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This is part of an occasional series by the Sanpete Country Travel and Heritage Council on the people and places along U.S. Highway 89.
Maple Canyon one of the Best “Corners of the World”
|Ever heard of Maple Canyon? Odds are that you have if you are a rock climber in Utah — or just about anywhere else in the world, for that matter. For everyone else, Jason Stevens can fill you in on the details.Stevens, who runs a climbing shop at the Maple Leaf Company in Ephraim, wrote a guidebook called Maple Canyon Rock Climbing that was first published in 1996. Now on its fourth edition, the book gives readers the scoop on the little canyon located about three miles south of Fountain Green.“It is definitely a hidden treasure in every sense of the world,” he says. “It is arguably the best rock climbing area in North America.”What makes it so unique? “The rock,” Stevens says with hesitation. “The cobbles poke out of the walls in the same way they do in indoor climbing gyms – except these rocks are outdoors and real.” The rock is a mixture of sand and gravel. “At some point in time there was an upheaval that split the canyon open and erosion formed all of the cliff. It looks just like a river bed standing up,” Stevens says. “There are only a few places in the world where you see this type of rock and formations: Germany, Greece and South Africa.”
There are now almost 300 rock climbing routes in the canyon, ranging from 20 to 400 feet long and designed to please people of all ages and skill levels. “There are routes for children and beginners all the way to some of the hardest routes in the entire world.”
The canyon was virtually unknown until 1994. “The only people who used it were locals,” Stevens says, adding he and a group of friends discovered it while still in high school. At first, they didn’t think it was an ideal climbing spot. “To the uneducated eye, it doesn’t look like a good place to climb because the rock looks really soft and unsafe. But one day we tried it out and realized that the rock was much harder than we ever imagined and know that the potential for the place was limitless, it was phenomenal.”
Soon, with help from Stevens and supporter Virgil Ash, word of the canyon’s treasures began to trickle out into the rock climbing community, and the canyon was featured in some sporting goods advertisements. Within two years there were more than 100 rock climbing routes developed in the canyon. Now, people travel from all over the world to visit the canyon. The routes have been developed in the canyon (much of which is privately owned) through the Access Fund, a national fund that allows rock climbers and private owners to agree on terms for access, Stevens says.
Getting used to sharing his canyon also required some adjustment on Stevens part. He took up rock climbing as a youth. His father and uncles were professional industrial painters, and had harnesses, ropes and other gears to allow them to work on enormous buildings. “On the weekends, I would go out with my dad and brothers and put the equipment to good use. Rock climbing has always been my passion, so the canyon’s growing popularity is a mixed blessing,” Stevens says. “When you are from a rural area, you have a tendency to believe that this spot if my corner of the world,” he says with a laugh. “You tell yourself: I grew up here so I have and inherited right to have the place to myself. So even though I am the author of the guidebook, and the region and canyon have benefited from people knowing about it, some days its hard. Sometimes I want to go over and climb and not see anyone. That is a hard thing when your little corner of the world is one of the best corners of the world for a lot of people.”
|For more information,Contact: Monte Bona
Sanpete County Travel and Heritage Council