Range Creek Canyon, UT

Range Creek Canyon, Utah, described as one of the most intact sites of its kind anywhere in the Western US, partly due to its remote location, as well as having been closed to the public for 75 years after its modern-day discovery.
This area was populated by the Fremont Indians from about 300 A.D. for a thousand years, until the culture apparently vanished, along with that of the neighbouring Anasazi, who occupied territories to the south-east. Although this sudden collapse has yet to be fully explained, it’s thought that drought and conflict probably played a part in the final destruction of what had been a very advanced culture. Not only were the Fremont very skilled farmers, growing maize, beans and squash in a climate and environment that would have been challenging to say the least.
About a thousand years ago, the Fremont began building granaries that were frequently placed high on cliffs or other places difficult to access, with current theory positing that this was a defensive measure against marauding humans seeking to gain extra food in times of shortage, though whether there were other issues of inter-communal strife, such as claims for territory or resources isn’t yet known – archaeologists are hoping that the vast amount of intact sites around Range Creek will give them an unprecedented insight into Fremont culture and the reasons behind its ultimate demise, around 1300-1350 A.D. Here’s brief excerpt from a recent edition of Science…
“Range Creek is like finding a new library vault full of information,” says Kevin Jones, Utah’s state archaeologist and a member of the Range Creek research team. “Those books are going to be extraordinarily telling and valuable.”
Indeed, Metcalfe and others believe that Range Creek’s secrets may ultimately reveal information beyond the Fremont culture itself. The Fremont’s sudden collapse 700 years ago parallels that of other long-standing Southwestern cultures, including the Anasazi, the Fremont’s cliff-dwelling neighbors in the Four Corners region.
Experts consider the Southwest in the 1200s to have been extremely tumultuous but are split over which was the greater destabilizing force: a downturn in the environment that made farming untenable or a fracture in the social order. Whatever the trigger, fear and violence seem to have spread like wildfire throughout the region in the 13th century.
At Mesa Verde in Colorado, for example, the Anasazi sought shelter high in the cliffs and left abundant evidence of gruesome violence and cannibalism (Science, 8 September 2000, p. 1663)
The Fremont are also famous for their prodigious output of rock art, as enigmatic as it is pleasing on the eye, whilst they also produced sophisticated pottery and assorted clay artefacts, and it is likely that as further research is undertaken, even more will come to light.
The future for the area of Range Creek Canyon is uncertain – although this is undoubtedly a remarkable series of sites, the very fact that it is now much more open to the public means that damage and looting are sure to follow, as has been the case at numerous other sites in the Four Corners region, and it is to be hoped that sufficient funding is made available in order that the area may be given the proper care and protection it so richly deserves.
The ideal outcome for those working there at present is that Range Creek could become a unique open air museum, which would indeed make it one of the premier sites in that part of the world, but whether we, the general public, are up to the task of helping to preserve and respect the site, seems at present to be unlikely.
CAMPING: Designated campsites within the canyon are in the works, but for now it’s prohibited. For overnight forays, pitch your tent outside the North Gate.
WATER: Some hikers filter water from Range Creek, but pack in your own (one gallon per person per day). This creek is downstream from cattle country.
SEASON: Spring and fall, with highs in the 60s and chilly nights, are primo.
PERMITS: Required ($5 per person per day) and only available at Utah’s Division of Wildlife Resources website (wildlife.utah.gov/range_creek).
TO TRAILHEAD: From Salt Lake City, take 1-15 south for 47 miles. Merge onto US 6 toward Price/Manti. Drive 83 miles to UT 123, turn east and cruise another 8.5 miles until you reach an intersection. Go straight toward the brick buildings of the Horse Canyon Mine. Turn left at the Range Creek sign one mile past the mine buildings. Turn left and continue 8.9 miles on the unpaved winding road until you reach the North Gate camping area and the trailhead. Four wheel drive is recommended.

Range Creek Canyon, Utah, described as one of the most intact sites of its kind anywhere in the Western US, partly due to its remote location, as well as having been closed to the public for 75 years after its modern-day discovery.

This area was populated by the Fremont Indians from about 300 A.D. for a thousand years, until the culture apparently vanished, along with that of the neighbouring Anasazi, who occupied territories to the south-east. Although this sudden collapse has yet to be fully explained, it’s thought that drought and conflict probably played a part in the final destruction of what had been a very advanced culture. Not only were the Fremont very skilled farmers, growing maize, beans and squash in a climate and environment that would have been challenging to say the least.

About a thousand years ago, the Fremont began building granaries that were frequently placed high on cliffs or other places difficult to access, with current theory positing that this was a defensive measure against marauding humans seeking to gain extra food in times of shortage, though whether there were other issues of inter-communal strife, such as claims for territory or resources isn’t yet known – archaeologists are hoping that the vast amount of intact sites around Range Creek will give them an unprecedented insight into Fremont culture and the reasons behind its ultimate demise, around 1300-1350 A.D.

Here’s brief excerpt from a recent edition of Science…

“Range Creek is like finding a new library vault full of information,” says Kevin Jones, Utah’s state archaeologist and a member of the Range Creek research team. “Those books are going to be extraordinarily telling and valuable.”

Indeed, Metcalfe and others believe that Range Creek’s secrets may ultimately reveal information beyond the Fremont culture itself. The Fremont’s sudden collapse 700 years ago parallels that of other long-standing Southwestern cultures, including the Anasazi, the Fremont’s cliff-dwelling neighbors in the Four Corners region.

Experts consider the Southwest in the 1200s to have been extremely tumultuous but are split over which was the greater destabilizing force: a downturn in the environment that made farming untenable or a fracture in the social order. Whatever the trigger, fear and violence seem to have spread like wildfire throughout the region in the 13th century.

At Mesa Verde in Colorado, for example, the Anasazi sought shelter high in the cliffs and left abundant evidence of gruesome violence and cannibalism (Science, 8 September 2000, p. 1663)

The Fremont are also famous for their prodigious output of rock art, as enigmatic as it is pleasing on the eye, whilst they also produced sophisticated pottery and assorted clay artefacts, and it is likely that as further research is undertaken, even more will come to light.

The future for the area of Range Creek Canyon is uncertain – although this is undoubtedly a remarkable series of sites, the very fact that it is now much more open to the public means that damage and looting are sure to follow, as has been the case at numerous other sites in the Four Corners region, and it is to be hoped that sufficient funding is made available in order that the area may be given the proper care and protection it so richly deserves.

The ideal outcome for those working there at present is that Range Creek could become a unique open air museum, which would indeed make it one of the premier sites in that part of the world, but whether we, the general public, are up to the task of helping to preserve and respect the site, seems at present to be unlikely.

CAMPING: Designated campsites within the canyon are in the works, but for now it’s prohibited. For overnight forays, pitch your tent outside the North Gate.

WATER: Some hikers filter water from Range Creek, but pack in your own (one gallon per person per day). This creek is downstream from cattle country.

SEASON: Spring and fall, with highs in the 60s and chilly nights, are primo.

PERMITS: Required ($5 per person per day) and only available at Utah’s Division of Wildlife Resources website (wildlife.utah.gov/range_creek).

TO TRAILHEAD: From Salt Lake City, take 1-15 south for 47 miles. Merge onto US 6 toward Price/Manti. Drive 83 miles to UT 123, turn east and cruise another 8.5 miles until you reach an intersection. Go straight toward the brick buildings of the Horse Canyon Mine. Turn left at the Range Creek sign one mile past the mine buildings. Turn left and continue 8.9 miles on the unpaved winding road until you reach the North Gate camping area and the trailhead. Four wheel drive is recommended.

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