where, when, and what to find

Montezuma Creek Road -- Upper

posted by Tim Avery at
on Friday, April 10, 2015 

No Photo At This Time photo by Utah Birders

Managed by the BLM, Montezuma Canyon is situated in San Juan County about 6 miles east of Monticello, and 13 miles east of Blanding.  There are no officially established trails, campsites, or other facilities in Montezuma Canyon. For the most part, the graded dirt road is suitable for 2 wheel drive vehicles however, after a rain or snow storm it can become impassable in some locations. The canyon is about 38 miles long from north to south, and the Montezuma Creek drainage eventually flows into the San Juan River near Aneth.  The creek is intermittent and lacks water most of the year outside of spring run off and during flash floods.  The canyon is dry desert and cliffs, with a wide flat bottom in most places desert scrub covers most open spaces.  Greasewood and Rabbitbrush are common, while along the creek huge Fremont Cottonwood follow the canyon bottom for its entire length.  In some places the trees are very thick while in others they can be sparse.  Willows and other understory can be found in may places--there are seeps and springs that produce water at a number of places in the canyon year round--even when the creek isn't flowing.  Numerous side canyon jut off the main canyon and any can be worth exploring.  The are also several large ponds and dams creating small bodies of water at various points in the canyon--some are large enough that wetland and marsh habitat is present.  Various small ranches and farms dot the landscape and oil pumpjacks can be found randomly throughout the area.  Notably the area is home to numerous rock art sites, cave dwellings, and native artifact dumps.  This varied location is currently split into 4 hotspots, but there will likely be more i the near future:

Montezuma Creek Rd -- Lower
Montezuma Creek Rd -- Middle
Montezuma Creek Rd -- Upper
Montezuma Creek Rd -- Ranch & Pond

Remember to take plenty of water. Watch the weather and stay on the designated roads if you visit in the summer months.  Spare tires, and emergency supplies are always a good idea in remote locations like this where you may potentially not see another person for several days if you end up on a back road or deep in a side canyon.

Although I've never actually birded the upper section of the canyon, the species list appears to have many of the same species found further south in the area.  BLACK-THROTED SPARROW, LUCY'S WARBLER, CANYON and ROCK WREN, and WHITE-THROATED SWIFT are all species you would expect to find birding here in the spring and summer.  BLACK PHOEBE, BUSHTIT, and BEWICK'S WREN have all been reported in the upper section as well.  The riparian habitat in the upper section isn't nearly as thick as further south, but there is still plenty.

From the intersection of Main and Center Street in Monticello head south on US-191/Main Street for 5.1 miles.  Turn Left on to Montezuma Creek Road.  From here is is 5.3 miles till you reach the creek and are down in the canyon. From here the road continues 10.6 miles south in the "upper section" of the canyon. At 10.6 miles you reach a small ranch on the west side of the road--this is the end of the upper section of the canyon.

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