Journey Through Time

Your trip through the monument is not just an exploration of the here and now, but also a journey though time. Intricate canyons, jagged mountains, frozen lava flows, and lonely buttes offer a clear glimpse of the region's geologic history.

Exposed and relatively undisturbed, Paleozoic (600 to 245 millions years ago) and Mesozoic (245 to 65 million years ago) sedimentary rock layers are rich in fossils and offer insights as to what this land looked like millions of years ago.

Starting at the edge of the Grand Canyon, a large plateau called the Shivwits reaches into the distance - a place 19th-century cowboys called the "high, wide, and lonesome" country; and far on the western horizon, rising like two great stair steps from the austere Mojave Desert, are the Grand Wash Cliffs. These cliffs mark a unique geologic crossroad where the Basin and Range region of the western United States intersects with the Colorado Plateau.

A rich human history is also a vital dimension of the region’s character. Evidence shows humans have occupied this area for 12,000 years. The first residents were big-game hunters followed by hunter/gatherers.

Around 3,000 years ago the introduction of corn, and later squash and beans from Mexico, allowed these hunters and gatherers to settle into villages. Each faction have left clues such as pecked and painted rock images, habitation sites, and tools that help us recognize them as distinct groups, and give us insight into their lives.

The Southern Paiute were occupying the region when the first Europeans arrived starting with the Dominguez and (Velez de) Escalante expedition in 1776. Later, explorers, Mormon settlers, miners, lumbermen, and ranchers struggled to survive and build homes for their families on the arid land. Descendents of these rugged pioneers still live and ranch within the monument.

As you travel in the remote Arizona Strip country, you have an opportunity to discover and learn about the ancient cultures that have lived or passed through this region for the past 10,000 years.


These early residents have left clues about their lifestyle at an area we call Nampaweap, one of the largest known petroglyph sites on the Arizona Strip. Walk the ½-mile canyon trail to see hundreds of images pecked into the surface of large basalt boulders.

Think about what these figures meant to the people who created them and how they might fit into your life today. As you travel comfortably in your car, think about the settlers who bounce over these same roads in their buckboards. How many days do you think it would take you to go to the store? Settlers worked hard to make a living for their families in this arid land. Watch and you will see remnants of homes, outbuildings, and even a schoolhouse.

 

Nampaweap Petroglyph Site

These images were made by pecking flakes from the surface of the rock to expose the lighter colored rock underneath. An early method of pecking used a hand stone to strike the rock, resulting in a rudimentary figure. Later, a more controlled execution used two stones that worked like a hammer and chisel. This method gave them the ability to peck images that are more detailed.

Archaeologists have classified rock elements into categories. Some of the elements you will see at Nampaweap are anthropomorphs (human-like figures), zoomorphs (animal-like figures), and abstract designs. Anthropomorphs typically have arms and legs, even fingers and toes. Bighorn sheep, snakes, and lizards are common zoomorph figures. Abstract elements include circles, spirals, and various combinations of lines.

We do not know their meaning. Researchers are working with native peoples to gain incite to their implication, but some meanings perhaps, were not meant to be known or understood but the uninitiated. Some images were possibly made for religious purposes, to mark a trail, commemorate an event, track the seasons, tell a story, or represent a clan or family. We may never know what the maker intended; petroglyphs may have significance that could only be explained by the original artist.

Visiting a petroglyph site

A variety of factors contribute to the erosion of petroglyphs including wind, rain, extreme temperatures, plant growth, and rock type. The most devastating factor however, is human impact. As you look at the petroglyphs you will see what vandals have done – bullet holes, graffiti, and removal or attempted removal of pertoglyph panels. Even the oil from your hand and the wear caused by stepping on them cause irreparable harm to these fragile pieces of art. Once damaged, they can never be replaced. We ask for your assistance in preserving this rich cultural heritage.

 

Mt. Trumbull Sawmill

During the early decades of settlement on the Strip, local stands of ponderosa pine were used on a limited basis to provided building materials for cabins, homesteads, and church-financed building projects. It was not until the 1870s that large scale and economically significant lumbering began.

In 1871, Brigham Young instructed Robert Gardner, an early settler in the St. George, Utah area, to establish a sawmill on Mt. Trumbull for the purpose of supplying lumber for the Latter Day Saints (Mormon) temple that would be built in St. George. By 1872, two church-owned sawmills began processing timber. Lumber was hauled to the building site over a rough wagon road later named the Temple Trail. These sawmill operations used large steam boilers and flues to generate power. Sluices transported water from a spring on the slope of Mt. Trumbull to the mill site.

James W. Nixon took over operations in 1876. As demand and productivity increased, additional facilities were built to accommodate sawmill and support crews. During peak production there was a large boarding house and four bunkhouses.

Early mills were steam-powered and labor-intensive, with crews consisting of six to eight men. In the spring, a crew would spend several weeks logging and stockpiling enough logs to last the mill a few weeks; then sawing would commence. There were no specialists at theses saw mills; the same crew alternated between logging and sawing.

Steam-powered engines required that the mills be set up close to major springs or reservoirs. As timber resources diminished in one area, the mills were dismantled and moved to a more productive location. Everything of use was taken; the mill and even the buildings were dismantled. The moves were so complete that only rock or concrete foundations and sparse trash are found at these former operation sites.

Timber continued on a modest scale throughout the early 1900s and was economically significant only on a local level. Mills were located in the same general areas that had been the focus of earlier timbering. Around 1911 Dixie National Forest conducted a survey of the Mount Trumbull timber resources and actively promoted the lumbering industry. In 1913, two mills with a daily capacity of 4,000 board feet were established. Local residents continued lumbering on a limited basis until 1940. Today the Mount Trumbull ponderosa pine forest area is being studied to determine how to restore it to pre-settlement condition.

Mt. Trumbull ecosystem rehabitation

The "Restoration of Ecosystem Health in Southwest Forests" project was initiated in 1995 to develop the scientific basis for ecological restoration of southwestern ponderosa pine forests.

Fire exclusion, grazing and logging over the past 120+ years have caused contemporary southwestern forests to become dense with small trees and heavy fuels, at the expense of the diverse native plant community. Instead of the low intensity surface fires that burned frequently prior to Euro-American settlement, current fuel loads now support stand-replacing crown fires. These unnatural conditions are not sustainable, as evidenced by the increasing size and severity of forest fires.

Extensive research suggests that active restoration is needed to regain natural ecological structure, composition, and function. Jointly sponsored by the Bureau of Land Management (Arizona Strip District), Ecological Restoration Institute (Northern Arizona University) and the Arizona Game and Fish Department, the project sampled forests across the Southwest and relict stands in northern Mexico to establish a range of variability in forest types and past disturbance history. Contemporary disturbance by severe wildfires was also examined.

The central focus of the project has been to establish experimental studies of ecological restoration treatments on BLM lands at Mt. Trumbull, Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument, Arizona. These studies have been and will continue to be used to examine ecosystem responses, including plants, arthropods, birds and mammals, to ponderosa pine restoration treatments. By 2000, restoration experiments include a replicated experimental block design of treated and control forests nested within an ecosystem-level landscape restoration at Mt. Trumbull, Arizona. Monitoring protocols are documented and standardized for comparison with other sites across the Southwest and elsewhere.

A series of complementary studies at Mt. Trumbull and other sites addressed non-experimental questions, especially through retrospective dendroecological techniques. Researchers continue to monitor forest and fuel conditions, as well as the response of arthropod, small mammal, and avian populations to restoration treatments. Data from both experimental and retrospective studies have been used to improve restoration treatments and techniques through the adaptive management process. Collaborative planning efforts for restoration of designated Wilderness are also underway. Five years marks only the beginning of the restoration process at Mt. Trumbull; the research is designed for long-term study with permanent monitoring systems and designated control areas.

 

Mt. Trumbull Schoolhouse

Sixty miles southeast of St. George, Utah, on the rough dirt road that takes you to Grand Canyon Parashant National Monument, stands a reminder of the remote community of Mount Trumbull, Arizona. The only remaining intact structure is the schoolhouse. This is more than a schoolhouse however, it is a testament to the lives and memories of the remote Arizona Strip’s settlement history.

The Abraham Bundy family began settling this isolated area around 1916 by applying for 640 acres to dry land farm and raise livestock. Residents named their little community Mount Trumbull, after the nearby mountain. The schoolhouse, built in1918, served not only as a school, but also as a church, dance hall, and town meeting site. Reading, writing, and arithmetic were spoken by day, while lively music and the enthusiastic voices of dancers could be heard by night.

Residents grew corn, beans, wheat, squash, and other crops. These crops fed their families, and were marketed in St. George, UT, 60 miles away by horse or buckboard. It was not until the 1920’s that a vehicle could make its bumpy way to the community. By the 1930s, approximately 250 people lived in the Mount Trumbull area.

Life was difficult in this remote area. Not only was there little water for farming and gardening, but the Taylor Grazing Act of 1934 changed the face of ranching on the Arizona Strip; the objectives were to stop injury to the public grazing lands, to provide orderly use and development, and to stabilize the livestock industry that was dependent upon the public range. The complex system of permits and regulations however, ultimately eliminated all grazing by transient sheepherders. It also precluded use of the range by many newly established homesteaders. Implementation of this Act was a major cause of the abandonment of homesteads on the Arizona Strip during the late 1930’s.

For 44 years, the schoolhouse served the community. As the population around the schoolhouse dwindled, it fell into disrepair. In 1966, its doors closed.

Thanks to private donations and a group of individuals interested in preserving the building, restoration efforts began in 1990. With the help of many volunteers and the Arizona Strip Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the schoolhouse was restored to near original condition. Period photos of the local families and student activities hung on the interior walls. After four years of hard work, the schoolhouse once again opened its doors to the public.

In July 2000, arsonists burned historic Mount Trumbull schoolhouse. Three men were responsible for this vandalism. Some artifacts were recovered, although the original schoolhouse became a pile of rubble.

A six person restoration committee, including BLM and local citizens made the decision to build a schoolhouse replica. Mount Trumbull Schoolhouse was re-dedicated on October 13, 2001 and continues to be a symbol of the pioneer spirit of the Arizona Strip. The schoolhouse doors are never locked, so walk inside to enjoy the photographs and artifacts that capture the life and times of the people whose lives revolved around this structure.

 

Tassi Ranch

Tucked in the rocky hills next to a - most often - dry wash stands a rustic stone house and other ramshackle structures canopied by giant cottonwood trees. After enduring the endless drive on a rough dirt road through the desert to reach this destination, your first thought might be – who would live out here? Actually, many people, in fact this site has been used or occupied by humans for 11 thousand years. Tassi springs is not just “a place”, it is an oasis – the location of one of the few abundant water sources in this arid region. Purposefully clustered around the life-giving spring are the remaining buildings and landscape features of a rural scene that conveys a vivid image of life on a cattle ranch on the remote Arizona Strip during the 1930s and 40s.

Early Use

Before Euro-Americans traveled through this area, the Paleo-Indian, Archaic, and ceramic period cultures used Tassi Springs. With the Escalante-Dominguez expedition in 1776, Spanish explorers crossed the area to establish a land route between Santa Fe, NM and Alta, CA. James Ohio Pattie may have been the first Euro-American to use Tassi Springs when he crossed the Grand Wash Cliffs as early as 1827. Later, Jedediah Smith, Antonio Armijo, and John C Fremont explored portions of this region. In the 1870s explorations by John Wesley Powell and Clarence Dutton provided stirring written descriptions of the region’s natural features.

Mid 1800s

While an array of ranchers, sheep men, cowboys, and outlaws, began to arrive in the region in the 1850s, the majority of the settlers were members of the Mormon Church. They came to claim the choicest land and resources. In the mid 1860s a number of large ranches, a dairy, and sawmill were established. With continued development of the land, conflict with native peoples was inevitable. Disputes between settlers and the Navajo, Paiute, and Ute culminated in the Black Hawk Navajo Wars of 1866-1869. By 1870, Mormon paramilitary action, the “Treaty of Mount Trumbull” and the establishment of several Paiute reservations quelled native resistance.

1861-1928

Under the guidance of a Mormon Church leader, Hamblin and Pearce established a road through Tassi Springs to Pearch Ferry in 1876. Bentley and Cunningham further explored this area in 1877 when they left St.George on March 4 with an exploration/emigrant party and arrived at Tassi Springs March 16. Written records state that there was good water on site and that a “coop” beef was killed and divided among the families. This statement suggests that the party belonged to the United Order, a Mormon Church cooperative economic enterprise. Other groups passing through the area included two wagon trains, one in 1879, and one in 1880 led by Bishop Tuttle and John Tate.

Tassi Springs was a valuable water source to many expeditions through the area, including several Mormon Church parties and wagon trains. In 1902, Congress passed the Reclamation Act, which withdrew from public sale, lands in the region of the planned Boulder Canyon project – Boulder Dam. These lands included the Tassi Springs area. Despite the withdrawal of these lands, O.B. and H.M. Nay claimed the water rights, the first in a string of false claims that would continue until 1998. Starting in 1925, Sid and Tyne Hecklethorne operated a still here during the Prohibition years. Sour mash whiskey was distilled, then shipped to Las Vegas for distribution.

1936 - 1947

Ed Yates had a goal to turn 200 acres of Mohave Desert creosote bush into a cattle ranch. He improved the springs, planted crops and shade trees, constructed the ranch house you see today, barns, a reservoir, corrals, and a field irrigation system. Local rock was used to construct his home, unique among the many log ranch houses built in the area. The small, two-room barn is also unusual because it was constructed in the manner of a log cabin, but with railroad ties. Even though the site is no longer used to support a livestock business, the scene evokes a bygone era of independent cattle ranches in this remote, rugged country of Arizona.

A brief history of ranching in Parashant

Livestock grazing has been part of the Arizona Strip since the 1850s. The early cattle operations, such as that of James Whitmore at Pipe Springs, ended in disaster as raiding Navajo and Paiute fought to regain their land and water. Federal persecution and negotiations ended the Indian uprising in the late 1860s and early 1870s however, and settlers began drifting back to their abandoned settlements. Peace also opened up opportunity for other small grazing operations to become established. Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument’s grazing history began during this period when the Whitmore family from Saint George, UT settled in an area near Oak Spring on the flanks of Mt. Logan.

In 1879, the Canaan Company established a dairy ranch at Oak Grove. Albert Foremaster took charge of the dairy operation. Albert’s daughter Florence reminiscencing about her father’s life in the early 1870s remembered this comment about the area: “Daddy said that when they first moved to Parashant it was like a meadow everywhere, but overgrazing has changed all that.”

Overgrazing of that period can be attributed to several causes: the expanding herds of feral horses and cattle; settlers expanding claims and increasing herd size to better themselves; and the range and water sources were considered open to every one. All encouraged over-use of the range.

In 1883, declining profits prompted the Canaan Company to sell the Oak Grove ranch to Benjamin F. Saunders, a wealthy non-Mormon cattleman. Initially, he concentrated his investments in the Shivwits region (now part of Parashant NM) but expanded his holdings eastward. Saunders goal was to control the valuable Strip rangelands by establishing exclusive claims on its limited water resources. Saunders’ entry marked the beginning of this region’s cowboy era. From this time forward, the range and water became increasingly concentrated in the hands of cattle barons.

Saunders sold his Parashant claims to Preston Nutter a wealthy Utah cattleman. Nutter recognized the value of the Strip as winter/spring breeding grounds and saw the possibilities of controlling this area through its water sources. By 1900, Preston Nutter had acquired control of almost all of the Arizona Strip and by 1901 had an estimated 25,000 cattle. Nutter maintained his dominance over the Strip’s western range until his death in 1936.

Before federal regulation limited the number of livestock permitted on the public lands of the Arizona Strip, ranchers ran in excess of 100,000 head of cattle and in the 1920s and 1930s; sheepmen grazed more than a quarter-million head of sheep. As was the case in much of the west, there was conflict between the cattle and sheep men as both pursued the limited forage and water holes. Fighting might have continued forever if not for the Taylor Grazing Act, passed in 1934. Over the next few years, the act brought order and federal administrative authority to public grazing lands. The Taylor Grazing Act was intended to stop injury to the public lands by preventing overgrazing; to provide for their orderly use, improvement, and development; and to stabilize the livestock industry dependent upon the public range.

Today, operating under regulations resulting from several federal acts passed in the 1960s and 1970s, there are 117 cattle permit holders on the Arizona Strip’s public lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management and National Park Service. Where there were once more than 100,000 head of cattle before 1934, permits are now issued for 15,000 cows and no sheep. Ranchers have faced many challenges including weather and range conditions, but few have been more daunting than the drought that started in 1999. Six years of drought brought the number of cattle grazing on the Arizona Strip to 2,000. The drought was just another chapter in the history of the ranchers’ life in this remote area. From the earliest times, those who chose to live on the Arizona Strip knew they would face great hardships – it is the same even today.

Grazing remains an important component of the multiple-use management in Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument. For many of the new generation however, ranching is a sideline, a labor of love performed on weekends and days off while the regular paycheck is earned in town. Few full time residents live in this remote area today.

 

Grand Gulch Mine

The first mineral ventures on the Arizona Strip occurred in 1872, when two of John Wesley Powell’s packers discovered a little “color” in the sand at the mouth of Kanab Creek. Word of the gold discovery soon reached the outside via the newly installed telegraph at Pipe Springs. By early March, miners began pouring into the region. The gold, however, was too fine to be profitable, and the rush abated after a few months. This influx of outsiders breached the isolation of the Mormon communities and stimulated the local economy.

Although gold was never an important commodity on the Arizona Strip, copper proved to be more abundant and was periodically profitable. In the early 1870s, the Bentley Mining District was formed. Of the several mines developed, the most important was the Grand Gulch.

A group of men from St. George, Utah established an official claim on the mine on June 23, 1873. Profitable exploration of the ore, said to be “the richest ever produced by a copper mine in the Territory,” was hampered by isolation and the long haul to a railhead. Mules initially packed in tools and supplies until the early 1870s when a wagon road opened to St. George.

Because it was difficult to haul the large amounts of unprocessed ore over long distances, an adobe smelter was built at the mine around 1878. Apparently, the smelting operation was only partially successful since the slag heaps were later shipped out for further processing.

In the early 1900s, buildings on site included a bunkhouse, and a three-room house – one room for the office, one for dining, and one for women’s quarters. During this period, 75 to 80 people were living at the site.

In 1906, a 54-mile long wagon road was constructed, connecting the mine to St. Thomas, Nevada (now under water at Lake Mead). It took freight teams a week to make the round trip. Between eight to twelve tons were hauled each trip at a value of $10.00 a ton. Teams included six to ten horses, with drivers usually traveling in pairs. Most of the freighters were local farmers from the lower Virgin River country.

Freighting continued until the end of World War I. During this period, there was only one attempt to haul ore by truck. In the summer of 1913, a truck operated between the mine and the Virgin River, but the experiment was discontinued due to poor roads and the cost of maintaining tires. The drop in copper prices following World War I caused the mine to shut down for two decades; it was reopened for a brief time during and following World War II. Trucks were used during this period.

The main buildings burned in 1955, and by 1958 the mine was abandoned, although it was reworked in the early 1960s, and again during the uranium boom in the 1970s. Today there are some relatively complete buildings and structures still standing, including the bunkhouse and adobe smelter. Some structures and equipment are on private land.

In September of 2003, the National Park Service and Bureau of Land Management jointly funded and prepared a Historic Preservation Report for the area. This report describes the structures, their construction and condition, and makes general recommendations for their preservation. Future plans for the area include stabilization of structures and development of interpretive waysides.

 

Links

Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument Index

Introduction

Virtual Visitor Center

The Colorado Plateau

Journey Through Time

Ecology of the Monument

Teacher Resource Center

 

Help and Information Center

Return to Views Visitor Center