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The Outlaw 4x4 Trail Part V

Posted in Ultimate Adventure on November 29, 2006
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The term "hole" was first used by trappers to describe any valley completely sur- rounded by mountains. Browns Hole (renamed Browns Park) is a valley about 5 miles wide and 30 miles long. Most of it is in Colorado, but portions extend into Utah and Wyoming. It was named after the first trapper who called it home.

Trapper Brown was bringing out nice loads of furs, so other trappers followed him in. Soon, Browns Hole was overrun by trappers and the game became too scarce. About the time the trappers were moving on in search of better hunting grounds, cattle rustlers began moving in.

Browns Hole.

The cattle rustlers did not start out as rustlers per se: Most of them were nesters who moved onto the government grazing lands with dreams of building their own herds legally. Before they even got started, they were visited by whichever cattle barons claimed the grazing land they were on. More often than not, the barons convinced them to move on by use of force.

In addition to the nesters were the drovers. They rode into the area with huge cattle drives bringing cattle to the barons from Texas. When the cattle were delivered, they found themselves out of work.

The swinging bridge.

The nesters and the drovers mingled and began forming small groups who decided it was not stealing if they found cattle that had not yet been branded. In fact, the general law of the land accepted the practice where the first branding iron owned the animal. That rule began to bend a little when calves were taken from their branded mothers. All the cattle confiscated in that manner were run into Browns Hole where they could be fattened up and readied for market. Eventually, the practice evolved to the point of taking the calves and the mother. Once that happened, the line had been crossed between legal and outlaw. As time passed, some of the outlaws found they could change the brands on the cattle. The wagon wheel brand became known as the chosen brand for rustlers because it could cover most any brand. The only way to see if a brand had been changed was to skin the animal and check the inside of the hide - not a good solution, unless the animal was already being slaughtered. Browns Hole became the preferred area for cattle rustlers in three states because it was not easily accessible and because it was building a reputation as a place to avoid.

During the first few months of 1896, Butch Cassidy set up residence near Crouse Canyon in Browns Hole. He had just been released from the Wyoming State Prison in Laramie after serving 18 months for stealing horses. His first hideout in Browns Hole was called Cassidy Point, but we can't find it listed as such on any map. Cassidy had tasted the profits from robbing the bank in Telluride, Colorado, seven years earlier, and believing cattle rustling was too much work for too little profit, he formed plans for a new heist.

Cassidy began selecting members for his new gang. Those he selected were daredevils. They were also excellent horsemen and good marksmen who constituted a fun-loving bunch that were always playing practical jokes and practicing various stunts with their guns and horses. They attended all social functions in the valley, were described as very lively, and soon became known as the Wild Bunch.

Browns Park Store.

On August 13, 1896, three members of the Wild Bunch rode into Montpelier, Idaho - it was time to see if their planning and practicing had paid off. As planned, everything was done quietly. Nothing occurred to attract the attention of anyone outside the bank. It was all over before anyone knew it had begun. The Wild Bunch rode away with more than $7,000 in cash and coins. A fresh relay of horses was waiting for them a few miles out of town. The posse had no chance of even getting close.

Some of the money was used to pay for a lawyer to represent Matt Warner in a murder trial. Cassidy and Warner had robbed the bank in Telluride, Colorado, seven years earlier and the two were still good friends.

Lodore's meeting house.

The Wild Bunch moved off to Robbers Roost to plan the Castle Gate holdup for April 21, 1897. After the robbery, they rode to the Powder Springs hideout in Browns Hole.

The leader of the Powder Springs Gang was a man named Bender. The hideout was located in Wyoming a short distance north of the Colorado border between Upper Powder Springs and Lower Powder Springs. When Cassidy arrived at Powder Springs, he found Bender dying from a bad case of pneumonia. Even so, Bender mounted his horse and rode to Baggs, Wyoming, where Cassidy had decided to celebrate the success of the Castle Gate holdup. That was the last time Bender saw Powder Springs: He died during the celebration. Due to the success at Castle Gate, Cassidy automatically became Bender's replacement. The Powder Springs Gang became a new addition to the Wild Bunch.

This was once a schoolhouse. It is now private property.

A few months later, 75 more outlaws rode into Powder Springs. The Powder River Gang had abandoned Hole-in-the-Wall after a posse rode in and a gunfight ended in damage to both sides. With this new addition, Powder Springs became the largest outlaw hideout ever known, and Cassidy was recognized as the leader.

In the last issue of OFF-ROAD, our story ended at Jarvie's Outpost on the western edge of Browns Hole. Jarvie's Outpost was the established link to the outside from within Browns Hole, so Jarvie was sort of a gatekeeper. For example, the postal service left mail there but would not enter the hole. We had assumed the Wild Bunch stopped at Jarvie's for supplies and to catch up on the latest news. On the other hand, they were anxious to get their hands on the loot from the Castle Gate holdup, so they probably took a direct route to Powder Springs from the outpost.

Mustang herds.

There are numerous campgrounds near Jarvie's and scattered across Browns Hole. We chose the one on the east side at Lodore. To get there, we took the scenic route beginning with a stop at the swinging bridge. It is one lane wide and has a load limit of one car at a time. We watched with big grins as three women got out of their car, studied the load limit while discussing how much the car weighed, and then added their own "admitted" weights. After some deliberation, they told the driver to go on across without them. Our grins became giggles as all three women followed the car across the bridge walking only a few feet behind the rear bumper. We guessed they must weigh more when they are in the car.

Climbing Lookout Mountain.

After crossing the bridge back and forth a few times taking photos, we entered the Wildlife Area. The access road follows the north side of the river, and there are signs along the way defining the times of year certain routes can be taken.

Lodore's cemetary and meeting house make for an interesting stop, but we did not find a marker for John Jarvie. From the cemetery, we continued east to the Browns Park Store. After getting gas and supplies, we camped at the Lodore Campground. This is a very popular area due to the hiking trails into Lodore Canyon and the boating ramps. There is a ranger on site.

Our first stop the next morning was the Coke Ovens site. The ovens were built in 1898 - one year after the Castle Gate holdup. Their purpose was to smelt copper ore from the nearby bromide mine.

From the Coke Ovens, we backtracked a short distance then continued along a route north of the paved highway. There are primitive campsites in that area for those who prefer more isolated accommodations. The main attraction of this route is the wild horse, or mustang, herds. Wild horses have roamed these lands since the 17th century when horses were introduced by the Spanish. The BLM manages their numbers, but they are allowed to roam free. It only takes a few moments to determine who the boss horse is: He will be the one watching your every move. You will be able to enjoy the herd for longer periods of time if you stay in your vehicle and take photos through open windows. Once the boss horse sees you step out of the car, he will signal the herd and they will be gone in seconds.

We had lunch at the top of Lookout Mountain. Depending on your vehicle's engine size and gearing, getting to the top may require Low range as the grade is rather steep. The view during the climb gets progessively more spectacular with each turn. Once on the peak, you will have lots of antennas and the hum of powerhouses to keep you company. With a good zoom lens you can pick out landmarks hundreds of miles away.

Continuing north from Lookout Mountain, we passed though the small community of Powder Wash Camp. It consists mostly of mobile homes used by those who service local oil wells. No services are available to the public.

North of the camp, we crossed into Wyoming and spent the rest of the afternoon exploring Cassidy's Powder Springs headquarters. Admittedly, we are engaging in a lot of guesswork regarding this hideout. Also, its location has been written about by numerous writers who have never been there, so there are variations. Some claim it was on the Colorado side of the border, and others put it north of the border. We decided that since it was called the "Powder Springs" hideout, it was probably near the springs. It makes sense that a good hideout would have at least one dependable water source.

The ravine between Upper Powder Springs and Lower Powder Springs makes a great place to camp. In fact, we found very nice sites on the edge of the wash between the two springs and also spent a night at Upper Powder Springs. We have heard much of dugouts, cabins, and other remnants from the huge outlaw camp, but we found nothing. Two different people gave us directions to cabins they claim to have visited, but still we found nothing. Even so, just knowing we were camped in the vicinity of the old camp added flavor to our stay.

We did some hiking in the wash and in the hillsides, and we also explored all the current trails on both sides of the wash. Still we found nothing to prove the outlaw camp ever existed. That's not really surprising, considering it was abandoned more than 100 years ago and probably consisted mostly of tents and shelters made from brush. On the other hand, it is possible we were just not looking in the right spot.

Upper Powder Springs.

The next morning, we continued our route north and came upon the remains of Fort LaClede. The fort was built in 1863 using nearby rocks to form the walls. Some of the walls are still standing, complete with gun ports for easy defense. The biggest threat in those days was from Indians, and the only thing to defend was the Overland Stage.

A short distance from the fort is the Overland Stage Stop. It is another building constructed of rocks, and very little of it is still standing. The Overland Stage ran through this area between 1862 and 1869, and both structures had long since been abandoned by the time the Powder River Gang passed through on their way to the Powder Springs hideout in 1897.

Lower Powder Springs. Water seeps from spring below cliff.

The Overland Stage was a unique enterprise. It lasted less than 10 years, and most of its revenue came from the transport of mail - passengers were more of a sideline. Stage stops were set 10 to 50 miles apart, and horses were changed at every one. The teams normally consisted of six horses, and they would pull a stage to the next stop then be rested to take on the next stage going in either direction. Stage lines were put out of business one by one as the railroads were built.

We arrived at Table Rock, Wyoming, at about noon. Due to all the exploring around Powder Springs, we needed gas. This is the point where we crossed Interstate 80, and it is Exit 152. The next exit west is the small community of Table Rock, which has one 24-hour credit card pump. The store is open during the day and sells ice and snacks.

Camped at Powder Springs.

A mile or so east of Table Rock is where the Tipton train robbery occurred on August 29, 1900. The track between Tipton and Table Rock is an uphill grade. After taking on water at Tipton, the engineer was building up steam for the grade up Table Rock when a masked man came down behind him from the tinder and told him to stop the train when he saw a fire beside the track. The passenger cars were uncoupled, and the train was pulled ahead with the express car.

In the movie, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, a little too much dynamite was used to get the safe open. In reality, it took three tries to get the safe open, and in the process, the rail car was blown apart (if you happen to travel through Laramie, stop at the Territorial Prison Museum with the sign, "Butch Cassidy slept here." He spent time at the prison between 1894 and 1896 after being convicted of stealing horses. Some historians claim he was falsely accused and his time in prison was the main reason he chose the outlaw way of life when he got out. The prison is now a museum and has photos of the rail cars blown apart in Wyoming train robberies)

Outlaw and Happy Jack living out their second childhoods, and discussing who gets the last flapjack.

Historians disagree on just about everything concerning the Tipton robbery. First of all, arguments exist about how much money was stolen. Most sources say it was only a few dollars, but others believe it was thousands.

The biggest argument, however, comes with determining who committed the robbery and whether or not Cassidy was even there. The general consensus is that Cassidy was in charge and the Sundance Kid was watching over passengers in the rear. Some historians disagree with this and argue that Cassidy could not have been there and still have had time to pull off a bank robbery in Winnemucca, Nevada, because the two locations are 600 miles apart. There were only 21 days between the two robberies, and some witnesses from the Winnemucca area claim the bank robbers had been camped in the area for 10 days prior to the robbery. If that is true, and if Cassidy had committed both robberies, he would have ridden on horseback across 600 miles in 11 days.

An abandoned homestead.

The Wild Bunch was known to cover 100 miles in a day by running a string of three horses each and switching between them on the run, so why couldn't they ride 60 miles a day at a slower pace? Historians generally seem to think they could not have done that.

After studying past robberies, we think they could have done it; however, we do not believe that they did. Our reasoning is that every robbery in which Cassidy was confirmed to be involved netted a huge return - Telluride, Montpelier, Castle Gate, Wilcox, and Winnemucca were all successful considering the amounts of money that were taken. Since we agree with most people that the Tipton robbery netted an insignificant amount, we don't believe Cassidy was involved in this robbery.

Outlaw Kid Curry, on the other hand, did not have such a successful record of robbery: Nearly every heist he planned went bad in one way or the other, and historians all agree that Kid Curry was identified at Tipton.

Author Bruce Lamb wrote a book about the life and times of Kid Curry based on stories the Kid had related to his family. In the story about Tipton, Kid Curry claimed Cassidy was not involved and also claimed they had missed the load they had hoped to get because train officials had switched trains at the last moment.

When we put everything together, our conclusion is that not much can ever be proved and there will probably never be agreement on who exactly was involved in Tipton and how much was stolen. That's one thing that makes the Outlaw Trail so interesting though: People can form their own conclusions.

Join us next month when we visit the trail used by Butch Cassidy's mother and father to reach Utah when they were still children. From there, we will continue our journey along the Outlaw Trail to Hole-in-the-Wall.

Larry E. Heck is the author and creator of The Adventures of Pass Patrol series of books and videos. New products this year include an ATV video of the Alpine Loop. You can find those products and many others at For more information about the Outlaw Trail, visit, call (303) 910-7647, or send an e-mail to

Trip Meter Latitude Longitude Notes
0.0 40 53.9910 109 10.6090 Jarvie Ranch. When you leave the ranch, drive east.
1.7/0.0 40 54.2306 109 8.7747 Right at intersection toward state line. Reset trip meter to 0.0. The road is paved in {{{Colorado}}}.
8.9 40 51.9481 109 0.9924 Right for swinging bridge, campgrounds, and scenic drive.
11.5/0.0 40 49.8453 109 1.7043 Left is Wildlife Drive. Straight is swinging bridge and campground. Come back to this intersection when finished and go east on Wildlife Drive. Reset to 0.
3.5 40 49.9515 108 58.0872 Left. Right is closed part of the year.
8.8/0.0 40 48.9197 108 53.8189 Right on pavement. This ends Wildlife Drive. Reset trip meter.
1.8 40 47.5085 108 53.0041 Right goes to Lodore Hall and cemetary.
2.7/0.0 40 46.8197 108 53.5344 Lodore Hall and cemetary. Jarvie is buried here, but we did not find headstone. Go back to paved road. Reset trip meter when turning right on pavement.
1.5 40 46.6735 108 51.7566 Road going left goes to Browns Park Store. Gas up before leaving Browns Park. Reset trip meter at store
0.0 40 47.0169 108 51.2511 Browns Park Store
0.6 40 46.6735 108 51.7566 Left on highway.
2.2 40 45.9118 108 50.3672 Right toward Gates of Lodore
3.9 40 44.5913 108 49.6167 Left on City Road 34 toward Greystone.
8.5 40 42.6081 108 45.3851 Right on City Road 10.
15.1/0.0 40 38.3055 108 41.0674 Left is route. Right to Coke Ovens. After visiting Coke Ovens, return to this intersection.
3.2 40 35.7391 108 40.4192 Left.
5.0 40 34.8960 108 39.2627 Right on City Road 84.
5.2 40 34.7002 108 39.3283 Right into Coke Ovens smelter site.
5.3 40.34.6439 108 39.4231 Parking.
0.0 40 38.3055 108 41.0674 Back at intersection before going to coke ovens.
5.5 40 39.6004 108 35.5420 Right on Highway 318.
7.3/0.0 40 38.9680 108 33.6290 Left on City Road 46 toward Shepherd Basin. Close the gate This is a designated OHV route. There are several campsites along the first 3 miles. Reset meter.
6.0/0.0 40 42.7649 108 31.1480 Left fork. Close the gate. Reset trip meter.
0.6 40 43.1960 108 30.7567 Right fork on City Road {{{80}}}.
4.7 40 44.8774 108 27.6463 Right fork at both intersections.
6.8 40 44.3057 108 25.9065 Left turn onto City Road 126.
13.2 40 49.3355 108 27.1682 Left to Lookout Mountain.
16.9 40 51.4992 108 29.6875 Right up Lookout Mountain. There is an optional route near the top. Left is more difficult and right is easier.
18.0/0.0 40 51.8422 108 29.0141 Lookout Mountain. Lots of antennas and scenic views. Reset trip meter.
4.5 40 54.2667 108 25.1189 Right fork.
10.1 40 53.7939 108 19.7731 Left fork. Sign for Powder Wash Camp 4 miles.
14.7 40 {{{57}}}.0402 108 18.6566 Straight through Powder Wash Camp and first intersection.
14.8 40 57.1407 108 18.6824 Straight across paved road.
15.6 40 57.8277 108 18.5829 Right.
18.3/0.0 41 0.0000 108 18.0131 Wyoming line. Reset trip meter.
0.6 41 0.4790 108 17.7393 Left fork. Lower Powder Springs is on the right. If you hike up Powder Wash from this point, you can get to Upper Powder Springs. Let us know if you find the dugouts or cabins.
2.2 41 1.8287 108 17.8347 The two-track on the right goes to Upper Powder Springs.
11.6/0 41 7.9021 108 22.9325 Abandoned homestead. Interesting buildings. Reset meter.
8.6 41 14.1601 108 26.2246 Right turn.
11.8 41 14.4527 108 22.6459 Left turn at pump hose. Use road that turns at fence.
17.3 41 18.2667 108 23.6742 Right turn at top of hill.
19.0 41 19.2272 108 22.4087 Right fork. Both go to same place.
20.4 41 20.1445 108 21.7163 Straight through intersection.
22.2 41 21.2522 108 20.7992 Left fork at both intersections.
23.6/0.0 41 22.0383 108 21.6573 Right toward Fort LaClede. Reset meter.
0.6 41 22.5426 108 21.9311 Right turn.
4.0 41 24.3296 108 24.4330 Right at sign for Fort LaClede. When finished at fort, return to this intersection.
5.1/0.0 41 24.8927 108 23.4251 Fort LaClede. The Overland Stage route passed through here. The stage relay station is the next stop. From the fort, go back to the previous intersection and turn right. Reset meter.
1.1 41 25.3288 108 24.8455 Parking for Overland Stage relay station. It is on the right side of the road enclosed by a fence.
6.3 41 25.6534 108 30.0444 Right turn.
10.5/0.0 41 28.6987 108 30.2059 Right turn. Reset trip meter.
2.9 41 30.1760 108 27.6393 Left fork.
3.5 41 30.5647 108 27.5930 Left fork.
5.9 41 32.2382 108 26.4172 Left.
7.4 41 33.5003 108 26.2635 Right.
13.4 41 36.8363 108 23.1141 After crossing second set of train tracks, an access road follows the tracks going east. This location is Table Rock. The Tipton robbery occurred on this track between Table Rock and Tipton.
14.8 41 37.9617 108 22.7282 I-80. Exit 152. For gas, go one exit west. The next story begins at this exit.
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