On April 25, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Utah and San Juan County failed to prove that the Salt Creek road was a “public thoroughfare.” As a result, the road remains off limits after it was closed by the National Park Service.
The road through the canyon had been used for decades, but was closed for good in 2004 after a series of lawsuits by environmental organizations.
It leads to iconic Angel Arch, which was once one of the most well-known and visited sites in the park.
San Juan County filed the lawsuit and the State of Utah supported the effort. They argued that use of the road by cattle ranchers, uranium miners and tourists was enough to claim ownership under RS2477.
The appeals court ruled, “The state and county failed to carry their burden of establishing ten years of continuous public use of the Salt Creek Road as a public thoroughfare prior to (the establishment) of the Canyonlands National Park in 1964.”
The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA) applauded the ruling.
“For Salt Creek Canyon, it is a great decision,” said SUWA attorney Steve Bloch. “It means the only perennial stream in the park outside the Green and Colorado rivers will remain protected from significant adverse impacts of motorized travel.”