Friday, June 27, 2014

South Fork: A dam started but never built

                                             Tubing the South Fork of the Ogden River.

By Lynn Arave

IMAGINE the South Fork of the Ogden River without all or most of its campgrounds/picnic areas.
No Bott, South Fork, Perception Park, Meadows, Willow or perhaps even Magpie. No tubing or fishing most of the South Fork River either. It almost happened …
That’s because in November of 1912 full scale work began “on Big South Fork Dam,” according to the Standard-Examiner of Nov. 16 that year. (Some preliminary work had been done in 1911.)
After 40 years of dreaming about a dam on the South Fork, machinery was working there.
(Bishop W.S. Steward of Plain City had previously spent considerable money in the South Fork area trying to find a suitable dam location, but had given up. Other had tried too. Only a revival of support by former Ogden Mayor/then Standard-Examiner Publisher William Glasmann had pushed the idea forward again.)
Fifty men, armed with powder, steam and machinery, began to prepare the site for concrete work. This dam was envisioned of being able to double Ogden and area’s population and serve water needs for 100 years.

Where exactly was this dam started? At the confluence of Cobble Creek along the South Fork, or near today’s South Fork Campground.
The proposed earthen dam was estimated to cost $1 million (or $24 million in today’s value) and initially rise 120 feet – and eventually 200 feet in height. It would have had a storage capacity of 50,000 acre feet. (Pineview is 110,000 acre feet.)
 “The camp at the dam presents a busy scene and the place is a tented city,” The Standard reported.
The dam was eventually a joint project between Ogden City and the Ogden River Reservoir Company. Electric power generation was also planned.
However, the project was very controversial and a March 23, 1911 Standard article called a meeting on the South Fork dam the most important meeting ever held in Weber County.
(Remember: in this era, there was no Pineview or Causey Reservoir, only a small dam at the head of Wheeler Canyon in Ogden Canyon.)
“The people in Huntsville looked with surprise as the big gasoline engine hauling seven tons at a time through that town,” The Standard reported.
What happened to the dam?
It was eventually determined that the core wall was located on a fault plain. Also, while the south end wall hit bedrock, the rest did not. Blasting revealed an almost bottomless mud plain.
Plans were even revised to take the dam about 1.2 miles downstream to the west, but additional shortcomings on a suitable foundation and delays/changes/politics in construction doomed the  project.
“Reservoir site abandoned,” was a Nov. 22, 1912 headline in the Standard. That proved to be somewhat premature as some work on the possible dam was still being done in 1913, as well as the late winter of 1914. The project was on-off again many times.
As a sidelight, some of the first moving pictures ever seen by Ogden area residents came in the fall of 1913. “Moving pictures of fashion show and big dam” was an Oct. 22, 1913 headline in the Standard. Images of work on the South Fork Dam were shown at the Globe Theater, 2530 Washington Avenue. “The picture of the big dynamite explosion at the damsite is interesting,” the article stated.
As recent as May 18, 1923, the Standard reported government officials still mulling the South Fork of the Ogden River as a possible dam site. Interestingly, then, one site was called “Magpie Reservoir,” with potential for a 200-foot high dam (and likely the location of today’s Magpie Campground).
By 1926, Echo Reservoir in Weber Canyon was started and then the Great Depression struck in 1929.
By the 1930s, the Federal Bureau of Reclamation controlled all dam construction and it started Pineview Reservoir in 1934 in Ogden Valley itself.
In 1966, Causey Reservoir was completed. It is on the South Fork of the Ogden River (and also included some of Skull Crack Canyon, another potential dam site explored in the 1920s).
Still, you’ve got to wonder if the South Fork Dam had been built in the 1910s, where would today’s South Fork campgrounds be? What about Highway 39’s route? Would Pineview and Causey reservoirs still have been built the same, or at all?

Additional sources: “Public Documents in Utah,” volume 1, page 68; and “The Irrigation Age,” volumes 20-21.

(-Originally published by Lynn Arave in the Ogden Standard Examiner on June 27, 2014.)

-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:  

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Ogden Canyon: A ‘royal gorge’ in 1887

                                              The mouth of Ogden Canyon                          Photo by Whitney Arave.

By Lynn Arave                            

OGDEN area residents were fascinated with Ogden Canyon in the late 19th Century. Whereas today the Canyon probably just seems like a conduit to Pineview Reservoir, or the ski resorts, or the South Fork campgrounds, it was practically worshipped 127 years ago and viewed as a natural retreat of its own.
“The chasm cut by nature’s hand through the Wasatch Range. A tribute to Ogden Canyon’s Grandeur.  Swift, swift river. How it roars and foams in madness. Then sings in peace.  Another royal gorge – Sublime scenery of a superb canyon – Something the world should see,” was a May 24, 1887 lengthy headline in the Ogden Standard-Examiner.
The story mentions passing “the narrows” in the canyon. By that, I assume, the narrow opening at the start of the canyon (and widened in modern years).
Also mentioned is passing by the warm, medicinal springs of “Kiesel, Carnahan and Anderson.”
The recommendation is next to stop at Wilson’s Mills, tie up the horse and climb a nearby hill to gain a perspective of looking down the chasm.
“Cap Rock” was mentioned as another highlight, with one large rock leaning on another. (No modern reference could be found to this feature, so it may no longer exist in the Canyon.)
Finally, the story mentions a large cave, “often been compared with the Salt Lake Tabernacle,” with a “huge roof of overhanging-rock spreading its rounded rocky canopy over the astonished visitor.” (Again, what this is talking about is unclear today.)
“It is a delightful, healthy, pretty grand place,” the article concluded of Ogden Canyon.
However, 24 years later, there was a dark side to Ogden Canyon – flooding.

“The Hermitage is isolated and buildings on the lowlands are endangered – County bridge at the mouth of the canyon may go down – Homes in the City flooded,” was a Jan. 31, 1911 headline in the Standard.
The Ogden River was on a rampage that winter and even the bridge over Washington Avenue, between 19th and 20th streets was in jeopardy.
Ogden Canyon was also struggling with rumors in 1895 of plentiful rattlesnakes and hobos living there. An Aug. 24, 1895 Standard reporter said all the dynamiting being done in the Canyon that summer surely had scared all the reptiles away. And, the writer said he found no evidence of vagabonds living in the Canyon.
A July 12, 1899 Standard story claimed visitors to Ogden Canyon never numbered less than 1,500 people on a typical Sunday in summer. However, for their benefit, the road to the mouth of the Canyon needs better sprinkling, to avoid dust and more upkeep overall.
By early 1901, the mouth of the Canyon was being dynamited, to provide better access.
On Feb. 12, 1913, a fire destroyed the sanitarium at the mouth of Ogden Canyon. A forerunner to today’s Rainbow Gardens, a Standard story reported the place had “been considered as one of Ogden’s most popular health and bathing resorts.”
Heated by coal stoves, the building was razed to the ground. Only the private baths in the rear of the main building were left standing, with their brick walls.
The building’s loss was placed at $35,000, lowered to $21,000 with insurance.
Almost a hundred years ago (1918), there was also a different “Pineview” east of Ogden. In Ogden Canyon there was Pineview the hotel, with cottages, boating, fishing, trout and chicken dinners, hot coffee, sandwiches and refreshments.

(-Originally published by Lynn Arave in the Ogden Standard-Examiner, June 20, 2014.)

Above/Below: From "History of Ogden, Utah in Old Post Cards," by D. Boyd Crawford, used with permission.

-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:  

Mountainous State of Utah – ‘Life elevated’

                            The south side of Kings Peak, 13,528 feet.

By Lynn Arave

“LIFE elevated” has become the state’s slogan. Is that just all hype?
No, Utah is truly mountain territory and there are peaks scattered all over the state. Elevations in Utah range from 13,528 feet (Kings Peak) down to Beaver Dam Wash (2,185 feet).
Utah is indeed “High on the Mountain Top,” as a popular LDS Church hymn proclaims.
In fact, if you take the elevations of the highest point in each county for each of the 50 states and average them together, Utah is the “highest” state of them all.
Yes, six states -- Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Washington, Wyoming all boast mountains taller than Utah's highest, Kings Peak. However, those states also contain more low-elevation counties, reducing their statewide average.
The average of county high points for Utah is 11,226 feet, 435 feet higher than Colorado's 10,791. Nevada is third at 10,765 and Wyoming fourth at 10,179.
New Mexico, (9,404); Alaska, (9,259); Arizona (8,703); Idaho, (8,290); Montana, (7,502) and Hawaii (7,465) round out the top ten.  

                 Kings Peak, center, as reflected in a pool in Henry's Fork Basin

This formula was originally publicized by Winford Bludworth of Salt Lake City in the early 1990s. It was also used by Andy Martin of Tucson, Ariz., in his “County Highpoints” book, published a few years later.
(Of course, it does depend on what formula you use to determine average elevation, but just about any way you do it, Utah or Colorado will probably be the top state.)
 Note that Colorado does have twice as many counties as Utah does. Also, Colorado contains fifty-three 14,000-foot-plus peaks, while Utah has none. Yet, despite having many taller peaks than Utah, the eastern third of Colorado is a sloping plain toward Nebraska and Kansas, devoid of significant mountains.
A major reason for the Beehive State’s dominance is that it has mountains all over -- there are no "plains.” For example, even Washington County, containing St. George and the Beaver Dam Wash, soars to 10,000-feet plus in nearby mountains.
Beaver Dam Wash, the lowest Utah point is even taller than the high points of 13 other states. In fact, Utah's Rich County (9,255 feet), the lowest county “high point” in Utah, is taller than the high point of 37 other states.  Plus, it's the highest of the low county high points in all 50 states.

Highest point in each of Utah's 29 Counties:
Beaver: * Delano Peak, 12,169.
Box Elder:  "Bull Mountain," 9,934.
Cache: Naomi Peak, 9,979.
Carbon : Monument Peak, 10,452.
Daggett: * "Eccentic" bench mark, 12,276.
Davis:  * Thurston Peak, 9,706.
Duchesne : Kings Peak, 13,528.
Emery: East Mountain, 10,743.
Garfield:  Mt. Ellen, 11,522.
Grand:  Mt. Waas, 12,331.
 Iron: Brian Head, 11,307.
 Juab:  Ibapah Peak, 12,087.
 Kane:  ** Andy Nelson Peak/Gooseberry Point's S.E. Ridge, 10,027.
 Millard: Mine Camp Peak, 10,222.
 Morgan: * Thurston Peak, 9,706.
 Piute:  Delano Peak, 12,169.
 Rich: Bridger Peak/Swan Peak, north ridge, 9,255.
 Salt Lake:  American Fork Twin Peaks, 11,489.
 San Juan : Mt. Peale, 12,721.
 Sanpete: South Tent Mountain, 11,285.
 Sevier:  Fish Lake Hightop, 11,633.
 Summit:  Gilbert Peak, 13,442.
 Tooele:  Deseret Peak, 11,031.
 Uintah:  * "Eccentric" bench mark, 12,276.
 Utah:  North Nebo, 11,928.
 Wasatch: * Mount Cardwell, 10,743.
 Washington:  Signal Peak 10,365.
 Wayne:  Bluebell Knoll, 11,322.
 Weber:  Willard Peak, 9,764.
 *Shared high point with another county.
                               Willard Peak from the northwest at Inspiration Point.

The highest peaks in the Top of Utah:
(Note: All peaks are in Wasatch Range, unless otherwise note. Also, some summits straddle the county lines.)

 Box Elder County’s 5 tallest named peaks:
1. “Bull Mountain,” Raft River Mountains, 9,934
2.  Willard Peak, 9,764
3. George Peak, Raft River Mountains, 9,601
4.  “Inspiration Point”/Willard Mountain, 9,422
5.  Box Elder Peak, Wellsville Mountains, 9,372

              Thurston Peak, center, Davis County's highest summit.

Davis County’s 5 tallest named peaks:
1. Thurston Peak, 9,706
2. “Layton Peak,” 9,571.
3. Francis Peak, 9,547
4. “Ed’s Peak,” 9,381
5. Bountiful Peak, 9,259

Morgan County’s 5 tallest named peaks:
1. Thurston Peak, 9,706
2. Layton Peak,” 9,571.
3. Francis Peak, 9,547
4.   “Ed’s Peak,” 9,381
5.  DeMoisey Peak, 9,370

                       From the top of Mount Ogden looking northwest to Ben Lomond Peak.

Weber County’s 5 tallest named peaks:
1.  Willard Peak, 9,764
2. Ben Lomond Peak, 9,712
3. Mount Ogden, 9,572
4. Allen Peak, 9,465
5. Wolf Creek/James Peak, 9,422

Utah’s 10 tallest named mountain peaks:

   1. Kings Peak, Uinta Mountains, Duchesne County, 13,528.
   2. South Kings Peak, Uinta Mountains, Duchesne County, 13,512.
   3. Gilbert Peak, Uinta Mountains, Summit and Duchesne counties, 13,442.
   4. Mount Emmons, Uinta Mountains, Duchesne County, 13,440.
   5. Mount Lovenia, Uinta Mountains, Summit and Duchesne counties; 13,219.
   6. Tokewanna Peak, Uinta Mountains, Summit County, 13,165.
  7. Mount Powell, Uinta Mountains, Summit County, 13,159.
  8. “Wasatch Peak," bench mark, Uinta Mountains, Summit County, 13,156.
  9. Wilson Peak, Uinta Mountains, Summit and Duchesne counties, 13,049.
 10. "Squaw Peak" bench mark, Uinta Mountains, Summit County, 12,990.
   Note: There are 14 unnamed peaks over 13,000 feet above sea level in the Uinta Mountains.

 Tallest Utah Mountains NOT found in the Uintas Range:
1. Mount Peale, La Sal Mountains, San Juan County, 12,721.
 2. Mount Mellenthin, La Sal, Mountains, San Juan County, 12,645.
    3. Mount Tukuhnikivatz, La Sal Mountains, San Juan County, 12,482.
    4. Mount Waas, Grand County, 12,331.
    5. Manns Peak, Grand County, 12,272.
    6. Mount Tomasaki, La Sal Mountains, Grand County, 12,239.
    7. Delano Peak, Beaver and Piute counties, 12,169.
    8. Mount Belknap (or "Belnap") Beaver and Piute counties, 12,137.
    9. Mount Baldy, Beaver and Piute counties, 12,122.
   10. Ibapah Peak, Juab County, 12,087.
   11. Haystack Peak, Juab County, 12,020
   12. Mount Holly, Beaver and Piute counties, 11,985.
   13. Ibapah Azimuth, Juab County, 11,987.
   14. Mount Nebo North Peak, Utah and Juab counties, 11,928.
   15. Mount Nebo South Peak, Utah and Juab counties, 11,877.
   16. Mount Nebo Middle Peak, Utah and Juab counties, 11,824.
   17. South Mountain, San Juan County, 11,817.
   18. Mount Brigham, Piute County, 11,757.
   19. Mount Timpanogos “North Peak,” Utah County, 11,750.
  20. "Mount Timpanogos South Peak," Utah County 11,722.

SOURCES: USGS and U.S. Forest Service maps, “High in Utah” book, by Michael R. Weibel and Dan Miller.

(-Originally published by Lynn Arave in the Ogden Standard-Examiner on June 16, 2014.)

-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:  

Friday, June 13, 2014

From ‘Observatory Peak’ to Mount Ogden

By Lynn Arave

HISTORY never recorded the first climb to the top of Mount Ogden (9,572 feet above sea level). However, it does include the account of a climb in 1881, plus a name controversy and more tales for the tallest summit east of Ogden.
“Mountain Mounters” was a July 6, 1881 headline in the Ogden Standard-Examiner.
“On the morning of the Fourth a party of young gentlemen set out from town, bound for the highest peak of the mountains to the east of us. They had a seven mile steady, fatiguing march of it, but at last they conquered the acclivity and reached the towering summit with its rarefied atmosphere and glorious panorama.”
The report continued: “As proof of their achievement they lit a fire on the top of the lofty elevation, which was observed in this city and taken as good evidence.”
Mount Ogden was originally called Observatory Peak and many a visitor to Malan’s Basin resort, near the end of the 19th Century, hiked up there.
Then, by 1912, “Ogden Peak is the name of the mountain,” a Sept. 6, 1912 Standard story declared, as a “should be” title.
The “Observatory” name had come from the U.S. Government’s observatory marker on the summit, placed there in the early 1870s.  The peak’s height was thought to be 9,592 feet in 1912, 20 feet higher than modern measurements.
There was also a failed effort to name the peak Mount Henderson, in honor of a federal judge who hiked it.

A popular exaggeration in the early 20th Century was that a person could see into 7 different states from the summit.
In a Dec. 2, 1919 Standard letter to the editor, it was stated that “Mount Ogden” was the peak’s name now thanks to topographical department in Washington, D.C.
Writer A.S. Condon stated in his letter: “Observatory Peak, as said, means nothing and Mt. Ogden means something.” He argued the unique Ogden name set the peak apart, whereas the former name is affixed to hundreds of other U.S. peaks.
In the Standard of May 6, 1920, it was reported that the National Geographic Society had indeed changed the peak’s name officially to Mount Ogden and that now appeared as such on maps.
The Ogden summit also nearly received an electric sign in the 1910s. A Standard report on Aug. 23, 1912 talked about the strong possibility of an electric sign saying Ogden” being put atop the peak.

The Federal Sign System of San Francisco had come to Ogden with blueprints for a mountain sign, 80-feet-long and 28-feet-high.
That’s all that’s mentioned of such a sign and so it likely never proceeded beyond the blueprint stage.
A 1919 winter climb of Mount Ogden reported lots of industrial and house coal smoke obscuring the great panoramic view below.
By 1922 some 100 hikers climbed Mount Ogden on an early July day. Hikers were treated to accordion music along their trek, so their spirits would be kept high during steep grades.
Then, on Oct. 4, 1922, Elder David O. McKay, LDS Apostle, future LDS Church President and former principal of Weber Academy (forerunner to Weber State University), led 365 students on a hike to Mount Ogden. A flagpole, time capsule and memorial were placed atop the peak.

                                Mount Ogden from the southeast.

(This mass hike was similar to Brigham Young University’s annual Mount Timpanogos hike of that same era.)
This annual Weber hike continued for a few years, but was eventually shortened to reach Malan’s Peak only. In the 1930s, it was the “Flaming W Hike,” where a bonfire was lit on top of the lower peak. By 1946, there was no fuel left on Malan’s for a time.  In the early 1970s, fires returned and one year the fire department had to be called and so electric lights from henceforth lit up the “W.”
Meanwhile, the flagpole, memorial and time capsule had been destroyed in 1967 when the U.S. Forest Service started enforcing a law that required all unauthorized structures on mountains to be removed. The relics were then hurled over the eastern cliffs below the peak. Only fragments of them were ever found.
On Oct. 24, 1987, Weber State Professor Gary D. Willden revived the original annual “Flaming W Hike,” with a trek back to the highest summit, Mount Ogden.

                                 The helicopter pad on Mount Ogden.

The following year, on Oct. 1, 1988, the now annual hike included some 200 hikers and even helicopters rides to a nearby mountain saddle for seniors who were part of the 1922 hike.
Today, Mount Ogden includes a concrete helicopter pad and is loaded with so many high tech transmission towers rising heavenward that it no longer seems the rugged and open peak it was into the early 1990s.  Yet, its spectacular views of the Ogden area remain.

(-Originally published by Lynn Arave in the Ogden Standard-Examiner on June 13, 2014.)

                                      Some of the electronic apparatus on Mount Ogden.

-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: