Indian Creek news update: Bridger Jack campground toilet project

Photos by Whit Richardson

Photos by Whit Richardson

4/1/10 - For those who have climbed and camped there, Indian Creek in Southeastern Utah tends to generate a nearly magnetic pull. The red canyons contrasted against azure blue skies possess a beauty which finds its way into your innermost being. Cool nights amid cottonwood trees and warm brilliant days high above the canyons, elbow-deep in the embrace of splitter cracks leave most people longing to return. Indian Creek is a true Mecca. It is a place to which pilgrims travel from great distances, where we learn how to face the pure essence of the rock and invariably leave far more fulfilled than when we came.

It is also a fragile desert ecosystem, which for eons has been untraveled and untouched. The Anasazi left a few traces of their time there – a petro glyph or stack of ruined stones, an occasional ancient chert point or tool. Climbers are truly the first people to inhabit the airy slopes, cliffs, and canyons since the Anasazi basket makers left it hundreds of years ago. We arrived there in the '80s, small tribes of climbers ready for adventure and the freedom which abounded there. Throughout the intervening years, the number of climbers exploring Indian Creek, has steadily grown. Trails have been installed to dozens of cliffs and literally thousands of routes have been established. Today it is commonplace for several hundred climbers to be seeking their sandstone adventures on any given day during the spring and fall months. In the evening, the canyons are filled with the smells of wood smoke and cooking and with the sound of the retelling of the day’s activities. In the morning, sleepy climbers emerge from their bags nursing sore hands and reaching for their coffee cups, and then, one by one, every one of them walks slowly out into the desert to look for a place to shit.

That’s the problem!

Enter: Friends of Indian Creek, a 501 C-3 non-profit organization which works with land managers to maintain climbing access and preserve Indian Creek’s unique resources and primitive character.

Indian Creek news update: Bridger Jack campground toilet project

For the past five years, FOIC has been working to mitigate the waste issues that are a major concern of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the Nature Conservancy (who owns much of the canyon), and Heidi Redd (who operates the Dugout Ranch in the heart of Indian Creek). Friends of Indian Creek instituted a free “wag bag” program to assist people with the process of dealing with their excrement, and, more recently, several seasonal porta potties have been placed near the parking lots of the most popular crags. Still, the most pressing problem has been that of human waste associated with the campgrounds, and while many climbers have sacked up (so to speak) and taken advantage of the wag bags, many still refuse to deal with their own poop.

Over the course of the past two years, Friends of Indian Creek has been discussing and planning with the BLM to arrange for the placement of a permanent composting toilet at the Bridger Jack campground. Terms have finally been agreed on, and FOIC will be purchasing a lovely double barrel crapper in about a month with the BLM scheduled to install it before the fall season. This accomplishment will raise the comfort level of campers in the Bridger jack campground, and it is a significant display of climbers' commitments to the environment of our sacred places as well as a step toward maintaining a fee free primitive experience in Indian Creek.

So what can you do? Give Friends of Indian Creek your money! Through the generous donations of companies like Outdoor Research, Jackson Hole Mountain Guides, and Wild Country, and a generous grant from the Access Fund, FOIC has raised over two thirds of the money needed to complete the project. But there is still a shortfall of nearly $6,000, and the deadline for needing that money is rapidly approaching. You can make a tax deductible donation by following this link to our website: and follow the PayPal directions on that page. Share this story with friends through e-mail, post it to your facebook page, blog it up or just come to the Creek and put a few bucks into one of the donation tubes by the Friends of Indian Creek information kiosks. For the sake of Indian Creek and the climbing community at large, please help FOIC make a place for poo.