History of the Escalante Area

Although little is known about the early history of this area, most investigators assume that a sequence of human occupancy began prior to AD 1 and included Desert Archaic and Basketmaker cultures. For several hundred years, centered around 1100, both Kayenta and Fremont agricultural peoples occupied the area. The abandonment of a large Kayenta Anasazi village at Boulder in approximately 1275 ended the most significant period of prehistory. Hopi peoples apparently visited and hunted in the region for 200 to 300 years. In the 1500's, Southern Paiutes began to visit the area and then occupied the region to historic times.

Archaeological sites include habitation areas, campsites, storage cysts, petroglyphs, and pictographs. Little scientific research has been conducted since the University of Utah conducted the Glen Canyon Right Bank Survey in 1959. Much of this early work was exploratory, and the conclusions reached are still somewhat tentative and subject to review. The area is significant to the understanding of cultural relationships between variant groups of the Anasazi and between the Fremont culture and Anasazi. All archaeological sites on public lands are protected by Federal law. Please don't harm or destroy a site with graffiti, by sitting on walls, using ruins for shelter, etc. Protect your cultural resources. Take nothing but pictures.

The Anasazi Indian Village State Historical Site, located in Boulder and operated by the State of Utah, provides visitors a unique opportunity to view artifacts and increase their understanding and knowledge of Anasazi culture.

Jacob Hamblin Home, Santa Clara The Escalante River is generally considered to be the last major river discovered in the contiguous United States. In 1866, Captain James Andrus led a group of calvarymen into the headwater branches of the Escalante River near the present community of Escalante. Members of the first and the second Powell expeditions overlooked the mouth of the Escalante River when they passed through Glen Canyon in 1869. In 1871, the Second Powell Expedition enlisted Jacob Hamblin of Kanab, Utah to resupply the expedition at the mouth of the Dirty Devil River. Hamblin mistook the Escalante River for the Dirty Devil River. Thus, in 1871, Hamblin became the first Anglo to travel through the Escalante River Canyon. In 1872, John Wesley Powell sent the Almon Harris Thompson-Frederick S. Dellenbaugh party to the mouth of the Dirty Devil River to recover a cached boat. Upon climbing the escarpment above Pine Creek and the present community of Escalante, the Thompson-Dellenbaugh party realized that the canyon was not the canyon of the Dirty Devil River. Thompson then credited the party with the formal discovery of the river. Thompson named the Escalante River and the surrounding canyon country the Escalante Basin in honor of the Friar Silvestre Valez de Escalante expedition of 1776.

Since historic times, the Escalante River canyons have been a barrier to east-west vehicular travel in the region. The river is presently bridged only at its upper end. Much of the history and the present recreation access is associated with early attempts to pioneer routes around or across the river and the canyons. These include the Hole-in-the-Rock Trail, the Harris Wash-Silver Falls Canyon Wagon Route, the Boynton Road, the Boulder Mail Trail or Death Hollow Trail, and the Old Boulder Road.

The Escalante River was not bridged until 1935. Boulder is often cited as one of the last communities in the United States to gain automobile access.

The history of these roads and trails enables visitors to envision and appreciate the hardships of early pioneer life.

Back to top Print this page E-mail this page