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Monsoon Season In Bears Ears

Updated: Jan 29, 2023

The remnants of Hurricane Nora produced 24 hours of heavy rain in the southwest, but also gave us dramatic skies.

Rain and dramatic clouds in the vicinity of the Mule's Ear, near Bluff, Utah. Photo: © Donald J. Rommes

In the previous post, I wrote that I left Moqui Canyon a day earlier than planned because heavy rains were forecast. I didn't want to get stuck far down a 4WD road of clay and sand. I packed up my tent and headed for Bluff where I would be based while working on the Comb Ridge project.

The day was sunny and hot, but clouds began gathering in the late afternoon and evening.. By early morning, it was raining steadily. and misty—unusual for Bluff. I got in my car and looked for photos near the San Juan River, but found nothing.

By afternoon, the skies had largely cleared and the road up Butler Wash was passable. Butler Wash itself was wet and muddy. Crossing it to get to the canyons of Comb Ridge presented too much of an obstacle, so I stayed on the east side of the wash.

The lower part of Butler Wash is bordered by Navajo sandstone. Ridges in the cross-bedding of the petrified sand dunes held rainwater and formed linear puddles. I spent some time photographing there.

Multiple potholes in the Navajo sandstone next to lower Butler wash at the base of Comb Ridge. Photo: © Donald J. Rommes

Later that afternoon, dramatic clouds moved in from the south. Sunlight streamed through scattered light rain and virga, forming rainbows.

A rainbow forms as light from the low sun shines through raindrops in the approaching storm. Photo: © Donald J. Rommes

Looking south, darker, heavier clouds are on the horizon. Photo: © Donald J. Rommes

I spent more than an hour photographing the cloud formations. It was hard to tell if the storm was building or breaking up. Just before dark though, a solid band of clouds to the south indicated more rain was coming. Just before midnight, and for a couple hours, rain fell heavily—like a tropical downpour. It was clear that there would be flash flooding and the clay roads would be impassable for a while.


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