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The Ghosts Of Sego Canyon

Book Cliffs
Larry E. Heck | Writer
Posted January 1, 2009

Spend A Night With An Eerie Legend

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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