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Toquerville Falls to Towers to Browse

St. George Jeepers Trail Report - August 25, 2015

 Toquerville Falls to the Communication Towers to Browse 

Ten vehicles departed Costco in St. George, Utah, at 8 AM and headed north on I-15. One more vehicle joined the group in Toquerville. The run was led by Joan and Phil Hayes and tailed by Jim Beller.

We exited I-15 at exit 27, Toquerville exit onto State Route 17. From SR 17, the only highway through Toquerville, we turned onto Spring Street-shortly after crossing the bridge. This will be your road for the next 5.8 miles.

This drive typically takes about 45 minutes to an hour to get to the falls. Four-wheel drive and high clearance is highly recommended. After 0.6 miles, the pavement ends and the road becomes a gravel road. The winding road gains and loses lots of elevation. Stay right at the first fork you come across-3.5 miles from Toquerville.

The trail from Toquerville is scenic, including some very nice panoramas. The road is not at all technically difficult but includes some relatively steep, scratchy and rocky grades.

Views looking north toward Kolob Canyon in the northwest section of Zion National Park.

The steeper sections such as below have bypasses

After 5.3 miles you’ll see the Toquerville Falls for the first time from the road. At the next intersection, turn right – 5.6 miles from Toquerville. The Falls are on LaVerkin Creek. This feature is locally well known as a popular hiking, biking and swimming destination. Although the streamflow was lower than normal, there were several teenage swimmers in the lower pools. They apparently had walked several miles to get there.

Our next destination was the communication towers, prominent on the Black Ridge east of Interstate 15. The view is stunning and includes Pine Valley Mountain to the west, Sand Hollow Reservoir and Sand Mountain to the south and LaVerkin to the southeast. 

Below is a photo looking south toward LaVerkin, Sand Mountain and St. George behind the Red Cliffs. 

After departing the communication towers, Joan and Phil led us up I-15 a few miles to the Browse exit. You exit and turn left onto the Browse road heading west toward Pine Valley Mountain and Dixie National Forest. Below is a view looking north toward the Kolob section of Zion NP in the far distance. This area is often gated off in the winter to conserve the road. 

This site was first developed in 1921 as the 179-acre Mill Creek Browse Experimental Range with an exclosure to study the use of browse vegetation as summer forage for cattle. 

Two years later, a small cabin was built. 

Grazing of cattle was discontinued there in 1929, but four years later the Forest Supervisor approved construction of four exclosures (areas fenced to keep out wildlife and stock) to support deer management studies. 

In 1934, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) built a guard station and an outhouse; the 1923 cabin became a woodshed/storeroom. Regional landscape architect H. L. Curtiss prepared a landscape plan that included wild grape, native grasses, spruce, cedar, rose, willows, snowberry, apple trees, an irrigation ditch, sidewalks and parking for four cars. 

Beginning in 1960, the Forest Service shared the guard station with the Utah Fish and Game Department for use as seasonal housing. The site was intact with its three buildings and corral when the Sequoia Fire of 2002 swept through the canyon. Remarkably, everything around the station burned but the buildings were unharmed, thanks to clearing of flammable materials the previous year. Subsequent rains on the fire-damaged land led to a mudslide, flooding, and loss of the 1923 shed.

A restoration plan was developed in 1996 and the following year, the Utah State Historic Preservation Office concurred with the Forest's determination that the Browse Guard Station is eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. 

A big draw to the Browse site is a lone redwood tree. Although it a large tree, it is not large by standards in its native range. It seems that there is not much record of the history of this redwood tree planted behind the cabin. It’s assumed that it was planted sometime around 1921 when the area was an experimental study area. Age could be determined by core boring and counting annual rings. It’s believed that others were planted in Utah, but did not survive. It is claimed to be the largest Sequoia sempervirens in Utah which is quite believable. It has a dead spike top which often indicates damage done by either lightning or old age.  

Sequoia sempervirens is the sole living species of the genus Sequoia in the cypress family. Common names include coast redwood, coastal redwood and California redwood. It is an evergreen, long-lived tree, living 1,200–1,800 years or more.

This species includes the tallest living trees on Earth, reaching up to 379 feet in height and up to 29.2 feet in diameter at breast height (DBH). These trees are among the oldest living things on Earth, although exceeded by the bristlecone pine which grows native in Utah. They are typically fire tolerant, but can survive for centuries with severe fire injuries.

The wood is valued for its beauty, decay resistance and workability. Before commercial logging and clearing began by the 1850s, this massive tree occurred naturally in an estimated 2,100,000 acres along much of coastal California (excluding southern California where rainfall is not sufficient) and the southwestern corner of coastal Oregon within the United States. An estimated 95% or more of the original old-growth redwood trees have been cut down. However, it sprouts strongly from a cut stump and can be regenerated by this method or by planting. 

The name sequoia sometimes refers to the subfamily Sequoioideae, which includes S. sempervirens along with Sequoiadendron (giant sequoia) and Metasequoia (dawn redwood). On its own, the term redwood usually refers to the coast redwood. This tree is obviously well out of its native range and a remarkable example of adaptability to have survived this long.

 

After viewing the cabin and redwood tree, lunch and social hour was enjoyed by all. 

An uninvited but welcome guest for lunch. 

Arizona Sister (Adelpha eulalia). It occurs from at least Guatemala and Mexico to the southwestern United States, including southeastern California, Arizona, New Mexico and southern Texas. They can also sometimes be found in Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, Nevada and obviously, Utah. 

Submitted by Bud Sanders