Spotlight: Bluff, Utah

ICTMN Staff
1/18/11

What is the "coolest" small town in America?  That's the question budgettravel.com posed to readers five years ago, and has been asking annually ever since.  For the 5th straight year, readers can vote for their favorite small town in the country out of the 20 towns selected out of the nominations that came in.  The poll closes on February 11th, so give the site a look and if there's a town you love on their list, cast your vote.

Not that we're going to say one way or another which is our favorite town, but, we would like to shine a spotlight on Bluff, Utah (we'll be looking at other small towns nominated as the weeks roll on.) With a population of 320 souls, Bluff sits in the lush San Juan River valley, a region of sweeping ranch land, sandstone escarpments, and the Navajo Nation. Bluff is home to some of the country's most sacred Native American sites, like the ruins, rock art, and dwellings of the ancient Puebloan culture. The famous Wolfman Panel, a petroglyph located in the Butler Wash archaeological district due west of Bluff, depicts several unusual features.  Two bird zoomorphs (animals shaped with human form), a large well defined anthropomorph, and two large inverted tear drop images; as well as a wolf prints and other smaller objects. Hovenweep National Monument, which contains six prehistoric Puebloan villages spread across 20-miles of canyons and mesa-tops along the Utah-Colorado border, is located in Bluff, as if another famous ancient Puebloan relic, the 16-room ruin, or Casa Del Echo.

Bluff's also got a bevy of B&Bs, lodges, and even restored pioneer homes that are open for tours.  The adventure traveler can enjoy the Class III rapids along the San Juan River.  Hikers call the canyons near bluff some of the best hiking in the country, and February and March are considered prime backcountry hiking season.  A few days ago the Bluff Balloon Festival too place, where giant, multi-colored balloons sweep across the red rock panorama, an event that draws thousands to this tiny town of hundreds.

Spring brings about the San Juan River boating season, the local penstemon wildflowers, and night walks through the desert to see a sky so filled with stars your head will spin.  In September, the Utah Navajo Fair beings, which includes a seriously kick-ass Navajo rodeo.

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