San Juan County has long been a hot spot for conflicts between locals and the federal government over public land management. In 2009 the BLM engaged in an infamous pre-dawn raid, using hundreds of armed BLM agents, to arrest a number of members of the local community for alleged Antiquities Act violations. The BLM’s actions ultimately resulted in three suicides, including a prominent local doctor, as well as the BLM’s primary witness.
Most recently, on the heels of the Bundy Protest, on Saturday May 10th, San Juan County Commissioner Phil Lyman organized a peaceful protest in Blanding regarding the BLM’s recent road and area closures in the area, including Recapture Canyon. Many protesters then took their ATVs and rode into Recapture Canyon, including areas that the BLM had closed to motorized vehicles.
Recapture Canyon’s unique name comes from Recapture Creek, a tributary of the San Juan River, that runs through it. According to the theory of renowned early San Juan settler, Peter Shirts, following conflicts with Spanish conquistadors, Montezuma, the last Aztec emporer, fled North into the San Juan area. Consequently another creek in the area is also named Montezuma Creek.
Recapture Creek and Recapture Canyon are named after the resulting local legend that Montezuma was recaptured and killed in the canyon.
Recapture Canyon, known for its archeological significance, was first closed by the BLM in 2007.