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Utah State Route 279

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State Route 279 marker

State Route 279
Potash-Lower Colorado Scenic Byway
Route information
Defined by Utah Code §72-4-133
Maintained by UDOT
Length: 15.178 mi[1] (24.427 km)
Existed: 1960 – present
Major junctions
South end: Potash mine along Colorado River
North end: US 191.svg US-191 near Moab
Highway system
  • State highways in Utah
SR-276 SR-280

State Route 279 is a state highway in the U.S. state of Utah. The highway was constructed in 1962–1963 to service the Cane Creek potash mine and processing plant southwest of Moab. The highway was named one of the most beautiful highways opened to traffic in 1963. The entire length of SR-279 has been designated the Potash – Lower Colorado River Scenic Byway by the Utah State Legislature,[2] however is known locally as Potash Road.[3]

This highway was intended to be part of a longer highway, State Route 278, that was to scale the canyon walls between Moab and Dead Horse Point State Park. Only the connection to the potash mine was constructed before the project was cancelled. Although the highway was constructed to aid the mining industry of southeastern Utah, the road is popular with tourists and four wheel drive enthusiasts. The jeep trails beginning where SR-279 ends are used to access Canyonlands National Park and Dead Horse Point.

Route description[edit]

State Route 279 following the Colorado River

The highway begins just north of Moab at a junction with U.S. Route 191 near the southern boundary of Arches National Park. The road follows the north bank of the Colorado River to the potash mine. The road is legislatively designated north–south, but actually serpentines for most of its length. The highway loosely parallels a spur of the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad built at the same time and for the same purpose of serving the potash mine. The route of the railroad features a 1.59-mile (2.56 km) tunnel that bypasses most of the serpentine bends in the Colorado River between Moab and the potash plant.[4] While in the Colorado River canyon, the highway passes by dinosaur footprints, Indian petroglyphs and jeep trails leading to Canyonlands National Park and Dead Horse Point State Park. The highway also passes by three named natural arches, Corona Arch, Bow Tie Arch, and Jug Handle Arch.[2][3]

History[edit]

The southern terminus of SR-279 as seen from Dead Horse Point State Park

The State Road Commission approved a new State Route 279 in 1960, connecting US-160 (now US-191) northwest of Moab with Dead Horse Point State Park. The route would be mostly new construction, following the right (northwest) bank of the Colorado River to Day Canyon, where it would climb to the southwest onto the plateau containing the park. Within the park, an existing roadway, then its primary access road, would become part of SR-279.[5] The state legislature approved this highway in 1961.[6] Later that year, the commission added a second route—State Route 278—that would continue south alongside the river from SR-279 to the Grand-San Juan County line.[7] However, when it approved the addition in 1963, the legislature made it part of SR-279, renumbering the spur to the park through Day Canyon as SR-278. In addition, the south end of SR-279 was changed to Potash, a point north of the county line where the Texas Gulf Sulphur Company was building a potash plant.[8][9] SR-279 was soon built, but the road through Day Canyon was never constructed. In 1975, the legislature deleted SR-278 in favor of a new SR-313, which followed the existing county road to Dead Horse Point through Sevenmile Canyon.[7]

"Wall Street" along SR 279 is a popular rockclimbing area for tourists.
Petroglyphs inscribed on the Wall Street Canyon.

In 1963, Parade Magazine held the third of an annual competition for most scenic highway that opened to traffic that year. SR-279 was one of four finalists in the competition. The others finalists were I-93 between Windham and Londonderry in New Hampshire, I-84 near Southington, Connecticut and I-405 near Sepulveda Pass in Los Angeles, California.[10][11]

Major intersections[edit]

The entire route is in Grand County.

Location mi[1] km Destinations Notes
0.000 0.000 Potash Plant Southern terminus
1.678 2.700 Jug Handle Arch View area
5.123 8.245 Gold Bar Recreation Area and Campgrounds
5.294 8.520 Corona Arch/ Bow Tie Arch parking area
9.390 15.112 Dinosaur Footprints View Area/Poison Spider Mesa Trailhead
9.726 15.652 Williams Bottom Camping Area
11.184 17.999 Jaycee Park Recreation Site
15.178 24.427 US-191 – Moab, To I-70 Northern terminus
1.000 mi = 1.609 km; 1.000 km = 0.621 mi

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Highway Description - 00279". Utah Department of Transportation. Retrieved May 18, 2008. 
  2. ^ a b "Potash/Colorado River Scenic Byway". Utah Office of Tourism. Retrieved August 7, 2007. 
  3. ^ a b "Scenic Drives in the Moab Area". Moab Area Travel Council. Retrieved May 18, 2008. 
  4. ^ Utah Road and Recreation Atlas (Map). 1:170000. Benchmark Maps. 2002. p. 71. ISBN 0-929591-74-7. 
  5. ^ Utah Department of Transportation, Highway Resolutions: "Route 279".  (545 KB), updated December 2007. Retrieved May 2008
  6. ^ Utah State Legislature (1961). Chapter 58: Designation of State Roads. Session Laws of Utah. Route 279. From junction with route 9 north of Moab, southwesterly down the right side of the Colorado River via Gold Bar and Day Canyon to Dead Horse Point. 
  7. ^ a b Utah Department of Transportation, Highway Resolutions: "Route 278".  (580 KB), updated December 2007. Retrieved May 2008
  8. ^ New York Times, Texas Gulf Sulphur Plans Big Utah Potash Project, September 27, 1960, p. 49
  9. ^ Utah State Legislature (1963). Chapter 39: Highway Code. Session Laws of Utah. Route 278. From Dead Horse Point easterly to route 279 near Day Canyon. Route 279. From the Potash Plant north along the Colorado River to route 9 north of Moab. 
  10. ^ "America's Prize Winning". Modesto Bee And News-Herald. October 20, 1963. 
  11. ^ Mark D. O'Neil. "Scan of 1964 Utah Department of Highways official map". Retrieved August 13, 2007. 

Route map: Google

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