This archived article was written by: Ryan Ware
Utah is transferring control of Range Creek to the University of Utah, a decision that left the College of Eastern Utah Museum personnel how they will fit into the research of the remote canyon.
To obtain rights to Range Creek, the U of U will trade four-square miles of trust land to Utah State Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR).
Range Creek “is the opportunity of a lifetime,” stated Renee Barlow, Ph.D., museum archaeologist at the College of Eastern Utah’s Prehistoric Museum. Range Creek is “amazing outdoor exhibit of wildlife, scenery, artifacts and pristine Fremont ruins.” Range Creek is located a short distance southeast of Price. During Barlow’s eight years at the site they “recorded more than 400 archaeological sites and conducted excavations.” With over 400 archaeological sites, Range Creek is rich in Fremont artifacts and ruins. At Range Creek, “artifacts that include polished turquoise, a carved bone awl, a ceramic pendant fragment, pottery shards, a small piece of yellow ochre, and lithic debitage” have been found at the site.
According to an article in the Sun Advocate, “While there have been many artifacts found in the canyon, including tools, actual corn cobs from granaries, jewelry, pots, pot shards, and other items, probably one of the most celebrated items was discovered by a DWR law enforcement officer in 2005. It was a flute that was stuck in a rock crevice above the access road. There has been some controversy as to the age of the flute, but it is still being tested and examined by the state to find exactly which group of people it belonged to. Some think it may be archaic, but it could also be Fremont or pre-Ute. In any case, Barlow told the Sun Advocate the find is significant because it is either one-of-a-kind or very rare.”
According to an article by the Associated Press, “Metcalfe said carbon dating of artifacts has revealed that about a dozen miles of Range Creek Canyon was intensively occupied by hundreds or possibly thousands of people for two or three centuries until around 1,200 A.D.
Artifacts from baskets to tobacco bundles suggest human life showed up in Range Creek hundreds of years earlier and lingered longer, but significantly, the large population seemed to virtually vanish by 1,200 A.D., for reasons not fully understood.”
The DWR traded Range Creek for four-square miles of land that is considered elk and deer habitat. With this trade, CEU and other institutions that have committed time and resources to Range Creek are concerned about access to Range Creek.
Duncan Metcalfe, chief curator at the Utah Museum of Natural History stated, “Researchers from a number of different institutions, both in Utah and elsewhere, have worked in Range Creek and I expect that to continue.”
The U of U plans “to establish an academic field station in Range Creek … The field station will facilitate the long-term, orderly scientific investigation, preservation and protection of the archaeological sites in Range Creek,” stated Metcalfe. This field station will be able to “better prepare university for professional careers in the field of natural history and other academic disciplines.”
The University of Utah has “During that time, … run archaeological and paleoenvironmental field schools, at both the advanced undergraduate and graduate level, in the canyon,” stated Metcalfe.
“CEU began running an archaeological field school in Range Creek in 2004,” stated Barlow.
With the previous joint effort of scientists, students, and volunteers throughout various institutions, such as, “the Utah Rock Art Research Association (URARA) and the Castle Valley Archaeological Society (CVAS),” stated Barlow, CEU and other institutions should be able to maintain some aspects of the status quo in Range Creek.