City of Rocks
Historic Resources Study
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The historical cultural resources within City of Rocks National Reserve most clearly reflect two phases of Euroamerican expansion into the west: the westward migration of the mid-1800s, and the settlement (homestead) era (1888-1929). Other themes important to the exploration and subsequent development of the region (e.g., the fur trade and development of the mining frontier) did not directly impact this small area at the southern end of the Albion Mountains. Tourism and recreation represent the most recent trends that have contributed to development within the area.

Although many different manmade resources are found within the reserve, their number is small relative to the number of improvements that once existed there. The area that they occupy is minor, compared with the expanse of open land that has never had, or does not obviously appear to have had, any improvement. The upper reaches of the reserve, those areas that consist mostly of rock, and slope, and timber, retain a wild appearance. The lower elevation basins have been more substantially altered. Currently, these areas are relatively free of structural components excepting various small scale elements such as fences and corrals. The once-numerous residential/outbuilding clusters of the dry-land farms no longer break the visual continuity of the two basin floors; remains of their presence consist only of artifact scatters, sometimes in association with stone foundations. Perhaps the most dramatic change within the lower basins is in the character of the vegetation. These basins no longer contain the mosaic of sage and native grasses that the westward emigrants would have encountered. The grubbed, plowed, and seeded fields of the dry-land farmers of the 1910s and 1920s have, in most cases, reverted to sagebrush mixed with non-native weedy grasses and forbs. In some areas, former cropland contains the ubiquitous sage interspersed with crested wheatgrass — the latter introduced to increase the quality of the range for cattle. [298] Questions of vegetative species composition aside, the current landscape character of the reserve is much the same as it would have appeared to emigrants passing through during the late summer months, after livestock from previous emigrant trains had grazed the lower elevations of the basins.

The following discussion is broken into three parts. The first presents information regarding cultural resources associated with westward migration. The second contains a description of the cultural resources associated with the settlement period. The final section includes a discussion of the configuration of historically significant resources within the reserve, and suggestions regarding the manner in which they may be nominated to the National Register of Historic Places. Figures for Section 5 are presented at the end of the discussions.

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Last Updated: 12-Jul-2004