FULL DAY DRIVING TOUR
85 Miles Round-Trip From Jeffrey City
The tour begins in Jeffrey City, a uranium mining bust town that today
is moving towards revitalization with new mining activity. Although
still a near-ghost town, Jeffrey City offers a convenience store and
a bar/restaurant where the locals share drinks and tales. It's a perfect
starting point for the Sweetwater Trail, which follows the path of the
From Jeffrey City, follow Hwy. 287/789 southeast. Within 2 miles, you
will have a view of Split Rock, named for obvious reasons, straight
ahead. In 5 miles, Green Mountain, on your right, will become obvious
while Ferris Mountain is off to the southeast and the Sweetwater Rocks
are directly north.
In 14.5 miles, you will come to the Split Rock Rest Area and Interpretive
Site on the left, where a short walking path overlooks Split Rock Meadows.
Signs describe a Pony Express relay station, wild horses that still
run free and why Split Rock was important. Continue southeast another
8 miles to Muddy Gap Junction, where Ferris Mountain looms straight
ahead. Take a left and go north on Hwy. 220 for 19 miles to Independence
Rock State Historic Site.
At Independence Rock a walking path allows you to see where emigrants
carved their names in the rock. The site is named after the 4th of July,
which is the date by which the pioneers hoped to reach the landmark
to make it over the Continental Divide before harsh winter weather set
Return to the highway heading back the way you came for just over 6
miles to Devil's Gate State Historic Site, on the right. A short walking
loop gives you an overview of the Sweetwater River and its importance
to the emigrants. It was here that the Martin Handcart Company encountered
a harsh October snowstorm that killed many and forced the rest to seek
refuge in a cove.
Back on Hwy. 220, continue south less than a mile to the Sun Ranch turn-off,
also on the right. Sun Ranch is now owned by the Church of Latter-day
Saints which has turned a historic ranch building into a visitor's center
and provides access to the publicly-managed Martin's Cove. The BLM and
the LDS Church have built foot paths from the visitor's center to the
cove and to Devil's Gate. The round-trip walk to the cove is 4.5 miles.
Back on Hwy. 220, return to Jeffrey City through Muddy Gap.
Half Day Option
75 Miles Round-Trip
For a shorter tour, travel directly to Sun Ranch and Devil's Gate State
Historic Site, less than a mile apart, where you can tour the Mormon
Handcart Visitor's Center and follow the interpretive walking paths.
Both provide details about life on the Oregon-California-Mormon-49er
Trail. (See the full day tour information.)
Sam Peterson, a local historian who passed away in 1997, grew up in
Fremont County and shared many memorable stories over the years. One
story Sam told was of a hidden cache of gold along the Oregon Trail,
just north of current day Jeffrey City. The grandson of Oregon Trail
emigrants came to Fremont County in search of a gold cave his grandparents
had found during their trek.
The man's family had taken refuge in a cave north of the trail during
an attack by raiding thieves. The cave had a waterfall flowing over
it and was the perfect spot for the women and children to hide while
the men successfully fought off the thieves. When the men returned to
the cave, they noticed a dull yellow metal on the cave wall. The group
had no way of knowing whether the metal was true gold or fool's gold.
With little time to spare, they continued their journey and left the
cave, vowing to return someday.
The grandson arrived at Peterson's homestead in the 1930s looking for
the cave his father (one of the children in the original party) had
described. Although they searched the area for days, they never found
a cave with a waterfall. Maybe the lost gold still exists in the Sweetwater