Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The Great Stone Face -- Guardian of the Desert southwest of Deseret

                      A statue of Joseph and Emma Smith in downtown SLC.

By Lynn Arave

Does a likeness of Joseph Smith Jr., first president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, exist in the vast Millard County deseret, southwest of Delta?
Some believe so.
On a remote hillside in Utah's Sevier Desert, about four miles southwest of Deseret and some 17 miles southwest of Delta, rises a craggy volcanic outcrop. For almost seven decades, area residents and visitors have been attracted to the formation.
In it, they can discern the outlines of a man's features: head, brow, nose, mouth and even perhaps a high collar.
Welcome to the "Great Stone Face," or the "Guardian of Deseret," or "Keeper of the Desert." From a certain angle, notes the book "A History of Millard County," a 1999 entry in the Utah Centennial County History Series, "some see a resemblance to LDS Church founder Joseph Smith."
This remains a still seldom visited outdoor treasure for Mormons.
The Great Stone Face was originally called "Guardian of the Deseret" by Millard County newspapers during the 1920s, the era when it first claimed local fame as a tourist destination.
(Part of that reference is for the nearby town of Deseret.)
"Many Mormons see an uncanny resemblance of this naturally carved formation to profile pictures of church founder Joseph Smith," Millard County's official tourism site reads.
Whether or not it is partly the power of suggestion, there definitely is a face to be spotted here in the rocks, though some may argue whose face.
Visitors have to decide that for themselves at the site, about 150 miles southwest of Salt Lake City.
The rock pillar sits some 150 feet above the Sevier Desert floor amid a field of lava rock and sagebrush, with a view to Notch Peak to the west.
A steep scramble along a 400-yard-long trail takes hikers to the base of the monument over loose rock. A rugged path, outlined by lava rocks, marks the way.
Indian petroglyphs dating back about 1,000 years are found in the general area just north of the Great Stone Face. These markings are now highlighted by a new sign.
--To reach this natural wonder, travel to Delta and then go southwest on U.S. 6/50 about five miles and turn south on state Route 257.
Then travel about six miles south on S.R. 257 to a signed turnoff to the west (right).
Go west on the gravel road and travel for almost six miles to the north edge of the black lava beds. The gravel road — passable by cars in dry weather, though there are washboard ruts in the road in places and three cattleguards to cross — loops around the west side of the hill and ends at a small parking area. There is no admission fee. 
The petroglyphs are located just a few hundred yards before the parking lot and feature their own sign.
These inscriptions were jokingly called the first edition of the Deseret News back in the 1920s and 1930s by Millard County newspapers.
Hike south up the hillside, looking for the dominant rock. Those who can't or don't want to hike can still see the Great Stone Face from a distance, best viewed with binoculars.
This is a moderately strenuous hike up the hill side.

(The accompanying photos show the Great Stone Face, as well as the petyroglyphs sign.)

The Great Stone Face formation was reported as early as Nov. 18, 1927, when the Millard County Chronicle reported a visit there by local Boy Scouts.
Even then, the connection to being a likeness of Joseph Smith was reported.
The Chronicle newspaper reported on April 7, 1938 that sunrise Easter Services were held at the Great Stone Face that year by the nearby Hinckley and Deseret Wards of the LDS Church.

For more information on the Great Stone Face, go to:
(Modified/expanded, but originally presented in the Deseret News,  May 13, 2010, by Lynn Arave.)

-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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