Escalante Road in Garfield County
Area: 5,l58 square miles; population: 3,980 (in 1990); county
seat: Panguitch; origin of county name: after President James
A. Garfield; principal cities/towns: Panguitch (1,444), Escalante
(818); economy: cattle, lumber, tourism; points of interest:
Bryce Canyon National Park, Lake Powell, Anasazi State Park, Panguitch Lake,
Escalante DUP Building, Escalante Petrified Forest, Boulder Mountain, Burr
The Colorado River and Lake Powell mark the eastern border of remote, sparsely
populated Garfield County. Other geographical features include the Henry
Mountains in the northeast and the forested, high plateaus in the western
half of the county. The two areas have eleven peaks over 10,000 feet. The
Sevier River system runs north through western Garfield County, and the
Escalante River empties into the Colorado.
Traces of three major prehistoric Indian cultures--the Sevier, Fremont,
and Anasazi--have been found in the county. In historic times Southern Paiute
and Ute Indians used the land.
The first white settlers, under the leadership of Jens Nielsen, made the
difficult trip from Beaver and Parowan through the mountains to the Panguitch
area in March 1864. The village of Panguitch, abandoned during the Black
Hawk War (1865-67), was not resettled until 1871.
In 1875, four years after the resettlement of Panguitch, settlers moved
eastward to found Escalante. Smaller settlements were made in Aaron, later
known as Hatch, in 1872; Cannonville in 1876; Henrieville in 1878; Antimony
in 1878; Boulder in 1889; Tropic in 1892; and Winder, later named Widstoe,
The territorial legislature created the county in 1882, and at the suggestion
of Governor Eli H. Murray named it after assassinated President James A.
Garfield. Boulder, settled in 1889, was considered to be the most isolated
town in Utah until the mid-1930s when Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC)
workers constructed a road from Boulder to Escalante. Mail was carried to
Boulder on horseback until about 1935. The CCC also reseeded ranges and
built telephone lines, ranger stations, and trails.
Vast rangelands and some of the state's largest forest reserves have made
cattle ranching and lumber Garfield County's most important industries since
pioneer times. The forests also provide many recreational sites, and Panguitch
Lake is one of the state's prime fishing waters. The creation of Bryce Canyon
National Park in 1928 increased the importance of tourism to the local economy.
The large sections of Capitol Reef National Park and Glen Canyon National
Recreation Area that lie within the county remained largely inaccessible
in the late 1980s. The proposed but controversial paving of the Burr Trail
through the Waterpocket Fold area of Capitol Reef would, however, expand
travel in eastern Garfield County. The seasonal nature of lumbering and
tourism often gives the county a higher than average rate of unemployment.
The Upper Valley oil field in central Garfield County is a sizable oil-producing
area. The county also has large coal fields as well as tar sands and uranium,
but these energy-related resources have not been developed. Mining for other
minerals has been very limited.
Politically, since statehood in 1896, Garfield has been second only to Kane
County in its loyalty to Republican candidates.
The county has several outstanding natural landmarks, including Bryce Canyon
National Park, the Escalante Mountains, Boulder Mountain, the Henry Mountains,
and Escalante Canyon; in addition, there is the Colorado River and Lake
Powell, which form the eastern boundary of the county. Notable historic
sites include the commercial buildings, courthouse, bishop's storehouse,
and Andrew Carnegie library in Panguitch; nineteenth-century brick residences
in Panguitch and Escalante; the New Deal-era Bryce Canyon airport; lodge
and cabins at Bryce Canyon; and the Anasazi State Park in Boulder. High
schools are located in Panguitch, Tropic, and Escalante.
Miriam B. Murphy