Our Vantage Points
Hite Country

Hite Country: Chocolate desolation where beauty is in the way you look at it. 
This and the following photo were captured along Utah-95 between Natural Bridges NM and the Colorado River.

Hite Country: Where scant vegetation completes the scene

Hite Country: Where Cass Hite began Southern Utah's gold rushes.

It was here along the Colorado river, a desert river hidden in Glen Canyon, that Cass Hite discovered placer gold in 1883.  He had been looking for silver, but this find became the first in a string of Southern Utah gold rushes that continued for 28 years. 

Gold "finds" occurred in sequence:
  1. Colorado River in Glen Canyon 1883
  2. The Henry Mountains (30 miles north) 1889
  3. The La Sal Mountains (75 miles northeast)
  4. The Abajo Mountains (30 miles east)
  5. San Juan River (40 miles south) about 1900
The operation on the San Juan River, near the southern Utah border, was fairly large.  However, these Utah gold rushes were not major as gold rushes go.

These photos lead your eye leftward, downriver to the historic location of Hite and "Dandy Crossing."
Hite Country: Where the wild Colorado River was crossed and tamed.

Less than an hour after leaving the natural bridges that God created over millennial "days," we came upon a beautiful man-made span of steel over the Colorado River, that ageless barrier to human movement.  This bridge has been here only about 30 years and might not last even a thousand, but today it made our crossing a thoughtless "snap."

The Colorado River, in the region of Southern Utah and Northern Arizona was a major barrier for explorers and pioneers.  John D. Lee, a Mormon pioneer, developed a suitable crossing over the Colorado River in 1873.  That was "Lee's Ferry," 100 miles south west of here, beyond Page Arizona.  Lee's Ferry remained in service until 1928 when a bridge for US Highway 89A was constructed.

Another chink in the barrier was Halls Crossing at Bullfrog, 30 miles down river.

It was about 1880 that Cass Hite was told by Navajos where to find the best place to cross the Colorado River.  When he found it he called it a "Dandy Crossing."  Indeed, it was the best crossing above Lee's Ferry.

Dandy Crossing became the site of a small village.  In the early days it wasn't a ferry crossing, just a decent ford in the river.  Prospectors and others working in the area used this place as a rendezvous point.  Cass and his brothers operated the crossing and established a store.  When a post office was set up in 1889 the mail came here on horseback from Green River, Utah, 100 miles north.

Cass Hite died at Ticaboo, in the Glen Canyon area in 1914.

In the early 1930's Arthur Chaffin moved to Hite and developed an oasis of fruit trees and melons.  Despite the lack of roads, travelers enjoyed visiting Chaffin's oasis and other areas here in Glen Canyon.

In 1932 Chaffin borrowed a bulldozer from the Utah Highway Department and scraped a crude but passable road from Hanksville to Hite.  Thirteen years later, at the end of World War II, The state built a dirt road from Blanding to Hite, then in 1946 the Hanksville-Hite dirt road was greatly improved.

Now the Colorado River at Hite was the only barrier stopping auto travel between Hanksville and Blanding.  So Arthur Chaffin rolled up his sleeves and built an auto ferry using an old Ford car to power it and a large steel cable to keep it on course.  For the next 20 years, many automobiles and trailers were transported across the river. Now "Dandy Crossing" was indeed a "Ford on the river." (groan)

With the completion of Glen Canyon dam, water from the Colorado River began accumulating in the 1960's such that in 1964, ferry operation at Hite crossing was discontinued.  Chaffin's oasis gradually sank into the rising lake, thus ending one era and beginning another.

A bright steel bridge was built.  Utah Highway 95 was paved and dedicated in 1976 as the "Bicentennial Highway" because it was completed in the 200th year of the United States of America.

Across the bridge, up the hill and around a couple of sandstone mountains, we are treated to a panorama of upper Lake Powell and the Hite area.  A group of Elderhostelers beat us there. This is the same group we saw at Natural Bridges NM.

This overview (looking east) shows the place where "Dandy Crossing" and "Hite City" were located. 
Note the nearby Utah-95 steel bridge in the upper right corner. 

Well, the lake went up and the lake went down.  Lake Powell reached full depth in 1980 and pretty much maintained that level for about 20 years.  When we came by here in 2004, the low lake level was a mixed blessing for us.  At Hite, the lake was virtually, reduced to mud flats drying in the sun.  But, on the brighter side, we could see the lay of the land around Hite almost as it was before Lake Powell...  sort of like stepping back in time. 

This is the view about 50 degrees to the right of the photo above.  The current site of Hite, Utah may be seen under the far bluff.  The boat ramp is high and dry. 

The red numbers on the map below correspond to those on the last three photos.

In researching this information I found nothing clearly negative about the value of the Glen Canyon Dam and the vast Lake Powell.  There were comments that the project was "controversial."  I suppose everything ever done by man and even some things done by God are controversial.  One source pointed out that the dam has modified the species of plants and animals.  Well, that's a truism!  Such has been the case countless times on earth, particularly with acts of God.  Of course our projects should consider undesired possibilities as well as the desired. 

What would have happened if Glen Canyon had not been there for the thirsty Southwest? Lake Powell had a set-back, but people in Arizona, Nevada and California had a little more water than they would have had during this drought.

Lake Powell gathers water from three states and holds it in one of the dryest and remote areas anywhere.  Continue with us for yet another perspective of this lake. 
To Lake Powell >>    
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