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Moab Happenings Home

MUSEUM HAPPENINGS - September 2017

Trailing the Old Spanish Trail

Join the Museum of Moab and Canyonlands Field Institute on October 7 for our annual Member Appreciation Seminar Series. This year we are ‘Trailing the Old Spanish Trail’ where it once ran through San Juan and Grand County. Running parallel or underneath much of U.S. 191 near Moab the trail has long since vanished, but its history and legacy remain. Along the way, our expert guides – Dr. John Foster, Director of Museum of Moab, and Dave Vaughn, Board Chair of the Historical Preservation Committee and board member of the Museum of Moab – will provide insight, context, and clues as to what the Old Spanish Trail might have looked like in the days of its use. Canyonlands Field Institute Naturalist-Guides will provide interpretation of the landscape in which we find ourselves, transportation, and lunch.

Used extensively during the 1830s–1850s this route ran between Santa Fé and Los Angeles. In its entirety the trail was around 1,200-miles long and passed through the states of New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Arizona, Nevada, and California. However, sections of the Old Spanish Trail had been in use for long periods of time by Native Americans, trappers, Spanish Explorers, and traders before the trail was solidified into one continuous stretch.

Starting in Moab our journey will begin heading south into San Juan County to a few important landmarks of the trail in this region. These landmarks include important watering holes, key landmarks, and an inscription carved in stone. As we make our way back we drop into Spanish Valley, which was named after the trail. We will stop at Old City Park with its running spring that would have been a welcome respite to the sagebrush and sandstone desert through which the travelers would have traveled up to that point.

The Museum of Moab’s and Canyonlands Field Institute’s Member Appreciation Seminar Series are specialty programs aimed to share insight into a new area of regional history each year. Our mission is to expand the intersection between human and natural history in an engaging, fun, and informative manner through field seminar programs. All members of either organization are welcome! Folks who are not yet members can join during signup. Fee for this program is $100/members and $130/non-members (which includes membership to the organization of your choice). Proceeds from this series provide needed underwriting for community youth programs run by both organizations.

See our website at for information on our exhibits, tours, and programming.

Autumnal Equinox Community Dinner

Join CFI field and office staff on Saturday, September 23 from 4 to 7 p.m. for an end-of-the-summer evening of educational activities, a Dutch oven meal, and more!

The autumnal equinox will occur Friday, September 22 this year. This is the moment in the Earth’s revolution that the sun crosses directly over the equator, suffusing our big blue planet almost evenly in sunlight. “Equinox” comes from the Latin equi, meaning equal, and nox, meaning night, suggesting that there will be equal amounts of daylight and darkness. This astronomical phenomenon has inspired ceremonial traditions of gratitude and reflection in cultures all over the world for centuries.

In the spirit of these ancient traditions, Canyonlands Field Institute is bringing community members together to celebrate the last of the summer season and to welcome autumn by sharing a delicious meal with family and friends at our field camp in Professor Valley. This setting offers a 360 degree view of the surrounding stunning scenery: including Fisher Towers and Castleton Tower, red rock cliffs, and the La Sal Mountains.

Flint-knapping artist and historian Greg Nunn will kick the event off with a short presentation and will lead a flint knapping demo. CFI first year naturalist guides will be available to help you get to know where we love to go and guide. They will lead fun games, teach you how to throw an atlatl, talk about the geology, wildlife, and cultural history of Professor Valley, and show you how tune in to your sense of place. You can also put a smile on a future camper’s face by painting your own prayer flag to hang in our classroom yurt. We will end the evening with a Dutch oven-style meal, made with ingredients sourced from local businesses.

CFI also welcomes you to help us give thanks to our first year naturalist guides who have trained hard and worked diligently towards our mission by providing quality outdoor education to youth, adults, and families all season long. CFI could not succeed without these young professionals’ skills and passion for experiential guiding.

CFI is offering a shuttle from Moab to the field camp. If you would prefer to carpool, we have provided a carpool sign up on the Summer Sendoff webpage. There is also an option to camp in a Lakota-style tipi! For more information and to register, visit, or contact Lauren Zastrow at (435) 259-7750, or This event is rain or shine and proceeds underwrite our youth programming. Please join us!
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