Horsing around at new BLM equestrian camp

By Nathaniel Smith • The Times-Independent

Equestrian campers in the Moab area have a new place to spend the night with their horses. A partnership between the Canyonlands Chapter of the Back Country Horsemen, the Bureau of Land Management and Grand County Trail Mix has resulted in a new set of corrals at the Courthouse Rock campground north of Moab. The project was completed in July and a ribbon cutting ceremony is planned for Oct. 12.

The idea was pitched by the Canyonlands chapter of the Back Country Horsemen of America, and the BLM took care of the environmental review and compliance work. With assistance from Grand County’s Community and Economic Development Department, the BCH was able to secure an outdoor recreation grant from the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development to purchase the building materials and design and install information signs. The corrals were then constructed by a team of local volunteers from both BCH and Trail Mix.

Courthouse Rock campground is located 16 miles north of Moab off of Highway 191, near the Mill Canyon Road. According to an article published internally by the BLM, “The campground has special features that make it an ideal trailhead for equestrians.” Unlike many other campgrounds in the area, the wide-open Courthouse Rock campground has ample parking areas that are “suitable for large horse trailers with attached living quarters.”

Aside from the practical advantages, the campground’s location within eyesight of the original route of the Old Spanish National Historic Trail made it a fitting choice. Though the new corrals–sturdy steel panels secured on wooden posts–are certainly modern, they still harken back to the horse and mule riders who established the trade route in the 1820s. The Halfway Stage Station used by travelers as an overnight stop on the journey from Moab to the Thompson railway station in the late 1880s was also located nearby.

Stephen Schultz, president of the local BCH chapter, said building the corrals fits with their mission “to perpetuate the common-sense use and enjoyment of horses in America’s back country and wilderness.” He added, “The Courthouse Rock Public Use Corrals were our chapter’s latest contribution to all those who travel and recreate with horses.” He noted that equestrian enthusiasts regularly contact BCH looking for places to camp that can accommodate large trailers and have access to horse trails. Courthouse Rock was a good choice because it would allow equestrians to ride from camp without trailering to a trailhead, said Schultz. He pointed out that the corrals were constructed with all volunteer labor: “This project is a great example of diverse groups working together on public lands for the common good.”

In addition to the corrals, volunteers installed kiosks with signs that include equestrian and hiking trail maps as well as information about enjoying and protecting natural resources. BCH conceived the idea for the information signs, which were then designed by BLM volunteers.

In an official statement, Christiana Price, field manager for the Moab BLM said, “The Back Country Horsemen is an integral part of Grand County Trail Mix.” She also praised the joint effort from all involved and thanked the governor’s office for making the grant available to fund the corrals. The BLM article adds, “The new corrals will be enjoyed by equestrians for years to come – and by their horses.”