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The Wild Uintas "The Bollies"

(Editor’s Note: This is the fifth in a series focusing on roadless landscapes contiguous and adjacent to the High Uintas Wilderness.)

On the east end of the Uintas above Daggett Lake sits a tiny willow-filled alpine basin. It is typical of the Uintas high alpine basins in that it is wild, isolated and 11,000 feet in elevation. Small springs and streams flow through the basin. It is a small basin unlike the massive cirques further to the west. Literally the high Uintas peaks run out to the east and south, rounded 11,000-12,000 foot peaks only a few miles wide in most places stand above small isolated basins on the North Slope. While the basins are larger on the South Slope, the sense of the Uintas running-out is the same. Running out of wildness is not the sense one gets, however. Resting in this tiny basin above Daggett Lake was the oldest moose I’ve ever seen. It was late in the fall and he was going nowhere. He was as gray and grizzled and sway-backed as an ancient horse. I watched him for the better part of three days as I hiked back and forth from Weyman Park, Anson Lakes and back over to Daggett Lake. His time had come and it is only in the most wild places that one ever gets the opportunity to watch a wild critter "fade into the slipstream." On day three he found a spot which I barely found and was no more.

The eastern end of the High Uintas is often referred to as the bollies-- the high rounded plateau-like bald peaks and their associated small alpine basins. Leidy and Marsh Peaks dominate the scene and represent the easternmost, high 12,000 foot peaks. The North Slope is generally above 9,500 feet and drains Sheep Creek with the North and Middle (Spirit Lake) South Forks. Moving east the scene is dominated by Weyman Park and the exceptionally isolated Anson and Weyman Lakes which drain Beaver and Weyman Creeks. Still further east it gets even more isolated with the West and East Forks of Carter Creek and the rarely visited Lamb Lakes.

The South Slope harbors broad open basins and much longer river systems with much of this country above 10,000 feet dominated by the East and West Fork of the Whiterocks River and the stunning lower Whiterocks River Canyon. Large wet meadow complexes dominate the south slope cirques with the middle reaches of these drainages laced by ribbons of spruce and pine intermixed with open parklands.

Unfortunately, much of this country has been harvested-- poorly harvested. The Ashley National Forest has even used recent huge storm events-- some have said probably the highest elevation tornadoes have occurred in the Whiterocks--as an excuse to harvest windblown timber. Rather than participating in and watching mother nature at her most exquisite the Forest Service has demeaned these natural ecological events with the never ending search for lumber. On the other hand the same forest denied a proposal to construct another huge dam on Blanchett Park in the Dry Fork drainage and has closed most of this country to motorized access.

But much of this country remains wild and home to lynx, pine marten, black bear and probably wolverine; some say even wolves have been seen in this country. Much of this eastern bollies country was originally proposed by the Forest Service as wilderness in the early 1980s because no significant resource conflicts exist. Yet Utah’s congressional delegation in the 1980s failed to include the Forest Service recommendation in the High Uintas Wilderness. Around 80,000 acres of wild mountainous terrain, all of it adjacent to the High Uintas Wilderness, still awaits formal protection.

Dick Carter

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