Bells Canyon

“It’s great to be alive in the West”

My late father-in-law, Gary, lived in the western United States for all but one or two years of his life.  He was born in Montana and then headed down to Arizona to follow the love of his life when he was in his early 20’s.  Gary traveled the West extensively while racing and riding motorcycles and dune-buggies, and flying hang-gliders and airplanes…he was an independent spirit who loved life.  My sons remember working with their grandfather, painting the house or building a fence…out in the Arizona heat…and making comments about how hot it was outside…and Grandpa used to say “Yep…it’s great to be alive in the West, isn’t it?”

If you’ve been following or visiting my blog for any length of time, you might know or remember that I lived in the Phoenix area for over 20 years before moving to Salt Lake City a couple of years ago…leaving part of my family behind, and bringing another part of it with me.  Those who remained in Arizona love the desert and its heat…and most of those who came with me, love the cooler, mountainous region that we now call home.  So, while I have left the cactus, tumbleweed, and ungodly heat behind, I can still think fondly of Dad and my desert-dwelling sons and say that yes, it’s great to be alive in the West…but this is my view when doing so.

Twin Peaks and Bells Canyon from Dimple Dell Trail

The mountain to the left of the cloud is Twin Peaks…the opening below the cloud is the entrance to Little Cottonwood Canyon…and the area that you can see below the ridge-line to the right of the cloud is Bells Canyon.  I made the photo this morning while hiking/walking along the Dimple Dell Trail, a preserved natural area that runs from near the base of the mountains and into the southern neighborhoods of the Salt Lake Valley.

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On a certain Sunday


Granite and Green


Boulder Field

There is just something about walking, hopping, and crawling across massive boulders that freaks me out.  It is difficult to put into words the sensation I feel when stepping onto a rock that weighs several hundreds of pounds, and more, and having it tip with my weight.  Ever since I climbed the draw between White Pine Lake and Red Pine Lakes and had to cross a similar boulder field that was literally between 400-500 yards across (and after having watched the movie 127 Hours), I have found them to be incredibly anxiety-provoking.  You would think that rocks of this size simply would not even budge with just a person’s weight moving on them…but they do….

I took this photo of a fellow hiker, Raj, on the way back from visiting Bells Canyon Upper Reservoir.  We had to cross the boulder field twice during the hike, once each way, up and down, and it was unsettling each time.  I had actually made the same hike two weeks earlier by myself, and it was even more nerve-wracking….


Bells Canyon Upper Reservoir

I have not been able to learn much about the history of Bells Canyon and its reservoirs, lower and upper.  The canyon is not even listed in the index of the book, The Lady in the Ore Bucket, that details the history of logging, mining, and hydro-electric efforts in the three Wasatch Mountain canyons that border metropolitan Salt Lake City, Utah, USA.  There’s probably a good reason for that, too, given that this canyon is south of the most southern of those three canyons, Little Cottonwood, and does not connect to it by any means.

What I do know, however, is that the lower reservoir is only a 15-20 minute hike from the trailhead…and it takes right around five hours to reach this upper reservoir.  The trail is somewhere between four and five miles in length and gains right around 4,000 feet in elevation from start to finish.

I only recently discovered (on-line, before making the hike) that there was a dam at the upper reservoir…and even more recently (after arriving at the lake), learned that this dam has also been breached, similar to the dams at the Sister Lakes in Big Cottonwood Canyon. Construction and modification of those dams occurred between 1908-1934 and they were breached in 1972.  While conducting a little more research for this post, I did find a digitized picture of the dam being built in 1914…and I’m still looking for more….

If the Bells Canyon reservoirs were built for the same reasons that the Sister Lakes were dammed, it was so that the water from the snow-melt could be held until it was needed for irrigation and other purposes later in the year when the mountain streams were running low.

I made this hike a couple of weeks ago by myself, but on this particular occasion, Son #3 was able to join me and helped provide some perspective for the scenery in the photographs.

My son is right about six feet tall…which means that the water lines on those two trees are about 10-12 feet above the ground…which means that the water in this lake has been significantly deeper than it was on the day of our visit.

Above is another shot provided for perspective’s sake…there’s a man next to the boulder in the lower right corner of the picture….

And below is a last photo provided specifically for perspective, there are two figures sitting on the left side of the opening in the damn.  I shot this one from the mountainside on the opposite side of the lake, so it may lose a bit of its resolution if you attempt to zoom-in too closely on the figures.

The below photograph shows a much wider perspective of the northward view, taken from the same location.

And you’ve seen me before….

This was the last view of the lake before we rounded the bend in the trail, dropped down behind the retaining wall of the dam, and could no longer see it….


The Ancients


Bells Canyon Stream

Three levels of falls down Bells Canyon Stream…along a favored trail that goes up, up, up into the mountains.  The first photograph was taken in the middle of June, 2012….

And the second shot, with a slightly different perspective, is from near the end of August, 2012…about nine weeks later….


Bells Canyon Lower Falls


Follow me….


On Granite

A couple of weeks ago, I finally managed to find the upper falls in Bells Canyon, just south and east of Salt Lake City, Utah, USA.  My last ventures up into this particular part of the canyon had been in December and February, and there was still three and more feet of snow on the ground.  Accumulation of that amount makes it hard to find and follow the trails that are so evident at other times of the year.  The scene in this photograph is from an area above those upper falls…as I continued to explore, looking for the trail that leads to the upper reservoir.  As this was all new territory for me, it was all I could do sometimes to keep my eyes on the trail so that I would be going forward…I could have stood there for tens of minutes or more at each new vista and would have never made it anywhere on the hike…such a beautiful place….