When it comes to having a history in mining, places like Alta and Park City certainly come to mind. But, who would have thought that Piute County was once a hub for the mining of gold, silver and other valuable minerals?
What you know
Within the boundaries are two of Utah's more popular reservoirs Piute and Otter Creek.
Piute Reservoir, located east of U.S. 89, is a 3,360-acre impoundment and is known for growing big rainbow and cutthroat. This past summer 400,000 catchable trout were planted in the reservoir, which should make the water one of Utah's hot spots in the coming years.
Otter Creek is only about 15 miles east of Piute and is about the same size 3,120 acres. Both are long and narrow, and both offer a menu of summer and winter activities and both are open year-round.
Connected to each of the reservoirs is a state park.
Otter Creek State Park offers picnic areas, restrooms with hot showers, boat ramps and courtesy docks. This is a popular summer spot for water-skiers. The park is only 43 miles from Bryce Canyon National Park.
Piute State Park is not as developed as Otter Creek but does offer camping, picnicking and a launch ramp.
The Piute ATV Trail has become very popular over the years with off-highway recreationists, and two of the main hubs have become Circleville and Marysville, both within county limits.
The trail is a 272-mile loop along the tops of the Fishlake National Forest. Branching off from the main trail, like roots, are hundreds of miles of backcountry roads making riding opportunities endless.
As has been said before, what makes this trail so popular is the number of towns, such as Circleville and Marysvale, that are connected to the trail.
In fact, both towns have designated streets that connect directly with dirt roads that lead to the Piute Trail, making it convenient to stay in town, eat fine meals and sleep in comfortable beds, then wake up in the morning and head for the trail. Riders can either stay in one designated town or go from one town to the next along the trail.
Both Otter Creek and Piute parks are easily accessible off the trail.
Rides can range from a few hours to all day and even longer for the more hardy riders.
Each year, ATV riders from around the country gather for the ATV Jamboree, which includes a number of rides over the Piute Trail.
Along with access to the Piute Trail, hikers and bikers can also access the Great Western Trail from Circleville. One possible trip would be to hike or bike from town to Bryce.
One of the things that has made this county popular with bikers, hikers and ATV owners is the reasonably mild weather over the winter months. Daytime temperatures are often in the 50s and 60s.
Early-bird hikers and bikers enjoy traveling along the snowline. Then, in April and May, meadows open and wildflowers begin to show. The high country, upward of 12,800 feet in elevation, well above the treeline, typically opens up in July. From these high vistas people can see upward of 200 miles.
Wildlife viewing is another popular activity. The county is home to large numbers of bear, elk and deer. There are also cougars in the Dry Creek area, and it's not that uncommon for one to be spotted up among the rocks.
What you don't know
Circleville was once the home of Robert LeRoy Parker. The ranch where he was raised, back in the late 1860s, is two miles south of town along U.S. 89.
And who is this Parker fellow? He became friends with an old rustler named Mike Cassidy and changed his name to Butch Cassidy. During the summer months the ranch is open to visitors.
Mining was and still is a popular attraction in this county.
Back in the boom days, approximately 240,000 ounces of gold were taken from the Tushar Range in the western part of the county.
A few years back, Bullion Canyon, which flows into Bullion Creek, experienced one of those 100-year floods. As a result, a new batch of minerals flowed down into the creek, said Mel Terry, with Piute Travel Council.
An increasing number of people have been visiting the creek and panning for what they call "black sand," which contains small traces of gold. The sand can be taken to a recovery plant, which, when enough is gathered, can produce a small ingot for the prospector.
Some of those prospecting for gold are having their finds made into jewelry.
The county also holds the world's largest alunite deposits and is the largest producer of primary type uranium ore in the United States
Because this area was once well-populated with miners, another popular pastime is to walk the land with a metal detector. According to some of the locals, all sorts of things have been found.
This is also a popular area with rockhounders. A rough count shows there are approximately 30 semiprecious stones that can be found in the area that rockhounders are having cut and polished.
Early Americans, in fact, used what is called "black glass" to make arrow and lance heads. Occasionally, one of the crafted stones is found. There are a number of sites where chips from the arrow and lance heads fell. Several can be found in Kingston Canyon and north from there to Marysvale Peak. There are also a number of caves that were used by the early Americans that are there to be explored.
The U.S. Forest Service has created an equestrian park near Miners Park in Bullion Canyon outside of Marysvale. There is a place to unload horses and a trail that leads above Bullion Falls, long considered one of the more picturesque waterfalls in the state.
This is an easy area to ride, and riders have the option of going on rides anywhere from a few hours to overnight camping excursions into some of Utah's most scenic country. This is also a popular trail for hikers who don't mind an occasional encounter with a horse and rider.
West of Marysvale is the Canyon of Gold, which is the start of a driving tour to some of the old mining areas. One of the stops is the Kimberly Mine, located in the Tushar Mountains, which once employed upward of 300 miners around the turn of the century.
The nearby town flourished until the gold ran out, and it closed in 1907. It is now a ghost town. A brochure is available at the trailhead that points out historic sites, such as the foundation of the boarding house and location of the old mine.
Well known: Otter Creek, Piute State Park, Piute Trail
Unknown: Gold Mining, Butch Cassidy
Contact: (435) 577-2949
E-mail: [email protected]