History of the West End
LAYERS OF HISTORY
It all began 150,000,000 years ago when the dinosaurs roamed this area. Carbonized plants and animal remains, as well as minerals and ores were deposited in the sandstone beds of the Morrison formation. A rich mining heritage begun in the late 1800's worked these veins through booms and busts. Dinosaur tracks and fossils are scattered across the rugged landscape of canyons and mesas.
The Ancestral Pueblo (Anasazi) roamed the area between 500BC and 1300AD leaving behind their stories in numerous rock art panels.
In 1776 Friars Escalante and Dominguez mapped these canyons and waterways while searching for a route to their mission in Monterey, California.
The Tabeguache Ute Indians called this land their home, but in 1870 they were moved to a reservation as miners and settlers staked their claims here. Arrowheads abound in the hills of the
Gold fever attracted the placer miners to the banks of the San Miguel River. Rambling tent towns sprang up in the late 1800's. Eastern investors threw their money into projects like the Hanging Flume - an engineering wonder listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
Pioneers recognized water as the real gold. Building systems of canals and ditches, they watered the high desert to grow their crops. These lush valleys and plateaus supported one of the richest cattle productions in the nation, as well as an era of cowboys and indians, and outlaws and gunslingers - they were called Rimrockers.
In 1881 carnotite ore containing radium, vanadium, and uranium, was discovered in these hills. By 1912 mining and milling for these minerals was in full swing. Radium was sent overseas to Marie Curie for use in her radiation experiments. Vanadium was later in demand by the steel industry, and then Uranium found its place during WWII.
The town of Uravan sprang up overnight as a headquarters for this industry, supporting the top-secret Manhattan Project. But by 1984 the industry had played out. Uravan became a superfund site and was dismantled, shredded, and buried. Only memories remain.