For up-to-date information on the Shoshone Trail, please visit our new ORV web page. Some of the information below is now out of date, due to the ever-changing plans for the Shoshone Trail (aka Northern Utah Trail System, or NUTS).
The new Wasatch-Cache National Forest Plan, released in late March 2003, states (on page 4-34) that the Forest Service will "Coordinate with the State, Counties, BLM, and local partners to establish a trail system (Shoshone Trail) in northern Utah to address the demand for motorized trail recreation...." What is the so-called Shoshone Trail, and how did the Forest Service decide to establish it?
The Shoshone Trail was never discussed during the public comment period that preceded the adoption of the Plan. The deadline for public comments was November 1, 2001, and the public did not learn about the Shoshone proposal until March 2002, when Congressman Jim Hansen suddenly introduced a bill in Congress to establish it. Thanks to aggressive lobbying by the Sierra Club and other environmental organizations, that bill was significantly improved before being passed by the House, then defeated in the Senate. Now, however, ATV advocates have apparently convinced the Forest Service to go ahead and establish the Shoshone Trail.
The map above (provided to us by Hansen's office) shows the Shoshone Trail system as it would have been established by Hansen's amended bill; click the map for a larger version. Although most of the routes on this map are already open to motorized use, the map also includes a few routes that are currently nonmotorized, as well as high-speed roads that are currently open only to highway-legal vehicles. Hansen and others have stated that the long-term intent is to add approximately another 100 miles of routes to the system, mostly across private land. Another problem with the Shoshone proposal is that it is intended to attract many new ATV riders into this ecologically sensitive area. Public land managers lack the resources even to deal with current levels of use.
Links to further information about the Shoshone Trail:
All photos by Dan Schroeder, Ogden Sierra Club. Most photos were taken during May and July, 2002.
Click on any photo for a larger version (typically 100k). If you need a still larger version (e.g., for printing), please contact the author at email@example.com.
|The photos below show the area south and east of Brigham City, depicted in this map. (Click the map for a larger version.) Routes shown in blue on this map are currently closed to ATV's, according to the current Wasatch-Cache National Forest Travel Map and authorities at the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.|
|This hillside is on private land, immediately adjacent to the starting point for a segment of the Shoshone Trail near Brigham City. The trail route itself does not follow any of the tracks shown here; this is merely the type of damage that often occurs adjacent to ATV trails. Click here to see a similar photo taken nearby. A short distance from here, the Shoshone Trail route crosses onto state wildlife land.|
|The state of Utah has blocked together a number of sections of land on the mountains east and south of Brigham City, for the purpose of wildlife habitat preservation. The proposed Shoshone ATV trail system has one leg that would start near this sign and cross these state wildlife lands for approximately 2.5 miles. Although there are no signs prohibiting ATV use, authorities at the Division of Wildlife Resources have told us that they consider this area to be currently closed to ATV's. Nevertheless, ATV promoters in Brigham City are promoting this trail as their link into the Shoshone system. Would this dedicated ATV trail "protect and improve wildlife habitat"?|
|Now on state wildlife land, this proposed segment of the Shoshone Trail climbs directly up a very steep slope, exceeding 30 degrees (60% grade) in spots and conflicting with trail design standards. Note the erosion damage and braiding of multiple routes, despite the relatively moderate use that this area currently receives. This mapped Shoshone route is not consistent with slope and soil conditions necessary to prevent damage and soil erosion.|
|Approximately one mile from where this proposed Shoshone trail segment starts, the heavy use by vehicles ends. Occasional vehicle use (probably by motorcycles) has caused erosion problems in steep places, but elsewhere the trail narrows to a footpath. Click here for another photo of the trail, taken nearby. (These locations are still on state wildlife lands.)|
|The other end of this 8-mile Shoshone route segment connects with a maintained gravel road at a location known as Dock Flat, within the Wasatch-Cache National Forest approximately 2.5 miles south of the town of Mantua. This photo is taken from the gravel road at this location, and shows numerous paths created by illegal motorized travel. (The intended Shoshone route itself is hidden by the topography.) Except for the gravel road, this area is completely closed to motorized use according to the current forest travel plan, yet there are no signs or barriers, and Ogden Ranger District staff admit that they have never enforced this closure. Click here for a similar photo taken a few yards away.|
|West of Dock Flat, this proposed Shoshone route segment follows a well-established trail into the Box Elder Creek drainage. This drainage has a number of wells that are fed from what is becoming a badly eroding watershed thanks to unmanaged ATV and motorcycle use. This route and the surrounding area are designated as closed to ATVs and motorcycles in the current Forest Service travel plan, yet are included in the official map of the Shoshone Trail system. As this photo shows, illegal motorized use is already occurring in this area. Making this route part of the Shoshone ATV Trail system would override watershed protection and the current land use plan.|
|This photo also shows illegal motorized use along the proposed Shoshone route in the Box Elder Creek drainage. Note how riders tend to steer around older, eroded portions of the trail, widening the trail over time. The following links show other views of this same route segment: motorcycles receding; ATV closeup; Keystone Light.|
|A bit higher in the Box Elder Creek drainage, the Shoshone Trail proposal would take a route that is being reclaimed and reverse the little restoration that this watershed has seen. The route that would be constructed, shown here still under the snow, joins existing and illegal ATV tracks in the foreground. Note the elk droppings in the foreground. Elk now frequent this area but if ATV use increases are likely to be displaced.|
|This photo shows a very steep shortcut above Box Elder Creek, just below the proposed Shoshone route that traverses the top of the slope. The Forest Service has not posted these damaging shortcuts as closed. This shortcut is on a slope that is nearly 40 degrees or an 80% grade. Such a steep slope cannot be used by vehicles without severe erosion. The Forest Service has not shown an ability to manage ATVs in a way that prevents damage to the watershed. This situation will only worsen with the increased use that would come from the designation of the Shoshone ATV trail system. Click here for a photo looking down the same slope from above.|
|About two miles south and east from Dock Flat, another segment of the Shoshone Trail would branch eastward across private land in Devil's Gate Valley. The route follows the most prominent path shown at the left in this photo. Unfortunately, OHVs do not always behave responsibly on private lands. Here, vehicles have needlessly and deliberately used this area for mud acrobatics, causing considerable damage to the sensitive riparian habitat.|
|After crossing Devil's Gate Valley, the Shoshone Trail segment pictured above again enters the National Forest, where it ends at this trailhead on the Liberty-Avon road in Cache County. This portion of the Trail would follow an existing 4WD road through an area known as Public Grove. Because of extensive damage from ATV's in the past, the Forest Service has been engaged in an active watershed reclamation program in this area for the last few years. In the spring of 2001, this road segment was temporarily closed to aid in this reclamation. The closure remained in effect in July 2002, when this photo and those below were taken.|
|Directly across the Liberty-Avon road from this proposed Shoshone trailhead is an example of the excellent work done by the Forest Service during the last few years. This area was very badly overrun by hill-climbing ATV's, but has now been fenced off and replanted. A few other nearby areas are similarly being restored. Unfortunately, the Forest Service has very limited funding for this kind of work, and the Shoshone Trail legislation provides no ongoing funding to help deal with the increased level of use that it would encourage.|
|A short walk to the south of the closed-off road into Public Grove, the new buckrail fence ends. Here ATV riders have illegally riden around the fence and created a new path which joins the closed road (coming in from the right, beyond the fence) after a short distance.|
|This photo shows the type of damage that is typical along the Public Grove road, a proposed segment of the Shoshone Trail. Instead of following the original road, ATV's and other vehicles have created multiple braided routes through the open terrain. Most of the damage occurs during wet spring conditions. However, the Shoshone Trail legislation contains no provision for land managers to enact even temporary closures.|
|Although the road into Public Grove has been temporarily closed, and all access points are clearly marked as closed, ATV riders continue to disregard the closure and ride around the fences. Five ATV's passed us during our three-hour hike along this road.|
|Even before the temporary closure enacted in spring 2001, only the first 2.5 miles of the road into Public Grove were open to motorized travel (according to the current Ogden Ranger District Travel Map). This open portion ends at a barbed-wire fence, with a gate that allows nonmotorized travelers to continue another 2.5 miles before leaving the National Forest. Although the closure to motorized travel beyond the gate has been in effect for over ten years, the Forest Service has never enforced this closure. If they had, the portion of the route shown here would by now be only a single-track trail for hikers, bicyclists, and equestrians.|
|Beyond the barbed-wire gate in Public Grove, where motorized travel is prohibited by the Forest Service travel map, ATV riders have still not been content to stay on the established trail. This photo shows a relatively recent track created by ATV's branching off the main route. The track continues for at least a hundred yards into the forest. We observed two other long branching tracks along the next half mile of the main route. Roads often serve as corridors for invasion by noxious weeds; the clump of yellow near the middle of this photo is dyer's woad, our area's most notorious noxious weed.|
|About a half mile beyond the barbed-wire gate, the Public Grove trail climbs out of the fir forest to a broad meadow offering expansive views of the Wasatch front range to the west. Should we invite ATV riders throughout the region to come and disrupt the quiet here?|
|This photo shows another Forest Service road (numbered 115 on the quadrangle map, and 26015 in Forest Service documents) that branches west into the Public Grove area from the Liberty-Avon road. Although not a part of the proposed Shoshone Trail system, this road begins only a mile from the Shoshone trailhead pictured above, so it would probably receive increased use if additional ATV riders visit this area. The 1991 Ogden Ranger District travel map indicates that this road was completely closed to motorized use at that time. Then, in 1999, the Forest Service acknowledged that motorized use was occurring anyway, and amended the travel plan to allow motorized use along the first 1/3 mile. To block the rest of the road, they installed the row of boulders pictured at left. However, vehicles have driven cross-country around the boulders, creating the bypass route that branches to the right.|
|At the same location as the previous photo, we observed this pickup truck use the bypass to get around the line of boulders and proceed along the closed portion of road 115 (aka 26015). During our half-hour visit we also observed four ATV's using the closed portion of the route.|
|South from Dock Flat, the main road from Mantua (currently open to vehicles) climbs for approximately 10 miles to Willard Basin, a subalpine area at 9000 feet elevation. This photo (taken in summer 1991) shows the only pond in the basin, which lies approximately 1/3 mile from the road. Although ATV's are allowed on the road, they are not permitted here. The photo shows four ATV's, multiple braided trails, and the denuded shoreline of the pond. The official map of the Shoshone Trail system shows a segment extending from the road into this area. Designation of this segment as an ATV route would make restoration of this area virtually impossible.|
|This photo shows the LDS Church building in the town of Mantua. A segment of the Shoshone Trail begins here and heads south along the paved road on the right side of the photo. (Click here for a view of this "trail" just outside town and here for another view from the same spot.) The road on the left side of the photo has been proposed as a future addition to the Shoshone Trail system. These paved roads are classified as "highways" under state law, and hence are currently closed to ATV's for reasons of safety: Passenger cars and low-speed ATV's make a dangerous mix.|
|This map shows another small portion of the Shoshone Trail system, beginning near the Ant Flat parking area along Utah Highway 39. One "trail" (shown here in green) would be the gravel road from Ant Flat to Hardware Ranch. The other trail is a 4WD road that winds to the northwest through Utah School Trust lands.|
|As this photo shows, the road from Ant Flat to Hardware Ranch, though unpaved, is hardly a primitive trail. Wide gravel roads like this, intended for passenger cars, are closed to ATV's according to state law.|
|Branching northwest from Ant Flat across School Trust lands, this six-mile segment of the proposed Shoshone Trail follows a 4WD road along the broad ridge between Scare Canyon and Cinnamon Creek Canyon. Much of the terrain is open meadows, and here, as happens so often, vehicles have created ghost roads and multiple braided trails.|
|The damage is worst in the many low-lying muddy areas near springs and wetlands. The best solution to this problem would be a seasonal closure during spring and early summer. Whether such a closure would be permitted under the Shoshone Trail Act is unclear, given that motorized recreation would become the "primary purpose" of the route system. And even if a seasonal closure is permitted, enforcement would be difficult and costly.|
|After meandering for six miles through School Trust Lands, this proposed Shoshone route ends at the gate shown here. The road continues past the gate on private property, descending steeply to Porcupine Reservoir. To create the interconnected network touted by Shoshone Trail advocates, the Shoshone system would have to be expanded to include the private portion of the route. Apparently, though, this property owner is not currently welcoming ATV's. The attitude of many ATV riders toward private property is demonstrated by the new route that has been pioneered around the gate. The graffiti on the back of the gate is probably another manifestation of this attitude. The lesson is clear: Routes that dead-end in remote areas should not be included in the Shoshone Trail system.|
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Last modified on 26 January 2004.