The City of Rocks National Reserve near Almo grew by a few acres last week when the park purchased another private inholding. Known as the Gibson property, the National Park Service announced the acquisition of about 22 acres which includes the granite rock features known as the Dungeon, Crystal Cow and Electric Avenue. The land is along the Backcountry Byway between Register Rock and Elephant Rock. The 14,407-acre City of Rocks was created in 1988 to protect sections of the historic California Trail and hundreds of granite rock formations that pioneers and 1849 Gold Rush emigrants dubbed “the silent City.” Thousands of acres at the City of Rocks are still privately owned.
“The public can start using it right away,” said Wallace Keck, superintendent of City of Rocks National Reserve of the recent land purchase. “They can access the property, they can hike, and climb and do what they would do in any other portion of the park.” Keck said the park plans to build at least one corridor trail to access the area. "Climbers know where to go and there are social trails already that have been there for years,” he said. “What we’ll end up doing is formalizing at least one corridor trail that goes to the area to those climbs. Then we’ll update our maps and hiking brochures and also where to park.” Keck said parking can be an issue for the newly acquired land with only a couple of slots nearby. “You can only park one or two cars near the property,” he said. “In the short term, park where the horse trailers park near Register Rock. The other option is Elephant Rock. Either one is a little bit of a hike, but not bad — less than one-fourth of a mile.” While rock climbing was allowed on the formerly private land, Keck said climbers were told to keep a low profile.
“Before it was under the wire,” he said. “Now they don’t have to worry about it. It's public land, go and enjoy.” The National Park Service said the land was acquired under the Arizona-Idaho Conservation Act of 1988, which provides a way for private landowners to willingly sell their property to a willing buyer (the United States) if continued ownership resulted in an operational hardship. With this recent acquisition, the reserve now consists of approximately 10,022 acres of federal lands, 3,745 acres of private lands, and 640 acres of state park land.