Changes Coming to Joe's Valley

Next month, the climbing community will begin to see major changes throughout Joe’s Valley in central Utah. Over the last decade, Joe’s has gone from a relatively obscure bouldering area with few visitors to one of the biggest bouldering hot spots in the country.

We know that many regulars to Joe’s Valley appreciate the unregulated feel of the area, with limited infrastructure. But Joe’s simply cannot withstand the sheer number of climber’s visiting the area. We are already seeing extreme environmental impacts caused by increased traffic, and they will threaten access if not addressed.

Photo courtesy of © Peter Dodge

One of the biggest concerns is human waste from visiting climbers, which has the potential to contaminate the local water supply because the bulk of climbing and camping lie alongside seasonal creek beds that feed the surrounding communities.

Heavy foot traffic and constant pad placements have caused extremely eroded and unstable landing areas, as well as a network of braided trails that are stripping soils of their native plants, making the area even more exposed to impacts.

In 2012, Access Fund teamed up with Salt Lake Climbers Alliance to begin planning for much-needed upgrades to the area, including seasonal porta potties, established approaches, and hardened landing zones. After 5 years of discussions and collaboration with Emery County, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and US Forest Service (USFS) land managers, Access Fund has secured the approvals, funding, and resources to begin building out infrastructure at Joe’s Valley that will dramatically improve the long-term sustainability of this popular climbing destination.

The Access Fund-Jeep Conservation Team (West) will lead this stewardship effort, with a focus on maintaining the historic character of Joe’s Valley climbing while making it sustainable for the long haul. Throughout October and November, the Conservation Team will work alongside AmeriCorps conservation crews from the Student Conservation Association (SCA) and American Conservation Experience (ACE). The Conservation Team will return again in February of 2018 to continue this work.

Visiting climbers can expect to see new approaches, retaining walls, rock staircases, and structures near their favorite climbs in both Left and Right Forks. The USFS and BLM will also be installing vault toilets to help manage the growing human waste concerns. Final sites for the toilets have not yet been chosen, but we expect to see them in Left Fork, Right Fork, and New Joe’s, likely before the end of 2017.

Climbers can also expect to see changes to camping and parking areas. The BLM plans to build two new campgrounds—one by New Joe’s and one in Right Fork—and turn the historic Mansize camping area into a day-use only area. These changes are expected to begin at the end of this year and be implemented slowly over the next few climbing seasons.

The Conservation Team will be hosting Adopt a Crag events every Saturday in October and November. If you’re planning a trip to Joe’s Valley, please consider taking a day to give the team a hand. Volunteers will meet at Mansize each Saturday at 9am. Keep an eye out on the Conservation Team's facebook page for regular updates and Adopt a Crag details.