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Wilderness Volunteers

Leader Training Trip - San Rafael Swell, Price BLM, UT (Aug 9th - Aug 15th 2020)

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Located in the upper Colorado Plateau, the Bureau of Land Management's Price Field Office manages 1.8 million acres of scenic redrock canyon country known as the San Rafael Swell. A little over 242,000 acres in the area are managed by BLM as Wilderness Study Areas (WSAs), which are to be treated as designated Wilderness Areas until Congress decides whether or not to formally protect them. Characterized by a dramatic dome of sandstone, the entire area has been lifted and turned upright, leaving on its eastern edge a 45 degree angled "reef" cut by erosive forces for over 50 miles. Standing a quarter mile high in places, the reef casts a rugged ridgeline profile of jagged fins, hoodoos, narrow slot canyons and natural bridges, hiding over 750,000 acres of wilderness quality lands behind its great face. The San Rafael's landscape is an encyclopedia of earth history, displaying diverse exposed rock formations and erosional forms. Subsequently, much of the area is proposed for formal wilderness designation by citizen groups in Utah and by people across the country who've had the pleasure of spending a little time exploring its secrets.

Our continued service project will be removal of invasive tamarisk from the waterways. Tamarisk (or saltcedar) is a small tree or large shrub native to Eurasia and Africa that escaped from cultivation in the late 1800's and invaded the riparian areas of the southwest. This aggressive invader grows along the banks of waterways in impenetrable thickets that choke out native vegetation, alter the pH of surrounding soil, prevent wildlife from reaching water, and even change the course of streams and rivers. Our project will help the BLM fight their ongoing tamarisk battle and restore the delicate ecosystem of San Rafael's waterways.

We'll set up a basecamp near our work area, and hike or drive short distances to the project each day. On our day off we will explore beautiful slickrock canyons or nearby arches.

This project includes leader training for Wilderness Volunteers trips and is open to prospective leaders by invitation only. We are specifically looking for people who are comfortable and competent in outdoor settings, are people-oriented and feel a strong sense of giving something back.

Ashely Northcutt (staff member) and Don Meaders (board member) have been with Wilderness Volunteers for a long time and have a combined experience of 36+ years leading. Like the other WV projects, we'll conduct 4 days of service work and a free day with leadership topics covered around the work project and basecamp. Participants will learn about planning and cooking for groups, working with the agencies, managing risks and teaching Leave No Trace.

Once you have successfully completed this leadership course, you will be eligible to co-lead WV projects around the country. After you've led your first trip, you'll also be eligible to receive your registration fee for this trip back. Volunteer leaders do not pay trip fees on trips they are leading and receive modest reimbursement for travel to the projects they staff. Another perk leaders enjoy is being able to sign up for projects that still have openings 60 days out at a significant discount.

This project is rated as a strenuous project.

Check out more photos from previous years' San Rafael projects in our gallery.


Aug 9th - Aug 15th 2020

Service Project

Tamarisk removal

Agency logo

Free Days

Hiking, visit nearby arches, photography, exploration


Tent camping at remote campsite

Project Difficulty

Strenuous : Hiking, sawing tamarisk, lifting cut logs, brush removal, bending, kneeling


Ashely Northcutt
Don Meaders

Equipment List