Visiting the beautiful land that could be destroyed for tar sands mining anchors you to a flash point in the battle for the planet’s survival. This page contains tips and special considerations regarding your visit to the East Tavaputs Plateau and PR Springs. The area is very remote. Road conditions can change quickly with rain or snow and it’s easy to get lost. But there are unbelievable rewards for the explorers who make it in.
The strip mine processing facility and part of the mine site are within the boundaries of the Utes’ Uintah and Ouray Reservation, on lands stolen from the Tribe under the Dawes Act of 1887. The area is currently managed by the BLM (federal government) and SITLA (state government). The BLM manages a well-water pump and campground in the area known as PR Springs that was originally constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps.
From the Northern route it should be possible to drive on Seep Ridge road all the way to the US Oil Sands tar processing factory site, which is surrounded by a big fence. As you continue south you will see the test pit and then the destroyed area our beloved Children’s Legacy Camp the first area being strip mined by US Oil sands. You can continue on to PR Springs a public BLM campground with potable water and a few camp sites. There are numerous spots to camp all around this area.
The Northern Route:
Fill your tank up on highway 40 at Ute petroleum as there are no services.
- From Salt Lake City, head east on I-80 and exit 146 to Highway 40. Drive through Heber and Duchesne to Roosevelt, about 143 miles. If you get to Vernal, you went too far.
- At 200 North in Roosevelt, you have to take a right to continue on Highway 40, go another 16 miles.
- Turn right/south on Highway 88 (note, if you are coming from Colorado via Dinosaur National Monument, you would be turning left/south from Highway 40 to Highway 88).
- Drive about 78 miles south on Seep Ridge Road.
- Keep going past test pit and first mine area on your right
- cross the county line into Grand county and the paved road ends.
- Keep going and you come to a horse corral on your left and the PR Springs turnoff, go down this road and stay to the left this will take you down into the camp ground cross a cattle guard here is the fresh spring water spigot
- Also notice a little further on, an old chimney from the Civilian Conservation Corp days.
Look at a Google Map of the northern route.
The Southern Route
- From Moab or Grand Junction, take exit 227 off of Interstate 70 near the Utah/Colorado border on the Utah side and head West/North. (If you’re coming from Colorado that will be a right turn off the exit; if you are coming from Utah, it will be a left turn off the exit)
- Turn Right on Old Highway 6 and go 2 miles
- Turn left and go about 6 miles until you come to a T in the road.
- Turn left at the T and continue going northwest (the pavement ends); 6 miles past the T you should …
- … Follow the road to the left around a fenced property.
- Stay to the right on the main road as you go around the ranch and enter the Three Canyons area.
- At the sign for East Canyon, stay to the left/forward for Hay Canyon.
- Very shortly after that, you’ll hit a fork in the road with a sign for Middle Canyon, and again head left/forward for Hay Canyon. Stay on the main road about about 15 miles. You will be taking a road up the side of the canyon toward the ridge.
- Go right on Book Cliffs Ridgeline Road.
- Turn left onto Seep Ridge Road.
- Keep going and you come to a horse corral on your right and the PR Springs turnoff, go down this road and stay to the left this will take you down into the camp ground cross a cattle guard keep going pass the spigot and an old chimney from the CCC days
- Continue cross another cattle guard on down to a parking area. and you will see our our tents and tarps
Look at a Google Map of the Southern Route
Our usual camp areas and the tar sands test pit are on the East Tavaputs Plateau in an area known as PR Springs. The southern and western faces of the East and West Tavaputs plateaus form what are known as the Book Cliffs.
The closest towns to PR Springs are:
- Loma (Grand Junction): 58 miles.
- Roosevelt: 94 miles
- Green River: 112 miles
- Thompson Springs: 87 miles (gas station only)
The terrain is a combination of sage-swept, high-plateau flat lands interrupted by tree-packed canyons bursting with Douglas firs, spruce, quaking aspens and so much more.
Bathrooms, Water, Electricity, Cell Phones
There are no toilets. We bury our waste. There is no electricity.
There is a well-water spigot of potable water at PR Springs campground.
Cell service is spotty. AT&T, Verizon and Tracphone get fairly reliable service on ridgelines only–that may mean needing to go for a hike uphill (or drive) to make phone calls. Other services also have some service, but is very spotty and should not be relied upon.
Summer low temps at PR Springs range from mostly 40s and 50s during throughout summer months, with many nights in the 30s mostly only in May and September. Most October nights will be in the 30s with some nights in the 20s.
Summer high temps are in the 70s and 80s in May, September and October. June and July highs are usually in the 80s and 90s with some 100s. The chart below is the temperature observations for PR Springs for 2012 May-October.
Roads and Vehicles
Most all vehicles can make it to PR Springs safely but good tires are important and spare tires a necessity. You do not need a four-wheel drive or high-clearance vehicle, however.
Many roads are pretty rough and unpaved. Be prepared for potholes and use moderate speed. Many roads off the beaten path are rougher than the main roads.
Dirt roads become very muddy quickly after rain or snow and may become impassable for many vehicles.
The Northern Route to PR Springs is mostly paved while the Southern Route is mostly dirt road; the Southern Route also gains elevation faster than the Northern Route making it, overall, the more challenging route for your vehicle.
PR Springs is at more than 8,000 feet of elevation–very high. You may experience altitude sickness. Symptoms of altitude sickness are similar to flu or hangover, including nausea and fatigue. Most people have no problems, but some people experience mild or very mild symptoms related to altitude, while a few have more pronounced difficulties.
Sun radiation is also more powerful at higher altitudes. A person also becomes dehydrated more quickly at high elevation, which can make symptoms worse. Wear sunscreen and drink lots of water even on cool days.
Respect for Wildlife (& pets)
Animals present include wild turkeys, elk, deer, coyotes, black bears, mountain blue birds, grouse, a number of hawks and so much more. There are also livestock cows.
This is BEAR COUNTRY–do not be afraid but take basic precautions. The American Bear Association says bears are “Nervous, shy, easily frightened – can cause serious injury if startled, cornered, or provoked. … Usually prefers to avoid humans.” Bears love human food and have superior senses of smell. Bear safety tips includes hanging or keeping all food items in cars when not in use and avoiding fragrant cosmetics.(update June 2014) We have encountered non-aggressive bears at PR Springs and have taken precautions to dampen and reduce our impact on bear behavior as much as possible. While camping in bear country–or camping at all–is an inherently dangerous activity, so is riding in a motor vehicle, bicycling and other mundane activities. Your life is in more danger in your car ride on the way to bear country than in your tent once you’ve arrived, so be responsible and keep things in perspective.
If you encounter a bear, wave an object over your head or put your hands over your head to look bigger, yell aggressively at the bear and back away slowly–do not run and do not approach or corner the bear.
Do not feed wildlife or livestock.
Dogs are welcome on the East Tavaputs Plateau. However, there is abundant deer, elk, cows and more that may prompt your dog to take chase. Use caution if you choose to bring your dog/pet out into the wild. The area is very rugged.
Leave No Trace
We are all responsible to pack out the waste generated by whatever we have packed in.
We try to leave the land in the condition we found it or better. That means leaving campsites and hiking trails free of any sign that you were there. It’s best to camp and hike on grounds and on trails that have already been impacted by use rather than trample new spaces. Sadly, huge portions of PR Springs have been impacted by the fossil fuel industry–for roads, drill pads and more–and often our relatively light touch is imperceptible in the fray.
However, there are also vast stretches of wilderness lands that show little or no signs of human influence, development or exploitation. Regardless of the context, it’s important to strive to leave zero impact on our wild surroundings.
Read the The Leave No Trace Seven Principles.