In the years before and after 1100, a tribe of Native Americans lived in Beef Basin. They have since been named the Anasazi and are frequently referred to as “The Ancient Ones.” They survived by growing fields of corn, beans, and squash and inhabited striking, finely crafted structures. Those facts are impressive considering it was going on 400 years before Columbus was born. At this period, Europeans thought the world was flat and had not even imagined another continent existed halfway around the planet.
Their homes were built using materials obtained from the land. Most were made of rocks and stones with floors and ceilings made from logs, sticks, and brush. Some were very small, and others were several stories high, similar to an apartment building. The Ancient Ones mostly built their homes into cliffs. Amazingly, many of those structures still stand.
The existence of The Ancient Ones is as much of a mystery as the pyramids. At a time when most natives lived in tents, where did this group come from? How were they able to engineer entire cities so structurally different from anyone else around them? The biggest mystery of all is what happened to them? They simply vanished from the pages of history, leaving their cities vacant.
Beef Basin does not contain large cities of dwellings like the ones found in the Four Corners of Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico. It was as isolated from such cities in the 1100s as it is today. That isolation is much of its appeal to backcountry explorers like Lone Writer and his friends.
Beef Basin is unique in that very little has changed in the past 1,000 years. Roads have been carved into the mountains and desert to provide vehicle access, but they demand high-clearance vehicles to travel them safely. To take the northern access through The Needles District of Canyonlands National Park, you must cross Elephant Hill. Although Lone Writer does not consider Elephant Hill extremely difficult, he must concede many dozens of vehicles have been severely damaged attempting to get from one side to the other.
My favorite access to Beef Basin is via a National Forest route called Gooseberry Road. First, though, we stop in Blanding, Utah, for gas and supplies. A major consideration for entering Beef Basin is how much gas to bring along. For this last trip, each vehicle carried 8 to 10 gallons in additional fuel. That was only enough for three nights and four days, counting the trip in and out of the basin.
Beef Basin is not a good place to make stupid mistakes. Lone Writer and his son, Gadget, got the prize on that one for this trip. It took teamwork and split-second timing, but they managed to do the unthinkable. Gadget left the keys in the ignition and stepped out of the Liberty closing the door behind him. At that same instant, Lone Writer bumped the lock button as he exited the other side and closed the door behind him. Yup! They were locked out.
An auto club is highly unlikely to make good on its promise to provide lockout assistance here. Since there is no cell service in Beef Basin, calling for lockout assistance wouldn’t work anyway. There was always the option of busting out a window, but the roads are extremely dusty in the summer, so driving with a busted window was not too appealing.
Lone Writer remembered poking at the embers of a campfire the night before with a wire coat hanger found in the pit before the fire was started. Sundance volunteered to drive back to camp and get the coat hanger. Gadget has had some experience with door locks from his work, so he unlocked the door. What was previously an emergency became a campfire tale, but we lost a couple hours time in that transition.
Finding cliff dwellings in Beef Basin is not much of a challenge. There are a lot of them. Nearly every road leads to one. Some require a hike at the end, and some are best viewed using binoculars. Lone Writer calls the biggest one “Showcase Ruin,” which is located in Beef Basin Wash. Another favorite that has an upper and lower level is dubbed “Double Decker.” Those two are at the top of the list of places to visit on any trip into the basin.
The area called Ruin Park has one huge farmhouse structure, as well as several smaller ones. Some of the roads have been closed, and you must hike in to access the ones on those roads. A historic information sign has been placed at the farmhouse ruin to explain the activities that once took place there.
No doubt, Lone Writer and his pals will return to Beef Basin, but probably not this year. For now, our border-to-border Outlaw Trail Project takes priority. The trail crosses the country from Canada to Mexico, primarily on backcountry roads. We are connecting locations used as hideouts to the sites of bank and train robberies. Check out our progress at www.outlaw-trail.com
| Navigation: GPS Positions |
Leave Blanding, Utah, on 500 N Street to use the Gooseberry Road route to Beef Basin.
|Latitude North||Longitude West||Comments|
|37 58.7904||109 52.4025||Beef Basin Registration Box|
|37 57.4532||109 53.0773||Intersection for Beef Basin Canyon|
|37 56.7775||109 50.7105||Parking for Showcase Ruin|
|38 0.6893||109 54.5796||Ruin Park entrance. North goes to Elephant Hill in Canyonlands National Park. Be aware of restrictions against taking dogs into the park.|
|38 0.3882||109 51.7273||Campsite near Double Decker|