Negro Bill canyon hike

We have done a lot of hiking while in the Moab area but one of our favorite hikes was the one in Negro Bill Canyon.

The trail head is located 3 miles from highway 191 on highway 128 along the Colorado River and it’s a 5 mile round trip hike.

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According to information we found on the web The Canyon was named after William Granstaff, an American cowboy of mixed race. He claimed it in 1877 to prospect for valuable ores and to serve as a homestead as he raised a modest herd of cattle.

There are roughly 10 places you have to make a water crossing but all are easy and the water is not deep if you just want to walk through

There are roughly 10 places you have to make a water crossing but all are easy and the water is not deep if you just want to walk through

His business partner was a Canadian trapper known only as — Frenchie.   Mr. Granstaff was forced to flee the Moab area in 1881 when he was accused of a serious crime — that of providing bootlegged alcohol to Native Americans in the region. His guilt or innocence in the matter was never determined. Nevertheless, Mr. Granstaff lost his home and virtually all of his belongings due to the accusation. But worst of all — he lost his beautiful Canyon. In post-Civil War America, Mr. Granstaff ‘s conclusion that his racial heritage would place him at a significant legal disadvantage was not unreasonable in the least. Thus, he left Moab.

The name — Negro Bill Canyon —has been, and remains today, a source of controversy. The Canyon was originally known until the 1960’s as — Nigger Bill Canyon — a name reflective of the African American struggle for racial equity in the late 1800’s.   In recent years, Bill’s Canyon has been the focus of considerable discussion — including a petition to modify the name even further to eliminate the racial reference entirely.

The argument for altering the name to Granstaff Canyon to avoid offense has merit. However, rebuttal opinions argue that one should not attempt to rewrite history — and instead should preserve the name Negro Bill to thus honor the struggle for African-American racial equity.   As further rebuttal, the NAACP has advised that the term — Negro– is neither pejorative nor derogatory and as such, should raise no feelings of offense. A final decision has not yet been reached by the community.

Mr. Granstaff spent his remaining days in nearby Colorado. He left this life filled with memories of his majestic canyon.”

We didn’t really see a trail rating but we would consider it an easy/moderate. The moderate part would be the few rock obstacles that will require both hands to navigate and the numerous creek crossings (they are shallow and easy but plan to get your feet wet, the water feels good on a hot day).

There are only 2 or 3 places you have to scramble up places like this.

There are only 2 or 3 places you have to scramble up places like this.

The reward at the half way mark of the round trip is the Morning Glory Natural Bridge, which has a span of 243 feet and is the sixth longest natural rock span in the United States

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A stream of water can be seen and heard flowing directly out of a fracture in the rock face under the bridge which is pretty cool.

Can you see the water in that crack?

Can you see the water in that crack?

We settled back, had a light snack & relaxed a while until another set of hikers showed up before we started the trek back.


It was a nice hike and one we would recommend

We are not caught up on our blog about Moab by no means but we will be lifting our jacks and making a move Tuesday to an area we have been told has no or little internet service so we may need to play catch up even more once we surface again. Which of course means we will have that area to talk about as well and we will REALLY be behind LOL!!!

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7 Responses to Negro Bill canyon hike

  1. explorvistas says:

    Having a backlog of blog material is a GOOD problem, Dave. It means you are out exploring and having fun! 🙂

  2. That’s a very cool looking rock span. Looks like a hike we’d like to do. Thanks for the info.

  3. Joy & Tom Travis says:

    The photos are absolutely fabulous! You guys ROCK! Sure hope you can make it to the “World’s Most Beloved Animal Sanctuary” Best Friends, Kanab.

  4. Ingrid says:

    We love Moab. That’s one hike I’ve been meaning to do. Thanks for the great tour.

  5. As always, Dave and Diane, a great narrative and great pictures. Thanks for taking the time to share.

  6. Dave & Diane says:

    Our pleasure, and thanks.

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