Needles Outpost continues storied history

by Prester Femlee
The Needles Outpost is located approximately 45 miles Northwest of Monticello. It was originally opened in the 1960s by a local man named Dick Smith who flew airplane tours and operated the campground and general store.
The remote location can offer a variety of different challenges including water, electricity, and even just finding the place.
Since the original owner, it has changed hands off and on throughout the decades until most recently being purchased by The Nature Conservancy (TNC).
Now Caleb and Amber Dorsey are leasing 90 acres from the TNC and operating the general store and campground. They offer visitors a myriad of different services including gas, camping, a variety of snacks, and one of the best sunsets around.
Being as far off the beaten path as it is can be both a blessing and a curse. When Dick Smith first thought up the concept of the place, he realized the need to get water on the property.
After unsuccessfully attempting to drill a well, he then found another option: buy the water from the park service and truck it in. This is the same method still used today.
With a 5,000 gallon cistern and a truck with a 1,000-gallon tank, the outpost makes trips into the park to purchase water. This is then used for the toilets, showers, and sinks.
When it was first opened, there was no such thing as solar electricity and everything was run on a diesel generator. Now there are solar panels that run the coolers and lights. However, the generator is still used to supplement electricity when solar electricity is not strong enough.
Guests can reserve camping accommodations through one of three websites, Hipcamp, Airbnb, or Fareharbor. On these sites, they recommend taking a screenshot of the directions, as there is no cell service in most of the area.
However, without the remoteness and sense of distance from the civilized world, the Outpost could possibly face crowds like Arches or Island in the Sky.
The Nature Conservancy is a non-profit organization that specializes in land management. Their mission is “to conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends.”
When the Needles Outpost and the land that accompanies it went up for sale a few years back, somebody took notice. That somebody was a woman named Jennifer Speers, who is famous for buying up lands slated for development and returning them to nature.
She then promptly donated the land to the Nature Conservancy, who has committed to keeping the campground and general store but also to not allow further development.
Caleb and Amber Dorsey are the current leaseholders of 90 acres and operate the campground and general store. Between the two of them, they are a great well of knowledge on anything from local flora and fauna, to the best hikes in and around Canyonlands.
With an approximate 6,000 guests visiting this past summer, the Outpost sees people from all corners of the globe and all walks of life.
In the spring, the wildflowers draw out hikers by the drove who love to peep on the Sego Lilies, and breath the sweet perfume of the Sand Verbena.
In the summer, the crowds thin even more and the silence seekers and stargazers can be found relaxing in the shade during the day and revel at the stars at night.
And in the fall, climbers and adventurers are seen jamming up some cracks or bike-packing any of the epic routes in the area.
For any visitor, the Outpost is a good spot to stop for an ice cream or a camp spot with an epic sunset.

San Juan Record

49 South Main St
PO Box 879
Monticello, UT 84535

Phone: 435.587.2277
Fax: 435.587.3377
Open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday