Only a truly spectacular landscape can pull off a macabre moniker like “Dead Horse.” And, Dead Horse Point State Park—about an hour’s drive from Moab on the edge of Canyonlands National Park—is truly spectacular.
Dead Horse Point is a 30-yard wide peninsula that comes off a mesa, several thousand feet above a gooseneck in the Colorado River; the State Park extends beyond the point and covers 5,362 acres. It is a harsh and dramatic high desert land, similar enough in grandeur that it stood in for the Grand Canyon in the final scene of Thelma and Louise. It became a State Park in 1959. Legend says the name came from some unfortunate horses who died of exposure and lack of water around the turn of the twentieth century.
Like many public lands, Dead Horse State Park has seen increasing visitation in recent years. Their website says visitation is in “the hundreds of thousands” per year.
“For years, Dead Horse Point has been turning away campers since the Kayenta campground is full every night during the busy season,” says Megan Blackwelder, the Southeast Region Manager of the Utah State Parks.
According to a Dead Horse State Park press release, the shortfall in accommodations was the impetus for construction of the new Wingate campground, which has been open to the public since April; upon completion of some final improvements, there was a celebratory ribbon cutting on September 26.
The new Wingate campground includes 20 RV/tent sites, 11 hike-in tent sites, and four yurt sites. Park officials say the views are unusually good, even by Utah standards.
“The view off the decks in the Wingate Yurts is amazing,” Blackwelder says. “Most visitors don’t get to experience the canyon and park views from that perspective.”
The press release states the project cost approximately $5-million, which includes the costs of design, constructing the 31 traditional campsites, building six yurts, seasonal staff housing, a new water tank, and completing water, electrical and septic infrastructure.
The Utah State legislature appropriated funding for the project, and Utah Senator David Hinkins was a key advocate. Utah State Parks staff joined together with campground architects, other Utah State employees who worked on the project, as well as Senator Hinkins and others for the ribbon cutting ceremony.
“We have to thank Senator Hinkins for his support to secure the necessary funding for the Wingate Campground at DHP,” said Elaine Gizler, Executive Director of the Moab Area Travel Council. “The Architects, the builders, and the staff at Dead Horse Point did an outstanding job of designing and building this new site. The view from this location is stunning, and I am certain that the reservations will be booked solid for years to come. Thank you Dillon Hoyt, and the entire team for all their hard work. Grand County is very lucky to have such a vast group of dedicated land agency employees.”