Black Rock Mountain to Elbow Canyon, Arizona

St. George Jeepers Trail Report – June 14, 2016

Black Rock Mountain to Elbow Canyon, Arizona

Airing down the tires at the Black Rock Road exit off I-15 in Arizona. The question has been asked about the point of airing down the tires. The main reason is that it softens the ride considerably. Since the softer tires absorb more of the bumps, it’s also less stress on suspension components. On some trail conditions the aired down tires are necessary for additional traction, particularly loose gravel, slickrock, sand or snow. The lower the tire air pressure, the bigger the footprint on the ground.

The group of 14 vehicles, led by Joan and Phil Hayes, left the air down point and proceeded south through the gypsum mine area. We then picked up BLM road 1009. We enjoyed our travels and company under beautiful cloudless skies, morning temperatures in the 70’s.

The next intersection provides the opportunity to take the Low Mountain Road, BLM 1022, or continue on toward Black Rock Mountain and Wolf Hole Valley on BLM 1009.

Mojave desert scenery on the trail

Tombstone Canyon

In the distance, Beaver Dam Mountains and the red cliffs of Kayenta in Ivins, Utah, to the right.

Rolling along toward the climb up Black Rock Mountain.

At this junction, the option to turn toward Wolf Hole Valley.

The showy blossoms of southwestern prickly poppy, Argemone pleiacantha.

The southwestern prickly poppy protects itself with sharp little spines that cover its leaves, stems, and fruits. And if that fails to deter predators, its broken leaves and stems exude a poisonous sticky alkaloid sap. But, what glorious flowers; these are 3- 5 inches across, white with yellow centers of clustered stamens, and delicate wrinkled petals that look like crepe paper. Prickly poppies have a solid history of herbal use and cultivation in the Americas, Europe, Africa, and Asia. They have been studied in research laboratories for several of their potential pharmaceutical effects. The oil of the similar white prickly poppy (A. albiflora), was used as a fine lubricant during WWII. It was found that the oil content of the seed is 25.8% which is similar to the oil content found in soybeans. The white prickly poppy is also used for decorative and ornamental purposes.

Old burn area on Black Rock Mountain showing some of the post-fire vegetation. The trail at this point skirts the border of the Paiute Wilderness Area.

View looking back to the northeast and the trail up Black Rock Mountain.

The group enjoyed vast panoramas, this one to the southeast and beyond the horizon, the Grand Canyon. More post-burn vegetation in the foreground.

New Mexico locust

New Mexico locust (Robinia neomexicana) should have been called the southwestern locust because this small tree thrives in mountains throughout the southwestern United States. It grows along with Gambel oak (Quercus gambelii) as a prominent understory tree in spruce-fir, fir, and mixed conifer forests. It is often found in pure stands in forest openings and can dominate shortly after a fire because of its vigorous root sprouting, as do the oaks. This is likely why it is so abundant on Black Rock Mountain. New Mexico locust is in the genus Robinia, which is a small group of trees and shrubs in the pea family (Fabaceae).

Black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia), a medium-sized tree native to the eastern United States and now naturalized throughout North America, is the best known member of this group. Honey locust has become a popular urban planting tree due to its pollution tolerance. The locusts are noted for their hardness and decay resistance. As with other legumes, locust can help enrich the soil due to their nitrogen-fixing properties.

Some “wildlife” along the trail, grazing in a field of lupines.

Vista looking off toward the southwest and Pocum Wash Basin from the top of Black Rock Mountain.

Evening primrose, Oenothera spp. This member of the Onagraceae family, has many varieties and subspecies, accounting for its numerous common names; Desert Primrose, Birdcage Evening Primrose, Devil’s Lantern, Lion-in-a-Cage and Basket Evening Primrose, etc. They are more typically found growing in sandy sites than the post-burn area where we saw them. There are many members of the Evening Primrose family and they are among the most common of desert flowers— but common only in the sense that they grow everywhere in the arid region. There are two general groups—the one that sleeps when the sun is out and opens its blossoms at night, and another group which follows the more conventional habit of sleeping at night. The ones that blossom at night take pollinator advantage of a luna moth that is nocturnal. This appears to be one that sleeps at night, blossoms during the day, taking advantage of bees and other insects that are active during the day.

View looking off toward the west and the Virgin Mountains

Mt. Bangs, 8,012 feet elevation, is the highest point in the section of the Virgin Mountains that extend into Arizona from Nevada (the highest point in the Virgin Range is Virgin Peak, 8,071 feet elevation, in Nevada). The Virgin Mountains form a formidable wall, effectively serving as a natural boundary between the Mojave Desert to the west, and the higher plateau country of the Arizona Strip to the east that we passed through earlier in the morning.

At this point we turned toward Elbow Canyon and ultimately Scenic, Nevada, and I-15.

Traveling down Elbow Canyon, BLM 1299, with Mormon Flats in the distance. We traversed several

The area features some very rugged and interesting geology.

Blossom stalk of century plant, an agave species. The genus contains many species that typically live 25-30 years, bloom once and then die.

Another century plant along the Elbow Canyon trail.

Mesquite, Nevada, in the distance.

Lunch stop at Cold Springs Ranch, also known as Frehner Haven Ranch.

Concrete slabs that once supported buildings.

This might have been a burn pit.

Craig and Bonnie Allred enjoy the sunny and comfortably day. However, after traveling down off the mountain, temperatures reached 104 F degrees.

Social hour

A makeshift and somewhat disheveled maze.

Virgin River Valley and Mesquite, Nevada.


When the early pioneers first began to explore the Virgin River Valley they also explored Elbow Canyon. They discovered within a few hundred yards of this site two springs. Lime Kiln Springs lies to the north and Willow Springs to the west. This was a much needed critical resource. Some of the valley settler ranchers found that water at this location made cattle drives from the valley, up through Elbow Canyon and over the top of the mountains, possible.

On January 25, 1913, Myron D. Abbot of Mesquite, Nevada, filed for water rights on these springs giving him the rights to utilize this site. The water rights were passed on to others until they were obtained by Fenton and Mary Frehner, also of Mesquite, on January 4th, 1958. The above concrete with Vern Frehner’s name was poured not long after that on June 6th, 1959. Subsequently, on June 12, 1962, other Frehner family members, Alfred and Dorothy Frehner, Leon & Minnie Frehner, Vernon & Sylvia Frehner, became additional “Tenants in Common” until the land came under the management of the BLM.

Vern was born February 13th, 1917, in Littlefield, Arizona, and died March 10, 2006. The Frehners visited this site often, and built cabins and other facilities for their use. For a number of years their family reunions were held here. Requests for its use by other family, school, church and community groups were also honored. All, even the many unscheduled wilderness off-highway travelers, find temporary relief and enjoyment at this remote haven to this day.

Nevada state highway marker set at this location. The reason for it being set here is unknown.

This spring was invaluable for the area inhabitants long before the settlers arrived. Bob and Shelley Boyles cross the brook.

Below, BLM informational sign, reminding visitors that their vehicles must be highway registered to operate on county roads.

So concluded another wonderful off-roading day in the Arizona backcountry.

 Submitted by Bud Sanders 

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