Fremont Indian State Park
As early as 7200 years ago, Clear Creek Canyon was used by prehistoric hunters and gatherers as a passageway through the Pahvant Plateau.
The Fremont culture was first identified from sites found in 1928 along the Fremont River near Capitol Reef National Park. Archaeologists noticed that structures and artifacts were different than those in Anasazi sites to the south. Unique characteristics included previously unseen pottery types, dew claw moccasins, unfired clay figurines and petroglyphs with a trapezoidal body shape.
With the exception of far southern and southeastern Utah, Fremont sites have been found throughout most of the state. They also have been discovered in adjacent regions of neighboring states. Fremont Indians in Clear Creek Canyon probably were farmers and hunters. They depended on seasonal food gathered in Clear Creek marshes and the surrounding pinyon/juniper forest.
Rock art on the canyon walls is a reminder of Fremont Indians and other peoples who inhabited or traveled through Clear Creek Canyon. The park has one of the most complete rock art collections in existence today. Two types of rock art are found in the park. Pictographs were painted on the canyon walls. Petroglyphs were chipped, chiseled or etched into the walls. (Indians chiseled through the rock's darker surface, called desert varnish, to expose the lighter underlying rock, creating the picture.)
The meaning and purpose of rock art remains a mystery. There is no universally accepted interpretation among archaeologists. Explanations range from a form of written history to doodling. Only the artists knew the meaning of the images.
Exploration & Settlement
Explorers and trappers used the canyon as an east-west travel route. Jedediah Smith and his party passed through the area in 1826, leaving initials and a date on canyon walls.
In 1891, gold was discovered at nearby Kimberly. The town flourished with a power plant, boarding houses, saloons, a school, doctor's office and an opera house. In its heyday, Kimberly had a population of 1,200 people. No one resides there today, but it remains an interesting tourist site just seven miles southwest of the park Visitor Center. Ranches, farms and businesses occupied Clear Creek Canyon from the 1880s until they were displaced by Interstate 70 in 1985.
Fremont Indian State Park was established by the Utah Legislature in 1985 to preserve Clear Creek Canyon's treasury of rock art and archaeological sites.
Plants & Animals
Fremont Indian State Park is located primarily in the Upper Sonoran life zone with its dominant trees of pygmy juniper and pinyon. A profusion of wildflowers bloom annually, including Indian, vetches, lupine, and a species of penstemmons, common to most western states. More arid locations in the park also produce desert wildflowers including paintbrush, saltbrush, cacti and yucca, as well as Fremont barberry, also known as algerita.
There is also a profusion of wildlife in the park. A variety of birds including mockingbirds, warblers and swifts, as well as mountain bluebirds and golden eagles nest here. Many bats, squirrels, chipmunks, yellow-bellied marmots, as well as larger mammals like the mule deer, mountain lion, bobcat and desert bighorn sheep, make the park their home. Coyotes are common here as well as two species of fox -- the gray fox and kit fox.
A large number of amphibians and reptiles make the park their home, including the spadefoot toad. Many species of lizard exist here; the collared lizard is the most colorful and notable. There are also a lot of rattlesnakes.
The cliffs and boulders of Clear Creek Canyon are an excellent medium for rock art. The Joe Lott tuff formation is a result of successive, massive volcanic explosions in the Tushar Mountains about in the Tertiary (17 million years ago). These explosions covered the land with a thick layer of volcanic ash. As the ash settled and cooled in layers, it fused to become the tuff material we see today.
As the volcanic material cooled, it cracked vertically, resulting in distinctive six-sided pillars. Other columns, pillars, buttes and pinnacles were carved by wind, rain and the creek itself. The erosive action of Clear Creek can be seen in The Narrows, two miles west of the Visitor Center. Examples of columnar jointing are apparent in the lower canyon.
The Tertiary Fool Creek Congolmerate of the Sevier River Formation is also apparent in various locations throughout the park.
Share this page on Facebook:
DesertUSA Newsletter -- We send articles on hiking, camping and places to explore, as well as animals, wildflower reports, plant information and much more. Sign up below or read more about the DesertUSA newsletter here. (It's Free.)