Historic Sites


This is the real west: unromaticized and unsanitized; unpolished, not filtered through the expectations of city dwellers; unrefined, not screened through the sieve of expectation. This is where cowboys (and girls) still ride the range, where Indians are a major portion of the population, and where the County Fair is still focused on 4H activities.

You will not find the Marlboro man here, or John Wayne for that matter; but you will find cohesive communities of ranchers and farmers struggling with modern problems as they produce food for the rest of us. 'Heritage' has become a buzz word in the travel industry, and in some areas folks are giving the visitor an idealized vision of their past. But here we are proud of our western heritage: the hardscrabble tradition of pioneers, depression era wheat farmers, and cattle ranchers. Our heritage is a veil through which we view the twenty-first century.

For more information about the history of San Juan County, visit Blue Mountain Shadows.

San Juan County folks are independent, self-sufficient, conservative sons and daughters of hardy people who endured through good times and bad, who worked hard for a living, and--until recently, because of the geographic isolation of southeast Utah--people who had little contact with the rest of the country. Homesteading was possible here until the early 1930s, and many farmers arrived during the Great Depression. Many of those families still farm the original homestead, raising primarily wheat. Farming and ranching still play a major role in our economy. We may not be polished, but we are a sincere and a good people.

Glimpse our cowboy/ranching heritage in the mountain community of La Sal. Spanish vaqueros, or cowboys, from Santa Fe, New Mexico roamed this area long before permanent settlements were established. La Sal was one of the last 'company towns' in Utah, operated by Redd Ranches. Today, the La Sal Mountain Guest Ranch provides facilities for overnight guests, family reunions, classes, and meetings. Mt. Peale Country Inn, while not a historic facility, offers old time western hospitality whether you are cross country skiing, bicycling, or hiking with them.

In 1880 Monticello was a typical rough and tumble western town. Stories abound, and one of the best is of a cowboy who rode his horse into Mons Store, grabbed the end of a bolt of calico, dallied it around the horn on his saddle, and rode out at a run, unwrapping the bolt as he sped up the street. K&A Chuckwagon gathers folks in the evening for a chuckwagon dinner, horse drawn wagon rides, and entertainment in the western tradition.

Dalton Gang Adventures is a working cattle ranch near Monticello where the wranglers will take hardy adventure seekers out to work fixing fence, riding through sage and juniper in all weather, or moving cows from pasture to pasture.MD Ranch Cookhouse offers western fare amid historic western memorabilia, and can arrange buffalo tours.

The community of Blanding was built at the location of ancient Pueblo communities. Edge of the Cedars State Park & Museum, while housing exhibits of the four contemporary cultures found in San Juan County (Ute, Navajo, Spanish, and Anglo), spotlights the ancient Puebloan culture. A ruin is open to visitors, and displays include baskets, pottery, and tools. The park hosts the two day regional Indian Art Market in October and produces a variety of programs throughout the year. Rogers House Bed & Breakfast was once the home of early settlers and offers a comfortable stay for travelers. Native American arts and crafts are available at various trading posts in Blanding.

Bluff was also built at the location of an ancient community. Bluff was the first fully organized anglo community in the county, and many Victorian-era homes remain. A walking tour brochure is available at various businesses in Bluff. Wild Rivers Expeditions offers float trips on the San Juan River with an emphasis on history and geology. The Pioneer Cemetery is an interesting stop for history buffs. Cowboy Tours provides horseback riding in the desert near town. A large panel of ancient rock art is found at Sand IslandFar Out Expeditionsprovides guides to the mountains, deserts, and canyons of the west and will 'take you as far out as you want to go.' At Pioneer House Inn, stay in one of the original homes in Bluff and tour the backcountry into the mountains, onto the rivers, and into the canyons of this vast country with their guides.

Oil and other minerals have been the reason for Mexican Hat. The tiny community was once home to over 1000 people during mineral 'booms.' The San Juan Inn dates to the oil boom days, and offers lodging, dining, and a bar and grill in the style of a southern Utah outpost. North of town, Valley of the Gods beckons with spires, pinnacles, and sandstone formations. Valley of the Gods Bed & Breakfast, originally an isolated homestead, provides peaceful lodging. The Honaker Trail into the nearby San Juan River Canyon dates to the late 1800s, and descends over 1000 feet from the rim to the river.

The Navajo story is told in Monument Valley and Oljee 'To. Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park allows a glimpse of this unique culture. The Oljeto Trading Post is on the National Register of Historic Places, and Gouldings Lodge Museum presents the history of the valley and its people.

The past is woven into the present in San Juan County where the people are proud of their history, heritage, and diverse cultures. To the people of San Juan County, heritage does not mean just the past, but is evident every day in how we live our lives: it has colored our very existence.