Utah is home to a great diversity of climate, with an elevation ranging from 2,000 feet above sea level to 13,500 feet above sea level. This drastic change in elevation makes Utah the ideal habitat for many kinds of plants and animals. As you drive from Zion to Bryce Canyon National Park, you will be climbing from a 3,000 foot elevation in Zion to a 9,000 foot elevation in Bryce Canyon, and the scenery will change from sagebrush and juniper trees in bright red dirt to aspen and ponderosa with plenty of bright green grass. Even here at Rising K Ranch, the elevation changes from 6,000 feet at the ranch itself to about 9,000 at the lunch area.
Quite obviously, the temperatures in Utah also vary quite drastically along with the climate. For example, Rising K Ranch is often about 15 degrees cooler than Zion National Park itself, and gets another 10 degrees cooler by the time we get to the high meadows on the Mountain Ride
During the warmer months of May-November, you can expect most of the larger wildlife such as deer, elk, and mountain lions to be up at 8,000 feet and higher. They come back down to Rising K Ranch itself from about December-April.
At our 6,000 foot elevation, Rising K Ranch is able to stay open all year long (with the exception of the Mountain Ride in the winter.) During the hottest month, which is usually July, you can expect the high temperature to be about 90 degrees, which makes it easy to ride even in the middle of the day. Even so, it is very nice to ride horses here either earlier in the morning or towards sunset.
During the coldest month, which is usually January, the high is usually about 43 degrees with a low of 22 and there is usually about 10 inches of snow on the ground. This makes 11AM-3PM the best time of day for a ride, and even on a cold and snowy day the Cedar Trail Ride is the perfect way to spend about an hour and a half during the winter. Just bundle up warm and enjoy the sound of hoofbeats in the snow! During the winter, the half day ride is fun only if it is a sunny day and at least 50 degrees.
Whenever you come out here to Utah, especially the Zion or Bryce Canyon National Park area, I hope you will drop by for some great horseback riding that you’ll always remember!
Even to this day, the Mormons make up well over half the population in Utah. This is largely due to the decision of Brigham Young after Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormons, died in 1844. In Nauvoo, Illinois, the relationship between the Mormons and their neighbors was steadily declining, so Brigham Young made the call for the Mormons to vacate the area, and on July 24, 1847 the first band of Mormon settlers reached Salt Lake City, Utah. By 1869, over 70,000 new settlers, Mormon converts mostly, had arrived in Utah.
Using Salt Lake City in Utah as a headquarters, the Mormons soon began settlements in many other areas, such as Las Vegas Nevada, Mesa Arizona, and San Bernardino California. Still, Utah remained the center of the Mormon’s (particularly Brigham Young’s) attention. The Mormons viewed Utah as a place where they could live free from the harassment of others. The most prominent Utah cities, where they even established a “temple” were St. George, Manti, and Logan.
Brigham Young had a large idea for the Mormon Territory- originally Utah was to take up not only what is today Utah, but also what is now Nevada as well as parts of modern-day Wyoming and Colorado; and rather than Utah, the territory was to be called “Deseret”, which is a word that the Mormons believed meant “Beehive” in an ancient “Book of Mormon” language. Instead, however, the “Compromise of 1850” saw to it that the state was named “Utah” after the Ute Indian tribe, and also gave Utah the boundaries which it currently has in place, though Fillmore remained the Utah capitol city until Salt Lake took its place in 1856.
“Let’s drink to old Jim Bridger, yes lift your glasses high
As long as there’s a USA don’t let his memory die.
That he was making history never once occurred to him
But I doubt if we’d have been here if it weren’t for men like Jim.”
Jim Bridger was the most famous of the fur trapping men who wandered all over the west in the early 1800’s, and particularly made many discoveries in Utah. Jim Bridger was the first recorded English speaking man (and possibly the first whote man) to discover the Great Salt Lake. Like many mountain men of his time, Bridger was illiterate for the entirety of his life- but that didn;t stop him from learning to speak French and Spanish as well as the tribal languages of the Sioux, the Blackfoot, and the Crow. In addition to the discovery of the Great Salt Lake, Jim Bridger was also responsible for blazing the trail from Wyoming to the gold fields in Montana so as to bypass the extremely dangerous Bozeman Trail, and he also found a route through Wyoming across the Continental Divide that shortened the Oregon trail by 61 miles, became the route for the Union Pacific Railroad, and even today is used as the route for I-80.
Another Utah mountain man of the 1800’s was Etienne Provost, for whom Provo is named. Provost may well have beaten Jim Bridger to the discovery of the Great Salt Lake, though there is something of a debate on that point. At any rate, Provost was responsible for establishing trading posts both on the shores of Utah Lake as well as on the Great Salt Lake.
Peter Skene Ogden lived in Utah as a fur trapper in the 1820’s. For a time, Ogden was known as a dangerous and violent man, even charged with murder due to his cruel killing of a certain Indian who worked for a roval fur company; but then, viokence was a fairly common trait among mountain men of his time so his actions were excused in a legal sense. By 1847, however, Ogden became such a man as was able to negotiate with the Idians of the Cayuse tribe in Washington state well enough to avert a war and save the lives of 49 settlers who had been taken captive by the Cayuse and Umatilla Indians after the Whitman Massacre.
There were many other such men who explored Utah in the early days, whose mighty deeds were never recorded, or if they were it was more obscurely.
Not only was July of 1776 an extremely important month in US history, but it is also a very important month in the history of Utah, for it was in July of 1776 that two Franciscan priests, Atanasio Dominguez and Silvestrre Vilez de Escalanteset out on their famous expedition. Their purpose was to find a route from Santa Fe, New Mexico to Monterey, California. With eleven other men, they explored a great deal of America’s western country, particularly in what is now Colorado, Arizona and Utah. Because of the rough conditions they faced, the men found themselves forced to return to New Mexico without finding their desired route to California. However, the maps they created during their expedition served as a great help to those who would eventually discover the “Old Spanish Trail.”
Around the middle of the 1700’s, several tribes of Indians of the Uto-Aztecan tribes came into Utah, including the Utes, Shoshone, Paiute, and the Goshute. It was these tribes that, along with the Navajo, were living in Utah when the white settlers came.
The Goshute, whose name means “People of the Desert”, lived in the western region of Utah as well as eastern Nevada. Unlike the Anasazi, the Fremont, and even the Navajo, the Goshute Indians were known for living extremely minimally with very little village infrastructure at all. Each Goshute family was extremely self-sufficient, and they would meet with other Goshute families only a few times each year. These times of gathering together would be spent in harvesting pine nuts, hunting for just a few weeks, or spending the winter together. It was the winter gathering that lasted the longest, and they would appoint a “dagwani”, which was their village leader. Most Goshute families lived in a wiki-up, which was a small shelter built of poles and earth.
The Paiute (more specifically the “Southern Paiute”) territory is in southern Utah, southern Nevada, and northern Arizona. Right here in Cedar City, the Paiute remain, and less than a mile from Rising K Ranch itself is a Paiute hunting ground. The Paiute were known to be a peaceful tribe, and unfortunately were commonly raided (as were the Goshutes and many other tribes) by the Navajo. During these raids, the Navajo would take women and children for slave labor. It was not the Navajo, Hopi, or Ute raids, however, that almost destroyed the Paiute tribe, but it was the white settler’s rush for silver in Pioche, Nevada, as well as the general settling of Utah by the Mormon Pioneers. In spite of great decimation, the Paiute have made a remarkable resurgence in Southern Utah.
The Shoshone dwelt all over Utah, as well as in Wyoming, Southern Idaho and Nevada. The Shoshone were known for their many acts of war involving the United States Army. In 1863, after the Shoshone had been killing off white settlers, the United States Army killed about 410 Shoshone people in the Bear River Massacre in 1863. From 1864-1868, the Shoshone fought the US in the Snake War. By 1876, however, the Shoshone were fighting alongside the US against their old enemies, the Lakota and the Cheyenne. Then only two years later in 1878, the Shoshone formed an alliance with their related tribe, the Bannock, and engaged in war against the United States in the Bannock War. Probably the most notable of all Shoshone was a woman named Sacagawea, who assisted Lewis and Clark on their expedition, long before any of these wars had begun.
The Ute lived in Utah and Colorado and were quick to acquire horses in the early days from the Spaniards. Once they had horses, their entire lifestyle was built around horsemanship and war. Their status was based entirely upon how many horses they owned and the level of their horsemanship, which to a Ute was best determined in a race. It is the Utes after whom (most likely) the state of Utah is named, and the Old Spanish Trail that connects Santa Fe, New Mexico with Los Angeles, California, was originally the Ute Trail. Near Arches National Park, right alongside of ancient petroglyphs almost a thousand years old, the Utes left their own petroglyphs which portray the Ute people riding horses while hunting deer.
Around AD 1700, the Navajo Indians, still very prevalent today, came into the Utah area to stay. They were primarily near the San Juan River in southeastern Utah where they planted crops such as corn and squash and found pasture for their sheep and goats originally brought to the land by the Spaniards.
Since the Navajo were in Southern Utah, they decided to use the abundance of clay to make their dwellings, called hogans, which were made of logs and covered over with mud which would soon dry. The Navajo eventually became very adept at silversmithing, due to a Navajo named Atsidi Sani learning from a Mexican named Nakai Tsosi sometime around 1878.
from the Mexicans sometime around 1878. To this day, you will find much by way of Navajo silver and turquoise jewelry sold all over the Navajo Nation and in any place where the Navajo are prevalent. In addition to the famous silver work are the Navajo blankets and rugs, which are quite beautiful and distinct. In fact, a Navajo style design is still used very often on saddle blankets and saddle pads- I have ridden several thousand miles through the years with my saddle cinched down over top of a good Navajo blanket and I also have a larger Navajo blanket kept wrapped up in my bedroll.
Today, the Navajo maintain a general love for livestock and a decent horse to herd them. If you decide to travel from Zion National Park down to Grand Canyon National Park, you will be right in the very heart of Navajo country!
Highly influenced by the Anasazi, the Fremont Indians lived in central and northern Utah from around AD 1 to AD 1300. Being such an ancient people (like the Anasazi) the Fremont’s names are not derived from their own language or culture, but are named after the Fremont River in Southern Utah, near Capitol Reef National Park. (The Fremont River itself is named after John Charles Fremont, who led an expedition through Utah before the commencement of the Civil War.) The largest site to find the remnants of the Fremont Indians is near Richfield, Utah, and was actually discovered while constructing I-70.
The Fremont Indians were dependent upon foraging and farming corn, and were not quite so highly advanced as the Anasazi in terms of village construction and infrastructure. While the infrastructure may not have been quite as astounding as the Anasazi, they certainly had great taste in living location. Today, there are more national parks within the range of the ancient Fremont people than there are in any other place in the United States! These National Parks include Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, Capitol Reef National Park, Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park, as well as several National Monuments including Hovenweep, Monument Valley, Natural Bridges, Escalante-Grand Staircase, and quite a few state parks are also found within the range of the ancient Fremont Indians.
The Fremont are believed to have been a rather aggressive people, delighting in raiding neighbour villages and farms, which some have said is a likely explanation for the departure of the Anasazi from the Four Corners area.
Right here near Rising K Ranch is a gallery of Fremont Rock Art (which may also include some figures from the Anasazi and from the more recent Paiutes who still live here). This place is called Parowan Gap and is only about 15 miles north of Cedar City, Utah.
Long before the white man came onto the Utah scene, the Utah area was inhabited by Indians, particularly the Anasazi and the Fremont Indians. For the time being, we will take a look at the extraordinary "Anasazi" Indians.
The Anasazi lived primarily in the Four Corners area where modern-day Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona meet. For those who want to see the ruins from the days of the Anasazi, the most famous places to visit are:
"Navajo National Monument" near Kayente, Arizona right on the Utah/Arizona border,
"Cliff Palace" in Mesa Verde National Park,
"White House Ruins" in Canyon de Chelly National Monument,
"Horseshoe Tower" in Hovenweep National Monument near Blanding, Utah
"Chaco Culture National Historical Park" between Farmington and Albuquerque, New Mexico,
"Canyons of the Ancients National Monument" on the Colorad/Utah border near Cortez, Colorado
"Aztec Ruins National Monument" near Farmington, New Mexico
"Bandalier National Monument" near Los Alamos, New Mexico.
The Anasazi were a particularly skillful kind of Indian. They loved to make use of natural rock overhangs as a place to build, because it offered such a great deal of shelter from the harsh weather as well as defense from enemies. The villages they would build could only be reached by climbing ropes, ladders or rocks. These villages, or "pueblos" are truly an amazing sight and well worth the visit for anyone interested in the Indian history of Utah. Being such an highly skilled people, the Anasazi were also very adept concerning pottery, richly adorning the vessels they would use for formal purposes.
There are areas where you can still see the petroglyphs and pictographs made by the Anasazi over a thousand years ago! One of these areas is right here in Utah, and is called the "Great Gallery". It is in Horseshoe Canyon, west of Green River. If you want to see the Great Gallery, you will have to drive on about 30 miles of dirt road (47 if you come from Green River), descend 750 feet to the bottom of the canyon and hike about 3 miles. Quite obviously, the Great Gallery is not as crowded as Zion National Park!