William Crawford (below), with either John Winder or Mr. Rosencranz (on top), at the Cable Works above Zion Canyon.
Credit: Zion National Park, Museum Catalog Number ZION 12421.
Remnants of the historic Cable Works are still located on the top of Cable Mountain.
Credit: NPS Photo / Brian Whitehead
Connecting the Rim to the Canyon Floor
The Cable Mountain Draw Works was a mechanism used for transporting timber from the mesas above Zion Canyon to the valley floor. The Draw Works involved a wire and pulley tramway that extended between Cable Mountain down to the area near Weeping Rock, over 2,000 feet below.
In the mid-to-late 1800s, settlers of Zion Canyon and local communities faced difficulties acquiring lumber. The canyon's cottonwoods, ash, and other tree varieties were not ideal for construction. Above the cliffs were large swaths of forests with sturdy pine, spruce, and fir, which were much better suited for building materials. However, the canyon's steep terrain required long wagon trips, sometimes a week or longer, to deliver lumber from one location to another.
Inspired by a Mormon prophecy, a man named David Flanigan searched for a solution to this problem. As a local resident and logger, Flanigan thoroughly explored Zion Canyon, and had hoped to find a natural channel through which timber could be transported. He discovered a suitable location above the eastern canyon rim, and with the help of his brother, would haul thousands of pounds of wire and materials through narrow canyon walls and vertical terrain. After much hard work, trial and error, and skepticism, his method was proven to be feasible.
The operation involved a system of drums and pulleys and some 50,000 feet of baling wire to form a single-line tramway. Two sets of structures made from hand-hewn wood were separated by 3,300 feet, and over 2,000 feet vertically. The upper structure was a rectangular framework and a braking mechanism used as a loading terminal. The bottom set involved two structures to receive the timber loads. The Draw Works was powered entirely by gravity and used braking devices to lower material. By September 1901, the tram began carrying its first loads of lumber.
In 1908, the operation was sold to Frank Petty, a sawmill operator. The baling wire was replaced with a braided steel cord, and a steam-powered sawmill was built nearby. Over the years, hundreds of thousands of feet of board lumber were transported down the mountain. These materials were used in buildings and homesteads throughout the canyon and nearby settlements, including the original Zion Lodge.
Many perilous stories are associated with the Draw Works, as curious onlookers wondered what it would be like to ride the wire down. The first living specimen to do this was the Flanigan family dog, Darkey. Perched atop a load of lumber, Darkey rode the wire 2,000 feet down the mountain. According to David's brother, William, when the dog reached the bottom, he was "real scart." Many locals braved the ride as well, some with close calls that required rescuing.
Fires and lightning struck the Draw Works at least twice, and the operation was abandoned in 1927. The structure was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1978, and was stabilized in 2011. Although the lower structure no longer exists, remnants of the upper portion can still be seen today at the edge of Cable Mountain.
The Cable Mountain Draw Works represent a significant part of the cultural heritage at Zion National Park. If you choose to visit the site, located at the end of the Cable Mountain Trail, please show respect for that legacy. Do not climb on the structure. Do not write or scratch marks into the wood. Do not move or take pieces. Like all other places in Zion, we urge you to please Leave No Trace.
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