Friday, May 23, 2014

Dreams of lofty mountain roads never built in northern Utah

                       The rugged road to Willard Basin was constructed by the CCC in the 1930s.

By Lynn Arave

THIS is a tale of mountain roads dreamed of, but never built.
Ogden area residents were very excited about the advent of the automobile. In fact, they had dreams in the 1910s of constructing auto roads to the top of prominent local mountain peaks.
The first such dream appeared in the Standard-Examiner on June 25, 1912:
“Why not build an automobile driveway to Lewis Peak or one of the other high mountains east of Ogden, so that even those not stout of heart and vigor of limb can reach the heights, see the grandeur of the mighty architectural work of Omnipotence and hitch wagons to the stars,” the report stated.
That way, the story stated, even Postmaster Lewis Shurtliff, who was one of the first recorded to climb Lewis Peak, some 60 years earlier, could “go back in fancy to the days of long ago while a six-cylinder machine under low gear carried him up to the base of the peak in the clouds.”
Ben Lomond Peak, almost a year later, was the next peak mentioned as needing an auto road.
“From Ogden to a peak above the clouds” was the May 20, 1913 story in the Standard.
“To build and improve the road from Ogden to Ben Lomond peak by way of Liberty is a proposition that is receiving the support of a number of Ogden people, among whom is Attorney D.R. Roberts.”
The report stated that the road would have to be made from the backside, from Liberty, as cliffs on the Ogden side prevent a road from there.

                          Another view along the Willard Basin road.

“A road to that peak would attract autoists from all parts of the western country and no transcontinental tourist would pass by Ogden without making the visit to the point,” stated Roberts, who believed the road would be one of the most famous auto trips in America.
The report infers that there already was – in 1913 -- a road of sorts from Liberty (perhaps from today’s North Fork Park area) partway to the back of Ben Lomond.
Of course, neither the Lewis Peak, or the Ben Lomond road was ever built.
(The two stories didn’t mention the still existing “road” to Malan’s Peak and Malan’s Basin that went up Taylor Canyon, starting in 1892. This path was just wide enough for a horse and special small wagon.)
Salt Lakers were also infected with the same conquering spirit.
The Davis County Clipper reported on Oct. 17, 1913, that the Salt Lake City Commission had ordered a survey made of a possible mountain road.
This path would be made around the base of Ensign Peak and continue along the shoreline of Lake Bonneville to Mill Creek Canyon and eventually through the mountains to Morgan.
This report said city prisoners could do some of the construction and big landowners along the route had already agreed to provide legal access.
Some believed such a road would keep tourists in the Salt Lake area for days, weeks and months, instead of just hours.
This road never happened either, though today there is the “Scenic Backway” of Skyline Drive that goes from Farmington Canyon and along the mountain top to Bountiful (yet this dirt route lacks similar access to the Morgan side).

(-Originally published in the Ogden Standard-Examiner on May 23, 2014.)

                Looking down into Willard Basin from the west side. Note the roads below.

-NOTE: The author, Lynn Arave, is available to speak to groups, clubs, classes or other organizations about Utah history at no charge. He can be contacted by email at:  

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