It’s raptor-nesting season at Indian Creek’s famed cliffs

BLM asks hikers, climbers to avoid certain areas

A climber tackles one of the world-class crags at Indian Creek. Access to some of the most popular climbs has been closed in an effort to protect nesting raptors. Photo courtesy of JF Derwin/Wikimedia Commons
A climber tackles one of the world-class crags at Indian Creek. Access to some of the most popular climbs has been closed in an effort to protect nesting raptors. Photo courtesy of JF Derwin/Wikimedia Commons

Each spring raptors return to the Indian Creek area for nesting. Eagles, falcons and other migratory birds use shallow depressions on ledges, cliffs and rock walls, and often return to the same site year after year to raise their young. 

The Bureau of Land Management requests that climbers and hikers avoid nest areas during critical nesting periods, typically in early March through late July. Avoiding climbing and hiking in the vicinity of the nest sites, in addition to respecting wildlife by maintaining a safe viewing distance will help ensure survival of young birds.

The public as of Sunday, March 1, has been asked to avoid climbing or hiking in areas where birds are known to nest.

The climbing areas that are historically known to have nesting activity are referred to in many climbing guidebooks with these titles: The Wall, Far Side, The Meat Walls, Disappointment Cliffs, Fin Wall, Broken Tooth, Cat Wall, Slug Wall, and Reservoir Wall. This list serves only as a guide and does not indicate every avoidance area or encompass all known names of the affected climbing areas, officials say. 

Climbers are encouraged to refer to the raptor protection map to best identify avoidance areas for the protection of the nesting sites. The BLM is coordinating these raptor protection efforts with the Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration, which is the administrator of the climbing areas known as Disappointment Cliffs and portions of the Second Meat Wall climbing area.

This month, BLM biologists will begin annual surveys of raptor activity to verify which historic nest sites are active. Typically, by late April or early May, biologists can identify which nest sites raptors have selected. At that time climbing and hiking areas without active nests will be cleared for recreational use.

The BLM requests that climbers and hikers completely avoid areas with active nests until the young birds have fledged, usually by late summer. Biologists will monitor nesting activity throughout the season and keep the recreation community informed of potential changes. Avoidance area notices will be posted throughout the Indian Creek corridor during the recreation season.

While falcons and eagles are not overly common sights in southeastern Utah, they are present throughout the area and keen-eyed observers are sometimes rewarded with their aerial acrobatics. Visitors can watch adult birds hunt or observe the antics of young raptors perfecting their flying techniques. 

These species in Utah continue to recover from low population levels, thanks in part to cooperation from the public, climbing communities and governmental partners. The BLM would like to remind the public there are private land holdings throughout the Indian Creek corridor. Please respect private landowners’ boundaries and signage, officials advise.

For questions about raptors and migratory bird habitat in the Monticello area, contact Thomas Plank or Jason Byrd with the BLM Monticello Field Office at 435-587-1500.