This is the first Streamin-In-Shiny Gem since November of 2019. We’re rather persnickety about what we call a Gem!
If remoteness, wildlife, tall canyons, petroglyphs, pictographs, ghost towns, and archaeological sites are to your liking then you will just love Nine Mile Canyon and our latest Gem Nine Mile Ranch, a working cattle ranch.
To get there, turn onto Soldiers Creek Road off of Highway 191 in Wellington, Utah. The ranch is at mile marker 24. And behold, the whole road, over 40 miles, is paved.
The combination of the hot spell coming to an end and the ranch being at an altitude of 6700 feet made us confident we would be ok without electricity. We reserved a site for 6 days. We tried for 7 but a family reunion had booked the whole campground on that 7th day.
The campground is divided into sections, all are dry camping (no electricity, water, or sewer). One section for RV’s like Shiny, one for smaller campers and tents, and then 3 sites for large rigs like buses. There is also some rustic cabins, all built by hand and heated with wood stoves.
We spent 6 nights, all to ourselves, on this little speck of Utah. A few campers came and went in the other sections of the campground. The bathrooms are cleaned daily. There are water spigots throughout the campground, a dump station, and showers for an extra charge of $3.00. There is no cell service but the campground does offer WIFI at the office. The campground hosts were very friendly and even helped us locate a few lesser known petroglyph panels.
Here is a little slide show of the Ranch.
Nine Mile Ranch has a page on Facebook which includes more pictures of the campground and Nine Mile Canyon.
There were some peculiar little rodents in abundance called Townsend Squirrels. The locals had a different name for them which we do not recall. We saw many birds. One, the Red Shafted Flicker, was a first for us. And then, down in the canyon, we saw the big horn sheep, which was pretty exciting I gotta say.
Are you wondering yet why a canyon over 40 miles long is named 9 Mile Canyon? Here is an explanation I gleaned from the Climb Utah web site:
“John Wesley Powell led a government expedition through Utah in 1869. He had a topographer with him by the name of F. M. Bishop. Bishop did a nine-mile triangulation drawing, which he named Nine Mile Creek. The canyon was subsequently called Nine Mile Canyon even though the canyon is actually 40-miles long. Maps presented to Congress by the Powell expedition clearly have Nine Mile Creek and Bishop Ridge labeled.”
Did I mention petroglyphs? Nine Mile Canyon is known as the worlds longest art gallery. The rock art in this area was left by indigenous people from 700 or more years ago. As I viewed panel after panel of these images from the past I imagined them chipping their messages in the rock. I wondered what are they trying to say? I also wondered how in the world did they reach some of the panels high on the canyon walls.
Online you can find helpful resources that guide you to some of the best panels. GJHikes.com was one. Climb Utah was another good guide. We spent 6 days here in the canyon ‘petroglyphing’ and still were only able to visit a few of the over 1000 cataloged petroglyph sites. Some are inaccessible as they are on private land.
Shortly after Nine Mile Ranch is a site called the First Panel. After that the rock art is pretty much continuous. We found art that we missed almost every time we traveled up and down the canyon. Here is another slide show of a few of the hundreds of images that Susan captured in the canyon. I added a couple slides that you will have to search to see the rock art but I wanted to give you an idea of how hard it is to spot them sometimes.
We climbed up a hill to see the remains of a Fremont village pit house. A pit house is a shallow pit, lined with stone and covered with a wood and mud superstructure. The ledges in the background are where we later came across the big horn sheep.
OK, this tale I’m about to tell is true as all get out. We call it the Shotgun Man story. There are no pictures as Sue and I were both too stunned to take any! So we are driving up a side canyon called Dry Canyon looking for petroglyphs we were told were there (they are). We followed a very narrow seldom traveled dirt road following a dry wash. We passed a sign that warned “Extremely High Flash Flood Area”, and hearing distant thunder we were a little on edge as we entered the wash.
Much to our surprise, we met an old pickup coming in the opposite direction. I couldn’t believe it, out in the middle of nowhere and we meet another vehicle. To get off the road enough to let him pass I put Blue in four wheel drive and drove up off to the side and against a rock. He pulls up beside me, stops, rolls down his window and asked us how we were doing. I told him we were looking for petroglyphs. He told us he had just passed some and then proceeded to pull a double barrel 12 gauge shotgun from the seat beside him. With nowhere to go, I thought we were dead right then and there. But he opened it up, removed the two shells, then closed it. He then handed me the shotgun through the window. I kid you not!
While I was checking out the gun I mentioned to him that I once owned a 16 gage double barrel and I had shot a black bear with it. After telling him that we were instantly best friends. I handed the shotgun back to him, which was not really sawed off but had a short 28 inch barrel. He proceeded to reload the weapon and in the process of putting it down on the floor the two barrels were pointed right at Susan and me. The feller continued on his way. He was nice enough, and meant us no harm. However, I’ll end this story by saying that there is nothing, and I mean nothing, as intimidating as looking down the barrel of a loaded double barrel 12 gage shotgun. I think Sue will agree.
We passed by the old ghost town Harper every time we drove into and back from the canyon. Harper was once a thriving stage coach stop in the canyon. The town of Harper consisted of a saloon, hotel, store, post office, and school.
I’ve always loved dinosaurs so one of the things I wanted to see was the Prehistoric Museum in Price, Utah. So one day we took a day off from petroglyphing and drove to Price. About 65 miles round trip. What a fascinating place.
The museum has extensive exhibits on paleontology, archaeology, and geology. We perused a number of full body dinosaurs including the Utahraptor, the Allosaurus, and Peloroplites. The museum has a few skeletons of Ice Age mammals. In the archelogy section we found artifacts left by the Fremont peoples. Figurines, basketry, pottery, stone tools, and my personal favorite, hand chipped stone arrowheads.
One of my dreams is to find an old arrowhead somewhere in our travels. Incidentally, the most extensive collection of arrowheads I have seen, so far in my travels, is in the Deming New Mexico Luna Mimbres Museum.
The Prehistoric Museum in Price, Utah is a pretty cool place to visit, put it on your todo list.
Ok back to Nine Mile Canyon. Here are a few pictures of the canyon itself.
The canyon was used by the ancient people but in more recent times was also traveled by the military, freighters, ranchers and outlaws including Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Here is another bit of interesting info I gathered from the Climb Utah web site.
Outlaw Point is the sharp bend in the road where a group of outlaws intended to ambush the soldiers escorting the army payroll and Indian annuities. The plan was to kill all 20 soldiers in the escort and leave no living witness. While some members of the “Wild Bunch” allegedly participated in the scheme, Butch Cassidy, Sundance Kid and Elza Lay did not. They knew the army would hunt them relentlessly for such a bloodbath. The army was told of the plan by an informant and the guard was double to 40 soldiers. The Outlaws hiding on the ledges hastily called off the ambush as the heavy escort rode through. There is speculation that Butch Cassidy was the informant when he realized that he would be blamed for the crime, whether he participated or not.
Before I end I have one last tale to tell. It’s peculiar, intriguing, and macabre. While walking around the ranch one morning I noticed a cemetery up on a hill behind the ranch.
So the story goes something like this. A feller’s last wish was to be buried on Nine Mile Ranch. Instead, his family buried him in town. Some of the mans friends got to carrying on one night and decided this just was not right. So they dug up their friend’s body, brought him up to Nine Mile Ranch and reinterred him on the hill behind the ranch.
As you can imagine this did not set too well with the law. The body snatchers came before the judge who, in the end, told them that if they put a fence around the grave site and installed a flag pole that he would allow the poor feller to remain on the ranch forever. However, they were still grave robbers and the judge fined them heavily.
True story or a tall tale? To find out all you have to do is visit Nine Mile Ranch and ask Ben, Myrna, or Carla Mead!