I hate sitting so we don’t travel long days. To break up our travel we stopped over a night at Lees Ferry. It’s sweltering hot in the summer but there was a weather break in the heat and instead, it was delightful! We even got some rain.
After a short rainstorm we were able to get out and go for a hike.
Lonely Dell Ranch
Jacob Hamblin, a Mormon missionary sent by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, successfully crossed the Colorado River near here in 1864. Seeing its importance in the settlement of Arizona, Hamblin recommended his church establish a river crossing. Over the years three Mormon families; the Lees, Johnsons and Emetts, homesteaded and worked the busy river crossing known as Lees Ferry.
Lee was a practicing polygamist who built cabins for two of his families at Lees Ferry. His wife Emma named the ranch at Lees Ferry “Lonely Dell” due to its austere remoteness. A number of structures remain at the Ranch from the polygamist period of the Lee and Johnson families. We walked around to check out the root cellar which dates back to 1878, the “Polygamist Cabin” of 1925, and the orchards. There is quite a variety of fruit when in season and you are allowed to pick 5 gallons a day!
Lee wasn’t all good. He was later convicted as a mass murderer for his complicity in the Mountain Meadows massacre, sentenced to death and was executed in 1877. In September 1857, the Baker–Fancher party, an emigrant group from Arkansas, camped at Mountain Meadows, a staging area in southern Utah used to prepare for the long crossing of the Mojave Desert by groups travelling westward to California. They were attacked by a combined group of Native Americans and Mormon militia men dressed as Native Americans. There were multiple motives for the conflict, including rising tensions between the US Federal government and Mormon settlers and a rumor that the Baker–Fancher party included those who had murdered Mormons at the 1838 event known as Haun’s Mill massacre.
Under cover of a white flag Lee convinced the emigrants to surrender their weapons and property to the Mormons in return for safe conduct to nearby Cedar City. The emigrants accepted the offer and surrendered, however approximately 120 of the Baker–Fancher party were then killed by Mormon militia and Paiute Indians, leaving only about 17 small children as survivors. Thus, the sentencing and death.
Paria Canyon Hike
After poking around at the ranch, we continued on our walk to Paria Canyon. The Mormons weren’t the first people here. Stone shelters, tools, pottery fragments and carvings link the canyon to Ancestral Puebloans from 1000-1150. The Paria River runs through this canyon and dumps into the Colorado River. Living near water is pretty important in the desert and I can see why they chose to live here. We hiked along the river for a ways and then turned back. It looks like you could go forever but a river crossing is necessary.