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The Last Days of the Hite Ferry and the Rise of Highway 95

drewsxmi

Well-Known Member
I have to add a couple of pictures from June 29, 1962 of the Hite ferry, complete with Woody Edgell. My family took a 1960 International Harvester Travelall through Capitol Reef, through Hanksville, down North Wash, across the ferry, and onwards to Natural Bridges, Blanding, and Monticello. The roads onwards to Blanding would have gotten more traffic from the uranium prospectors and mining, and the travel diary does not mention there being anything unusual about the road (other than it being gravel).

The road towards Natural Bridges from the Hite Marina would have still been usable without the White Canyon Bridge, as it went downstream to an easy ford across the White River at about 3,700' elevation. That section of the road is still there (with the possible exception of the river crossing after this summer's monsoons), and would have been part of the regular route to Blanding for the people working the uranium mines.

(My family went to Natural Bridges again in 1978, and the folks in the area were really excited about the new "Bicentennial Highway." We didn't make it any closer to Hite or Lake Powell on that trip, though.)
 

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JFRCalifornia

Escalante-Class Member
I think a Hite cleanup is a great idea, but I would treat it as partly a clean up, and partly an archaeology dig. Not that you'd necessarily find anything of real value, but you can learn a lot from pop top cans and old bottles, boat parts, etc. in terms of when deposits were made, which could provide some insight into river/lake sedimentation dynamics... obviously things get moved around by water, but once buried in deep sediment tends to stay in place... like uranium mine tailings... (!)

I was just at the head of Iceberg Canyon not long ago, where milk jugs attached to trees that once acted as hazard markers are strung 40 feet up in the air. But down in the mudflats, you could find beer cans from the 70s (identifiable by logo design or what kind of pop top it had...)

It would be a fascinating exercise to catalogue some of the trash coming out of the Hite/White Canyon area...
 

JFRCalifornia

Escalante-Class Member
I have to add a couple of pictures from June 29, 1962 of the Hite ferry, complete with Woody Edgell. My family took a 1960 International Harvester Travelall through Capitol Reef, through Hanksville, down North Wash, across the ferry, and onwards to Natural Bridges, Blanding, and Monticello. The roads onwards to Blanding would have gotten more traffic from the uranium prospectors and mining, and the travel diary does not mention there being anything unusual about the road (other than it being gravel).

The road towards Natural Bridges from the Hite Marina would have still been usable without the White Canyon Bridge, as it went downstream to an easy ford across the White River at about 3,700' elevation. That section of the road is still there (with the possible exception of the river crossing after this summer's monsoons), and would have been part of the regular route to Blanding for the people working the uranium mines.

(My family went to Natural Bridges again in 1978, and the folks in the area were really excited about the new "Bicentennial Highway." We didn't make it any closer to Hite or Lake Powell on that trip, though.)
awesome shots!!! And that Travelall is a beast!
 

topoman

Member
I think a Hite cleanup is a great idea, but I would treat it as partly a clean up, and partly an archaeology dig. Not that you'd necessarily find anything of real value, but you can learn a lot from pop top cans and old bottles, boat parts, etc. in terms of when deposits were made, which could provide some insight into river/lake sedimentation dynamics... obviously things get moved around by water, but once buried in deep sediment tends to stay in place... like uranium mine tailings... (!)

I was just at the head of Iceberg Canyon not long ago, where milk jugs attached to trees that once acted as hazard markers are strung 40 feet up in the air. But down in the mudflats, you could find beer cans from the 70s (identifiable by logo design or what kind of pop top it had...)

It would be a fascinating exercise to catalogue some of the trash coming out of the Hite/White Canyon area...

Hi JFR, The sandbar at the top of this photo ( taken right above the FT. Moki site) is the top of the Uranium Tailing pile. Tom McCourt just told me that there are 26000 tons of radioactive material just under this sandbar. When they closed the gates at Glen Canyon the Bureau of Reclamation said that they would be "safely" covered by the lake! Be careful what you look for! WOW!
 

JFRCalifornia

Escalante-Class Member
Hi JFR, The sandbar at the top of this photo ( taken right above the FT. Moki site) is the top of the Uranium Tailing pile. Tom McCourt just told me that there are 26000 tons of radioactive material just under this sandbar. When they closed the gates at Glen Canyon the Bureau of Reclamation said that they would be "safely" covered by the lake! Be careful what you look for! WOW!
I hear you about the uranium tailings. These two shots from Kelsey's Lake Powell book really show the relationship of Ft. Moki with the uranium mining operation...

Ft Moki - White Cyn - 1950s.jpgFt Moki - White Cyn 2 - 1950s.jpg
 

topoman

Member
I hear you about the uranium tailings. These two shots from Kelsey's Lake Powell book really show the relationship of Ft. Moki with the uranium mining operation...

View attachment 15472View attachment 15473
Boy , If those walls could talk! Wait, there aren't any walls anymore! GREAT old photos (the top one looks backwards?)!! The Government photographed and cataloged almost everything before they closed the gates and I wonder what happened to all that information?
 

JFRCalifornia

Escalante-Class Member
Hi JFR, The sandbar at the top of this photo ( taken right above the FT. Moki site) is the top of the Uranium Tailing pile. Tom McCourt just told me that there are 26000 tons of radioactive material just under this sandbar. When they closed the gates at Glen Canyon the Bureau of Reclamation said that they would be "safely" covered by the lake! Be careful what you look for! WOW!
...and since you mentioned Tom McCourt, his book about White Canyon should be on the top of any must-read list about this part of the world. It's great. ("White Canyon--Remembering the Little Town at the Bottom of Lake Powell"--written in 2003.) Tons of great insights and details in there about the history, the town, and the roads. In fact, the chapter called "The Road to White Canyon" is the single best description of what the roads were like to get to White Canyon if you approached from the west via Hanksville. Read that thing.

He also notes in there that Chaffin only charged $1.50 for a pickup truck on the ferry, but extra for passengers... other sources say $5. Maybe both are right, depending on the timeframe...
 

drewsxmi

Well-Known Member
Hi JFR, The sandbar at the top of this photo ( taken right above the FT. Moki site) is the top of the Uranium Tailing pile. Tom McCourt just told me that there are 26000 tons of radioactive material just under this sandbar. When they closed the gates at Glen Canyon the Bureau of Reclamation said that they would be "safely" covered by the lake! Be careful what you look for! WOW!
By way of comparison, the tailings pile near Moab (which is being moved to near Thompson, UT) is/was 11,900,000 tons. Access to the pile at Moab is a lot easier, though. Unfortunately the tailings are probably a lot more mobile than the original deposits.
 

Bill Sampson

Escalante-Class Member
John, thanks again for the history lesson. There is so much I don't know about this region. I really appreciate these
 

JFRCalifornia

Escalante-Class Member
John, thanks again for the history lesson. There is so much I don't know about this region. I really appreciate these
Thanks Bill. I have to admit, I sometimes feel that as a Californian, I have no business making posts like these—because I don’t live near Lake Powell… but do appreciate the acceptance I always get from all you locals! Just make sure you correct me when I get things wrong!
 
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