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The Ghosts Of Sego Canyon

Posted in Events on January 1, 2009
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The road skirts the Book Cliffs about half way up the walls and offers scenic views of the Henry Mountains near Hanksville and the Manti LaSal Mountains near Moab.

The small group was sitting around a campfire in Sego Canyon. Lone Writer tossed a stick into the fire as he continued his story. "Legend says the ghost of the Ancient Ones guard the panels of rock art on these canyon walls. A couple folks I know stayed here once ... only once ... never again. They said they were kept up most of the night by moving shadows and eerie sounds. Another fellow was here by himself one night and started hearing whispers in the wind. He couldn't make out the words. It was like listening to people talk in the adjacent room at a motel. He packed up and left before bedtime."

As the story continued, everyone unconsciously looked into the darkness outside the ring of light made by the fire. Shadows from the flames bounced off the canyon walls but there was nothing unusual.

Lone Writer continued. "One old timer told me the rock art marked an ancient ceremonial site for three different cultures of people. He said the ghosts of those people, the ones that lived in Sego Canyon, still come out on certain nights to worship near the rock art." Lone Writer paused. "I been here dozens of times and I ain't never seen or heard anything unusual."

When the stories ended, the campfire was extinguished. Some of the group headed for their tents and some picked up their flashlights to find the trail to the outhouse. Suddenly, from out of the silent night, came an ear piercing scream. It roared through the canyon, bounced off the walls, and echoed back to the campsite as if searching for a target. The campers backed toward the darkened campfire. Lone Writer reached into his vehicle and pulled out a 357 magnum.

"You gonna shoot a ghost," Happy Jack said with a grin as he reached for his own iron.

"Don't sound like no ghost to me," someone said from out of the darkness. The scream did not sound human, nor did it resemble the scream of a bobcat. It was more like a sound from another place and time.

The night fell silent again. Not even a breeze to challenge the silence. For several long seconds, the group continued scanning the darkness with flashlight beams. Then, as suddenly as the first, another scream roared through the canyon. Because of the echoes, it was impossible to determine where the challenge was coming from but it sounded very close. The group scanned the perimeter of the campsite expecting to see someone or something coming at them. Everyone sensed a presence that could not be explained. It was a feeling of being watched; a feeling of being hunted.

Whatever it was, it vanished as quickly as it had come. The fire was restarted. Sleep would not come any time soon for the campers. They now had their own stories to tell about the ghosts of Sego Canyon.

The trip to Sego Canyon had begun in Green River, Utah. The group left the small community and drove into the bookcliffs north of town. They used an old mining road to climb high up into the cliffs. Scenic views of the Henry Mountains and the Manti LaSal mountains had everyone reaching for cameras.

The trail through the cliffs is made of eroded dirt and loose rocks. It can be treacherous if wet. Fortunately, the group was enjoying clear skies with no threat of moisture. Several side roads lead off to cliff-side campsites and other sites used by hunters. On that day, all sites were vacant.

Eventually, the trail made a gradual descent to the base of the book cliffs and entered Thompson Wash at the point where it intersects with Sego Canyon. The rock art panels are south of that intersection. Experts claim it is from three different cultures across as many time periods.

A man by the name of Harry Ballard was the first to discover huge coal deposits in Sego Canyon. He sold his find to investors who had big plans for Sego. A company store, boarding house and other necessary buildings were constructed.

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Unfortunately, one very important factor had been overlooked. There simply was not enough water in the canyon to support any major operation. The water level in the wells dropped quickly. A railway was constructed to haul water in and to haul coal out. Much of that rail bed and some of the bridges are still in place.

Even though it was doomed, the mine continued to be worked until 1947. There are numerous buildings still standing including the stone walled store and the huge wooden boarding house. There are also small dwellings, dugouts, and graveyard.

After a restless night, the group left Sego and climbed back out of the canyon on a two-track road skirting the bookcliffs. The road eventually dropped to the valley floor and intersected with a graded dirt road. There is an abandoned homestead at the intersection with a dugout cellar and an old farmhouse. Turn right to access I-70 at Harley Dome. If you have more time to spare, turn left and climb to the top of the plateau where you can find more roads to explore.

From Green River, our route goes East. You can take I-70 and get off at Exit 173 or you can follow the access road like we did. We crossed the river going East past all the motels to the first paved road going left. We went under a railroad underpass. Reset your trip meter to zero at that point.

PhotosView Slideshow
Odo Latitude Longitude Description
N38 55.3619 W109 56.4694 Turn left on the dirt road. This is also Exit 173 off I-70. If you came off I-70, turn West on the access road and take the first dirt road going right. Reset your trip meter.
3.4 N38 {{{57}}}.7076 W109 54.4582 Take the right fork.
8.9 N38 0.9190 W109 50.7153 Take the right fork going up hill. Close gates where posted.
12.8 N39 0.2849 W109 48.2973 Turn left.
0 .0
N39 1.4913 W109 42.7868 This is the Sego {{{Canyon}}} intersection. Straight goes through the canyon. The ghost town is also straight. Right goes to the rock art and the outhouse. There are several campsites in any direction. Reset trip meter.
0 .0
N39 1.4449 W109 42.5571 If you went straight at the last intersection, you reach this fork. Turn right to continue the trip. It goes to Sagers Canyon. A left turn at this intersection goes to Sego. The road beyond the ghost town is a dead end. Reset trip meter.
8.3 N39 0.9599 W109 37.4096 This is Sagers Canyon. Continue straight at the intersection.
10.1 N38 59.9733 W109 36.1086 Take the left fork. There are numerous roads and intersections in the area.
10.5 N39 0.1231 W109 35.8539 Right.
13.9 N38 59.3587 W109 32.6503 Left turn.
17.6 N38 1.5346 W109 32.9718 Right turn.
18.1 N39 1.9237 W109 32.6902 Stay left on the through route past the mobile home.
19 .0 N39 2.6694 W109 32.6105 Cattleguard and intersection. Turn right.
19.3 N39 2.6366 W109 32.3789 Right fork.
0 .0
N39 0.3058 W109 27.8092 Left Turn. Reset trip meter.
2 .0 N39 0.4729 W109 25.7093 Right fork.
3.6 N39 15.066 W109 24.3334 Right turn at pump station.
Odo Latitude Longitude Description
4.5 N39 0.9349 W109 23.4425 Right turn.
6.1 N39 0.2479 W109 22.5604 Right fork through the ditch.
6.6 N38 59.9804 W109 22.2966 Left turn.
7.4 N39 0.1115 W109 21.5537 Left turn.
8.3 N39 0.5528 W109 21.0389 Left at the cattleguard. Follow the fence for a short distance.
8.4 N39 0.6587 W109 21.0345 Right fork.
9.3 N39 0.5924 W109 20.1570 Left turn.
12.2 N39 2.8938 W109 19.0088 Right fork.
13.0 N39 3.3812 W109 18.5714 Left turn.
13.6 N39 3.6009 W109 19.1586 Right turn.
15.3 N39 4.4298 W109 17.6980 Left Turn. The next turn is easy to get confused since it is a county road through the Campbell Ranch with gates.
25.2 N39 8.8963 W109 25.2043 Make a right turn. If the gate is closed when you get there, close it behind you. This is a county road through the Campbell Ranch. This is also the access road to Diamond {{{Canyon}}} but there are no signs pointing to anything.
N39 8.9825 W109 25.2718 Take the right fork. Left fork goes to dead end canyons. Stay on main road. Reset trip meter.
0.3 0.0 N39 9.3758 W109 25.3140 Turn right on the road before the gate with a private property sign. There is another gate after the turn. If it was closed, close it after you. Reset trip meter.
9.3 N39 12.3542 W109 17.8978 Turn right at this four way intersection. There is an old homestead with a corral on the left.
11.1 N39 11.4892 W109 16.3403 Make a left turn.
16.9 N39 15.0660 W109 14.0586 This is the intersection for the road that will take you to I-70 Exit 225 at Harley Dome. An old abandoned homestead still stands at this corner. Turn RIGHT to go to I-70. Left goes to more roads on top of the plateau.

Larry E. Heck has been writing back country adventure stories since 1985. The first in a series of e-books about the Outlaw Trail can be found at For more information, write to or call (303) 349-9937.

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