Mexican Mountain is a striking mass of vertical rock situated along a bend in the San Rafael River on the east side of the San Rafael Swell. here, the river makes one last bend as if to avoid the magnificent mountain before turning south and then east, cutting a near vertical swath through the San Rafael Reef on its way to its meeting with the Green.
Around 1950 – no one seems to know for sure – an air strip was constructed on the north side of the River. Its use was probably initially to support an oil and gas test hole drilled a short distance away. It also undoubtedly saw service in the frenzied search for uranium in the 50s and 0s as the same strata outcrop here as in the uranium rich souther part of the San Rafael Swell at Temple Mountain and on south into Canyonlands. The airstrip lies in a narrow valley with near vertical walls on both sides. There is room to maneuver, even near the ground, and there are escapes from both directions, keeping in mind that you will be flying inside steep, unforgiving terrain. At one time the airstrip was perhaps 2,000 feet long, but now only 1,325 feet are really usable. Part this point, perhaps 500 feet of narrow and rough ground could be used for run out or possibly an aborted take off. The airstrip is 40 feet wide and has Cottonwood trees within 30 to 50 feet of both sides. There is now a wind sock halfway down the runway on the north side. This airstip is not suitable for an inexperienced pilot or anything less than a high performance airplane on a calm day!
Mexican Mountain is one of the most beautiful and remote places I have ever seen. The road is completely washed out several miles from the airfield and the area is only accessible on foot. Many petroglyphs a short distance from the air field attest to the fact that we are not the first to visit this area and are incredibly intriguing. The “Upper and Lower Black Box” canyons are just a few miles both up and down stream. Here the San Rafael carves incredible canyons that are indescribably beautiful. The Lower Black Box Canyon contains “Swazey’s Leap” where, so the story goes, Jim Swazey jumped his horse across a particularly narrow section of the canyon – reported to be 12 feet – after a bet with his brothers around the turn of the century.
Mexican Mountain and the surrounding 59,600 acres are currently in a “Wilderness Study Area” (WSA), that is, these lands are under review as a potential wilderness area. As a WSA, the same rules apply as if the area were bonafide wilderness, namely no motorized vehicles allowed.