New recreation facilities at Rainbow Canyon now in place

By David Peck

A long-planned project to improve a colorful hiking site east of Lovell took a huge step forward this fall with the installation of a bridge and picnic tables.

The recreation staff at the Bureau of Land Management Cody Field Office was able to finalize planning and obtain funding to improve the Rainbow Canyon site 20 miles east of Lovell over the past year, and the initial work was done in October.

Cody Field Office outdoor recreation planner Melissa Higley said the project has been in the works for many years, noting that an easement through private land for access to Five Springs Creek was obtained back in 1998, and since then it’s been a matter of funding and making the project a priority.

Higley said that, over the years, many of the recreation projects coming out of the Cody office were done in the Cody area, but recently, she added, “We wanted to focus on areas of the field office that we haven’t done as much with in the past, spread the wealth, so to speak.”

With that new emphasis, funding was requested and granted last year to the tune of some $25,000 to $30,000, with more to come in the future, if funding is approved, Higley said.

Higley presented the plans to the Lovell community at the July 19 general membership meeting of the Lovell Area Chamber of Commerce, during which she and recreation technician Zach Cowfer presented projects for both Rainbow Canyon and the Darnell Hills dirt biking area off Highway 37 just past the shooting range northeast of Lovell.

Work at Rainbow Canyon began in mid-October and was wrapped up within a couple of weeks. The first phase includes a new bridge across Five Springs Creek, two new ADA accessible picnic tables and charcoal grills within hardened, designated picnic areas, a designated and developed parking area and a visitor register at the bridge.

Whereas hikers for years had to descend into the Five Springs Creek bed and climb the opposite bank to access the trail to the canyon following the collapse of an old bridge at the site many years ago, the new, wide bridge provides easy access to the trail, which leads about a half mile to spectacular views of the colorfully striped canyon.

Higley said an information kiosk has been purchased to provide a map and information on the area and will likely be installed next spring, along with portal signs on the highway informing drivers about the site from each direction on U.S. 14A.

If more money is allocated in the future, Higley said the Cody Field Office would like to perform a complete cultural assessment on the Rainbow Canyon area and, if that goes well, develop a series of interpretive signs along the trail to the canyon to explain the geology, wildlife, vegetation, a riparian area and more.

With the beginning of the trail getting sometimes wet and soft, Higley would also like to see a boardwalk constructed over the first few yards of the trail to improve accessibility. She said the future development may take several years.

As for the work on the Darnell Hills area, which the BLM refers to as the Darnell Hills Off Highway Vehicle Area, that project to define parking and add primitive campsites, picnic tables and grills will likely be done next spring, Higley said.

Another project to improve parking for better
recreation access at two points near Shell has also been completed this fall, Higley noted.