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:  

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