Colorado Plateau Hike & Camp 2014 travel blog

Negro Bill Canyon Trailhead - on public Bureau of Land Management (BLM)...

The trail is mostly flat but narrows as it goes deeper into...

The trail follows the creek that carved Negro Bill Canyon

Morning Glory Natural Bridge was still in shadow as the sun crept...

The spectacular, but humbling, destination of our hike

Morning Glory Natural Bridge is the 6th widest in the USA

Imagine early settlers discovering welcome respites from the sun such as these

Water weeping from this fissure finds its way to Negro Bill Creek

Massive canyon formations highlighted by the sun at 11:00

Negro Bill Creek where it feeds into the Colorado River

A giant bullfrog in Negro Bill Creek near its mouth at the...

Wednesday, 11-June – Negro Bill Canyon Trail to Morning Glory Natural Bridge

Trip miles: 10 miles

Route taken: US-191 N → UT-128 → US-191 S

Average Gas mileage: 27.5mpg

Weather: warm (60F) in the morning, hot (94F) with no breeze


- seeing a Great Blue Heron early this morning

- watching a distant lightning storm while eating breakfast

- hiking the Negro Bill Canyon Trail

- finding Morning Glory Natural Bridge

- seeing giant bullfrogs in Negro Bill Creek

Our normal early morning breakfast was enhanced today by the sight of a Great Blue Heron flying overhead. I later read about a man-made lake, Ken's Lake, on Mill Creek north of Moab that is a haven for bird-watching. After the heron sighting my senses were stirred again by the faint dusty scent of rain in the desert and the sight of some ominous dark clouds building behind the cliffs to the west. Soon there were several bolts of lightning followed by the roar of thunder. It was some distance away. We packed up the breakfast supplies just as a few drops of rain pelted down. That was all the rain this area would get today.

By 7:15 we were at the Negro Bill trailhead across UT-128 from the Colorado River and were back by 10:30 just as the trail started to get busy. It was already 84F in the shade. We looked for a shady spot to eat our City Market sandwich but there were none to be found within walking distance of the trailhead. Back at our Moab Valley campsite we changed into cooler, non-hiking clothes and tried to rescue our neighbour's tent from being blown away. (Have I mentioned how windy Moab is?) They returned, with a take-out lunch, in time to finish the job, guying their tent fly to the chain link perimeter fence. We invited them to join us at the covered pavilion near the children's playground to enjoy our lunches and some conversation together. There are so many things to do in Moab, but nothing of interest to us that were in shaded or indoor places. In the reading area of the Office we used the internet to find two interesting hikes for tomorrow. While in the office I overheard a fellow tenter trying to arrange a ride to a local hotel after a scary off-road motorcycle accident. I gladly drove her to the hotel.

About Negro Bill: William Granstaff was a mixed-race cowboy who prospected and ran cattle in this canyon in the 1870s. Together with a French Canadian trapper, “Frenchie”, he took possession of the abandoned Elk Mountain Mission Fort near Moab in 1877, each controlling a portion of Spanish Valley. In 1881, “Negro Bill” was charged with bootlegging whiskey to the Indians and fled the area to avoid punishment.


Negro Bill Canyon Trail – This is a shady trail in the early morning and late afternoon and is an easy one to hike, with very little elevation change. It is a canyon hike with several interesting rock formations. At one point where the trail does climb above the creek level the sunlit spaces were filled with blooming wildflowers, perfuming the already warm air. The trail follows and crosses (several times) Negro Bill Creek into the canyon for about 2 miles, then leaves the creek for another .25 miles to follow a side canyon to the Morning Glory Natural Bridge – the sixth widest natural bridge in the USA. If the large rock bridge is not spectacular enough, there is also a strong trickle of water gushing out of a fissure at the base of one of the bridge supports. It is shady, damp and cool here. The trickle creates a little stream in the side canyon, which then joins Negro Bill Creek to flow into the Colorado River. The only bad thing about this trail is that there is a lot of poison ivy close to the trail.

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