History of the Forest

The history of the Ashley National Forest is a colorful parade of trappers, explorers, outlaws, and settlers. Their deeds and lives create a colorful and interesting picture in the development of this area.

Dominquez and Escalante, Spanish explorers, were probably the first white men to set foot in the Uintah Basin. They entered the Basin in 1776, traveling from Santa Fe, New Mexico, attempting to find a shorter route to Monterey, California. They did not cross the Uinta Mountains, but proceeded westerly across the south face of the Uinta Mountains, up the Strawberry River and into Utah Valley.

In 1822, Major Andrew Henry, a partner of General W. H. Ashley who organized a fur company, pushed his way through with a party of trappers from St. Louis, Missouri, up the Missouri River to the mouth of the Yellowstone River. Here he established a post and spent the winter of 1822-23. In the spring he came to the point where a stream, which now bears his name, enters the Green River. Here he was able to obtain a rich harvest of pelts. He then headed back to St. Louis.

The following year, General W.H. Ashley directed the expedition and arrived on the banks of the Green River in the spring of 1825. At this point, he dispatched his men in different directions. All were to attend his "general rendezvous" on the Green River on July 10.

Ashley, with six of his men, started down the river in boats constructed from buffalo hides and local timber on April 21, 1825. On Saturday May 2, Ashley wrote "we entered between the walls of this range of mountains, which approach at this point to the water’s edge on either side of the river and rise almost perpendicular to an immense height." Thus, the explorers passed through the Flaming Gorge, the first recorded entry of white men into the area now included in the Ashley National Forest. Later as they were passing through Red Canyon, they found it necessary to portage their boats around some falls, "produced from large fragments of rock which had fallen from the wall and settled in the river." From this incident, "Ashley Falls" received its name.

General Ashley and his party pushed on down the river to the point near where Green River, Utah is now located apparently seeking an outlet for his fur business to the Gulf of Mexico. At this place he was finally convinced by the Indians that the Green River emptied into the western ocean. He secured horses from the Indians and worked back north to and across the Uinta Mountains, "through a maze of little streams and valleys over the top of the Uintas near what is now called "Mount Baldy" (Marsh Peak)".

It has been said that "the written history of the country west of the Rockies where Americans made their first stand for possession begins with a single name and a date painted high on a mountain precipice." The name is "Ashley" and the date is &1825". The precipice on which W. H. Ashley wrote his name overhung a river flowing through eastern Utah. The name and date are now covered by waters of the Flaming Gorge Reservoir.

Ashley National Forest, Ashley Creek, and Ashley Valley received their names from this early explorer. The imprint of Ashley's party is still evident in the name Bridger Valley named for Jim Bridger; David Jackson for which Jackson Hole is named; Etienne Provost, for which Provo River and the City of Provo is named; and William Sublette for which Sublette County, Wyoming was named.

In the year 1828, four white men, Toopeechee Reed, Jim Reed, Dennis Julien and Augustus Archambeaux, French traders from Kentucky, entered the Uintah Basin and set up a trading post near a spring of water just south and east of the present settlement of Whiterocks. They brought in the first butcher knives, coffee beans, and other articles traded to the Indians for fur.

Antoine Rubidoux entered the Basin in 1832. When he decided to build his fort, Reed and others sold out and eventually left the Basin. Fort Rubidoux, a center for fur traders, had a life of 12 years. In 1844, this fort was burned to the ground. Antoine Rubidoux and a guide were away from the fort at the time and escaped.

In 1861, all the valley of the Uinta River was set aside as an Indian Reservation. The reservation extended to the crest of the mountains.

The first settlement of the Uinta Basin took place in 1872 by Captain Pardon Dodds. Following Captain Dodds, Morris Evans trailed about 2,000 head of cattle into the valley. In 1874, A. Hatch and Company brought in about 2,500 cattle and a large band of horses. In a few years, all of the surrounding ranges were fully stocked.

Following the settlement came another era of the west--the advent of the famous outlaws and rustlers. In the 1880's and 1890's Butch Cassidy and his gang, known as the "Wild Bunch", roamed the Intermountain Area. Butch shines in western legend as one of the brightest lights in his profession: leader of one of the largest organizations of cowboy outlaws the west has ever seen.

One of Butch's famous hideouts was found in the northeast corner of Daggett County known as Brown's Hole. It was here that he organized his famous band, composed of such notorious characters as Elza Lay, Matt Warner, George Cutty, Tom Horn, Tom O'Day, Harry Longabaugh, and others.

On July 15, 1905, President Theodore Roosevelt, by proclamation, added part of the area within the Indian reservation to the Uinta Forest Reserve. By executive order on July 1, 1908, he created the Ashley National Forest from that portion of the Uinta Forest Reserve east of the Rock Creek and Smith Fork drainages. These boundaries did not vary greatly until 1953 when a change in Forest boundaries between the Wasatch, Uinta, and Ashley National Forest was made. All of the north slope of the Uinta Mountains west of the Burnt Fork drainage was transferred from the Ashley National Forest to the Wasatch National Forest. The Ashley received the Rock Creek and Duchesne River drainages from the Wasatch Forest and Tabby Mountain and Avintaquin units from the Uinta National Forest. Today the boundaries are essentially the same, except the Phil Pico and Tabby Mountain units were exchanged with the State of Utah in 1966-1968.

On October 1, 1968, President Lyndon B. Johnson approved legislation establishing the Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area as part of the Ashley National Forest. This legislation added approximately 120,000 acres to the Forest. From a small handful of dedicated men in 1908, the personnel force has expanded to more than 280 persons employed during the summer months on the Ashley National Forest.

Growth and development of the Ashley National Forest, has been strongly influenced by the leadership of the Forest's personnel. Colonel May was the first Supervisor of the old Uinta Forest Reserve. He was followed by G. F. Bucher. In 1902, Dan Marshall was made Supervisor of the old Uinta. When the Ashley Forest was separated from the Uinta Forest, William M. Anderson became Forest Supervisor. Mr. Anderson continued in this capacity until 1920, when he was succeeded by Charles Demoisey, Jr. who was Supervisor until 1925. Other Supervisors of the Forest have been A. G. Nord, J. O. Stewart, A. L. Taylor, E. C. Sanford, R. S. Park, O. A. Harrison, W. D. Hurst, G. B. Doll, A. R. McConkie, R. A. Rowen, J. R. Craig, D. G. Tucker, Bert Kulesza, George Weldon, and  Kevin B. Elliott.  These men all helped promote the growth and development of the Ashley National Forest.  The current Forest Supervisor, John R. Erickson is continuing the tradition of leadership.




Key Contacts

Jeffrey A. Rust