Hardware WMA sleigh rides return after two-year hiatus
CACHE COUNTY, Utah — For the first time in two years, sleigh rides up the Blacksmith Fork Canyon are back — where families can see herds of elk and get a winter meal.
The Hardware Wildlife Management area had to shut down the tradition because of COVID, and then the drought.
Sleigh rides have been happening at Hardware WMA for well over sixty years.
“There they are, look!”
It was a time of discovery Friday for Travis England and daughter, Avery, on her fourth birthday.
“They’re just amazing, beautiful animals,” England said. “Just to be able to be that close to them is pretty special.”
People like Marni Lee get to lead the tours.
“The bulls like to chill out in the higher elevations and do what bulls do,” Lee said.
It’s something she’s been doing for 19 years with the Division of Wildlife Resources, now as a wildlife recreation programs coordinator.
“When they have that ‘aha’ moment and they just discover that they love elk, or they love wildlife, that’s just, every year is a new year,” she said.
But over the past two years, they couldn’t do that. COVID in 2020, and then drought that restricted how much hay they could grow for feeding the elk, relegated crows to views from a distance.
“So, this is pretty special to be up here the first day that they opened up,” England said.
It’s a first-ever for the England family, but a longtime tradition for many others who come every year.
Of course the reason for all of this is the elk — to feed them up here and keep them away from local communities, but the ride is more of a bonus. A longtime attraction and now a great way to teach people about the wildlife.
“They would naturally migrate to Cache Valley, and they become a little bit of a nuisance on the road,” Lee said. “They can become a nuisance in your yard and stack-yards and hay areas, orchards, farms and ranches.”
But out here with all that hay, they’re more of a novelty. It’s a solution the state came up with back in the 1940’s, now back weekends through February.
And if we can avoid any more pandemic-level disasters, hopefully families like the Englands can keep coming back for years to come.
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