enforcement officials reported they were pleased with the demeanor of the visitors, and there were few problem incidents. Event chair Dee Tranter reported that 473 rigs registered for the event, though there were many other backcountry visitors who did not participate in the safari.

The trail Behind the Rocks had 122 rigs register and had to split into two groups, one with 95 rigs and one with 27. The number of rigs on the other trails was as follows: Gemini Bridges, nine; Hurrah Pass, 30; Moab Rim, 49; Porcupine Rim, 57; Poison Spider Mesa, 52; Kane Springs Canyon, five; Top of the World, 38; Dry Mesa, 23; Musselman Arch, 12; and Klondike Bluffs, 11.

There was a large gathering for Easter morning sunrise service in Arches National Park. While there were many more spectators than predicted at the Sand Drag Races, and some problems arose because of the large crowd, Jim Mabey, coordinator of the races, told The Times-Independent he was pleased with how the event went off. Estimates were that about 3,000 were in attendance Saturday, and about 2,000 Sunday.

Mabey said there were about 1,500 paying customers each day. Since gate receipts were higher than expected, purses of the winning racers were also larger. Mabey noted that if each person who paid to see the races spent $25 in town during their stay, revenues to local businesses for the weekend would total $750,000. He said the local Girl Scouts sold more than $1,500 in concessions at the races and netted $1,000. They were also paid $100 to pick up garbage.

1988 Jeep Safari

Moab’s Easter weekend Jeep Safari, now in its 22nd year, has long outgrown its “Saturday” image and is now a week-long event.

Caravans of four-wheelers have been leaving town each morning since last Sunday, and because of continuing nationwide publicity, the number who actually register for Saturday’s big day may total a thousand vehicles.

The Red Rock 4-Wheelers, the sponsors of the event the past few years, have planned for the event, and Four Wheeler Magazine has now listed them as one of the top-ten off-road events in the nation for 1987. Eighteen trails will beckon the fun-seekers this week, with a couple originating out of Green River to spread the fun.

Those registering during the week at The Barn in Western Plaza were given complete information about the trails, most of which is contained in the Jeep Safari tabloid, which has been in circulation the past several weeks. And, as usual, the annual Boy Scout barbecue will be held at Lions Park at the Colorado River.

Although chilly weather has prevailed much of the early part of Safari week, predictions are for improving conditions later in the week with good weather expected for Easter weekend.

1998 Jeep Safari

Moab’s Easter Jeep Safari continued its history of growth, in spite of weather that was less than inspiring and some forecasts that were even worse.

Event organizers with the local four-wheel-drive club, Red Rock 4-Wheelers, Inc., said registration requests were five percent more than 1997. A preliminary estimate is that actual attendance may be as high as 1,750 vehicles, with about 1,100 of these participating in the Big Saturday (April 11) departure from downtown Moab. More than 220 of the registrants are members of the Red Rock 4-Wheelers and 160 of those members were trail officials during the nine-day event.

Most of the trail leaders reported smooth operations and no serious problems or accidents. As usual, there were mechanical difficulties ranging from dead batteries and flat tires to breakage of axles and drive shafts. Two quarter-turn tip-overs with no injuries were reported. Curiously enough, the tip-overs were on trails considered moderate in difficulty, while the official groups on the most challenging trails were relatively free of accidents.

2008 Jeep Safari

This year’s Jeep Safari numbers appear to be down by about 100 vehicles, but the event will still be a far cry from the one-day, single-trail drive that started the Safari in 1967.

Back then, the Moab Chamber of Commerce planned the event, registration was the day of the event, and no Bureau of Land Management permits were required.

Things have changed dramatically as the event has evolved into a nine-day, 30-trail festival, which is now run by the Red Rock 4-Wheelers. A total of 1,382 vehicles registered for the 2008 Jeep Safari.

According to the group’s communications director, Ber Knight, a couple hundred more vehicles usually register on-site, and a slightly smaller number of registered vehicles don’t show up. Last year, about 1,700 registered, while about 1,500 participated. The Safari has no cap on the number of event participants, just on the number of vehicles on any given trail. That means jeepers can still sign up, but they may not get the trails they want, Knight said. “They can still come out, but if they expect to get on Pritchett Canyon, forget it,” Knight said. “Out of the 1,400 so far, about 450 are here for their first Safari, and a good many of these people will return ... That seems to hold every year.”

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