Tag Archives: Historic Stories

Widtsoe Today 8-20-14

There isn’t much left of Widtsoe. The Riddle Ranch is there amongst the fields and valleys, but it’s pretty much referred to as “John’s Valley” now. The county maintains the road to Escalante for the Forest Service as they require access to their operations and NOAA has weather stations they require access too. There’s a few cell towers and Over-The-Air repeaters for TV up there that require access, and of course the hunters appreciate the access. You might consider staying out of the upper plateau during hunting season unless you wear a bright orange vest or jacket.

Widtsoe, Utah Ghost Town

Remaining barn in Widtsoe

Widtsoe was named for agricultural scientist and Mormon Apostle John A. Widtsoe, who proposed that agriculture was possible in some sections Utah without irrigation. The East Fork Valley of the Sevier River was one of those places. The dry-farming colony was founded in 1910 and grew to a population of a thousand by 1920. But with the drought in the early 1930’s by 1935 only a handful of families remained. They were resettled with the assistance of a Depression-era federal program. But the Widtsoe road remained the line-line for the Escalante community until 1958.

In 1875 pioneers seeking access to Escalante from Panguitch, carved out a steep road over 9,200-foot ridge that joins the Table Cliff to the Aquarius Plateau. Each landmark along the twenty-eight mile old mountain road has a place in local lore. The route wanders from Johns Valley on the east fork of the Sevier River at Sweetwater Creek, through Lime Kiln Flat, the Pine and Ford Stuck to the summit, where the Forest Service installed a telephone box in 1912 to enable travelers to call home and report they had made it this far, or to request help if they were in trouble.

The route then drops abruptly away to the east where vistas of timber-clad mountainsides and great panoramas of the straight cliffs are in contrast to the pink and white cliffs of what is now the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument (GSENM). With Escalante 2,000 ft lower in elevation than Widtsoe the descent is longer than the climb up Sweetwater. From the summit the road drops down past Heaps Slide and Conference Flat, where a large party was snowed in on their way to Salt Lake City for the LSD General Conference in 1893. It continues on through Horseshoe Bend, the Bench, the Greens and the campground at Twin Trees, halfway down Main Canyon. If you want to really enjoy and understand the unique and remote location of Escalante, Utah take a trip up this wonderful road – in the summer.

Escalante Heritage

Escalante, Utah – in the beginning   – – – – – – – – –

By the summer of  l876, many of the residents had dugouts and survived the first winter.  A bowery of willows and tree branches served as the worship hall and the meeting place for celebrations.

Such a celebration occurred on July 4th.  A makeshift flag pole was erected but there was no flag.  Undaunted, they used an Indian rug striped red, grey and blue.


The local VFW and members of the Heritage Center recreate the event on Saturday morning of Memorial Day weekend at 8:00 AM in town center park followed by a pancake breakfast put on by the Sons of the pioneers.  The Heritage Center committee then organizes a day-long event of talks, quest speakers, and a community craft fair at the Escalante High School.  A home-grown play based on Escalante’s history is performed Saturday evening.  It’s always a hoot and full of wonderful history.

Escalante Heritage Bracelet

Hand-beaded bracelet



Escalante Heritage Bracelets of Red, Grey and Blue glass beads comemerate the incredible pioneer spirit of the first move-ins to Escalante.  You can purchase yours at here