In the remote Book Cliffs of north central Utah, the Wilcox family owned a ranch encompassing Range Creek for over 50 years. Between the family assiduously keeping out trespassers and the difficult access, the area's Fremont Indian artifacts (some dating from 400A.D.) are preserved essentially intact.
A few years ago, when 70 + year old Waldo Wilcox was getting too old to ranch, he sold his land (4200 acres) to the nonprofit Trust for Public Lands, who transferred ownership to the BLM, who later sold it to the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. Through this complicated transfer into government ownership, archeologists had their first chance to explore the area. They were salivating at the thought, I'm sure, and for good reason. Numerous Native American burial sites, granaries, dwellings, and hundreds of pictographs and petroglyphs have been identified so far Here is a closer view of the granary shown above:
We visited Range Creek in 2005, shortly after the first public access was allowed. Entry and exploration requires a permit. The road to the area is unpaved, twisty, narrow, and washes out in big storms, so getting there still isn't easy.
From the gate where the general public must park, it's 20 miles to the old ranch house. A rutted dirt lane leading to the ranch covers the distance. Archeologists, students, and special groups are allowed to drive in. We met a friendly archeologist in a Jeep who stopped to chat and pointed out some of the points of interest along the five miles we were able to explore.
Our visit was in mid-September, and the fall colors were spectacular:
If you ever have the opportunity, I highly recommend visiting this area. Plan to camp, because the nearest motel or anything resembling a town is several hours drive away.
To read an article about this area from Smithsonian.com about the colorful Waldo Wilcox and his beloved ranch and ancient ruins, click here.
For another article from NationalGeographic.com, click here.
For views into more strange and wonderful worlds, click here.