Southam Canyon Loop
After unloading at "Duck Rock" you will take a relaxing and fun 45 mile ride through the rugged but beautiful Book Cliffs. Along the way up washes, over ridges, and along cliffs you will visit what's left of the historic mining towns (ghost towns) Rainbow & Watson. You will visit the abandoned Gilsonite mines that employed the people that once lived there. If you are afraid of heights.....don't look down, these mines can be 1000 feet deep. Along the way, keep an eye out for dugouts, deer, elk, coyotes, and maybe even a bear.
Ghost Town History:
Gilsonite is an almost pure form of hydrocarbon. Most people have never heard of Gilsonite. But most people encounter it's use or benefit from its use on an almost daily basis, even today. Most newspapers in the USA and Europe use Gilsonite in the ink they are printed with. It's used to insulate pipe in extreme outdoor environments. It's used in the manufacture of steal and road building. And the only place that it is found is in the Uintah Basin.
The area's boom in the early 1900s with the mining of Gilsonite and the Uintah Railroad. The town of Dragon in particular prospered as the main town until In 1911 when the railway was extended to Watson replacing Dragon as the principle Uintah Basin terminus for the freight and passengers. From 1916 to 1925, these towns were on the verge of an industrial development. Several oil companies made arrangements with the federal government for the use of large beds of oil shale near Watson. But in 1926, the federal government put an abrupt end to all plans for the reduction of oil shale by Executive Order from President Coolidge.
Watson, Dragon, Rainbow and the Uintah Railway all died with the Rainbow Mine, leaving almost total inactivity in the Gilsonite mines south of the White River after 1938. Today, not much remains at these historic ghost towns.
The Book Cliffs, historic and abandoned gilsonite mines, old dugouts, bread ovens, and some wildlife.
Trailering required. Please park in the designated staging area at the Western Park Area. See the staging map here. It will take approximately 45 minutes to trailer to the trailhead.