Thursday, December 1, 2016

Harpers Corner

Distance: 2.2 miles round trip
Elevation: 7,574 ft
Elevation Gain: 300 ft
Dogs: No allowed, National Monument
Bathroom at trailhead: No
Tags: #coloradooutdoors, #hiking, #geology, #scenicviews, #findyourpark

Steamboat Rock and the convergence of the Yampa and Green Rivers
Harpers Corner in the Colorado side of the Dinosaur National Monument is a short nature trail across a narrow isthmus to one of the most stunning desert views in the state. From this lofty promontory, the convergence of the Yampa and Green Rivers appear far below along with the white canyons they have carved across the millennia.

You have to really want to visit Harper's Corner however. The Dinosaur National Monument exists in the far northwestern corner of the state. It is "out there". The nearest town to stay in is Rangley, which is 20 miles from the entrance station and then it is a long 31 miles from the entrance to the trailhead. We were in the area to attend the Meeker Dog Trials and so it made sense to add Dinosaur to the menu.

Faulting is evident in these vertical rock layers
The trail to the view point descends from the get go and winds through Pinon Pines with growing views of the canyon floor. There are a couple of places where the trail is perilously close to the abyss, but there are plenty of trees to grasp if vertigo strikes.

The destination is a broad flat area with comforting fences along the edges. Echo Park, which can be reached by a long dirt road, marks the actual convergence itself hidden from view behind round Steamboat Rock.

The other side of the viewpoint gazes down onto "the whirlpool", a section of the Green River that river pioneer John Powell (of Colorado River and Lake Powell fame) disliked in the extreme.

Western side of the Harper's corner overlook showing the Green River and Whirlpool Canyon
The true star of the show, however is the sedimentary world brought into dramatic relief by the rivers themselves. Up the Green River Canyon (to the left) are five separate layers of sedimentary rock. Closer to the viewpoint, a large and obvious geologic fault has tilted the rock layers vertical creating a topsey-turvy world that is stunning to see.

Anyone who loves the geological parks in Utah will want to make a pilgrimage to Dinosaur National Monument. In comparison, the views are both unique and informative. The power of water, time, and geological force is so evident, it can't help but make you want to run out and get a geology degree.

One should note that at one point the powers that be were going to dam the rivers in this area, which would have buried all of this scenery under a wall of water. Instead, the dam was built upstream at Flaming Gorge. This was a near miss in the continual battle between the need of man for water storage in a dry world and the natural world such storage inevitably changes.

Yampa River "bench"
Be advised that this area is a high desert and lows temperatures can compete with Barrow Alaska. As such the road itself is closed in winter and may not open until June.


NomadColorado said...

Great information about Harpers Corner! Wish we had seen this before we made our trip out to Dinosaur this past fall. :)

sylvia murphy said...

Thanks Nomad!