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Sego Canyon - History & Ancient History

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Located north of Thompson Springs, Utah is Sego Canyon, also known as Book Cliffs and Thompson Wash. This side trip off of I-70 west of the Utah/Colorado line provides not only a peek at prehistoric rock-art, but also the remains of the old coal town of Sego, a once thriving coal mining camp.


About 3 ½ miles north of Thompson Springs, on Sego Canyon Road, are the petroglyphs and pictographs left by several different cultures. The Fremont culture thrived from A.D. 600 to 1250 and was a contemporary with the Anasazi culture of the Four Corners area. There is also rock art from the Archaic period dating from 7000 B.C., the Barrier Canyon period from around 2000 B.C., and the Ute tribe dating from A.D. 1300.


Sego Canyon, Utah

We spy several deer in Sego Canyon, Kathy Weiser, April, 2008.




Though preservation and restoration efforts are continual, unfortunately, there is quite a bit of graffiti and damage to the art.


Rock art in Sego Canyon

Barrier Style rock art is estimated to date back to about 2000 B.C. It is distinctive in life-size mummy-like human shapes without arms or legs, Kathy Weiser, April, 2008.


Sego Canyon Rock Art

More Native American designs can be seen amongst the later graffiti

 caused by the "white man," Kathy Weiser, April, 2008.


After viewing the historic rock art, head north on Sego Canyon Road. After about ½ mile, the road forks, with the left fork headed into Thompson Canyon, and the right fork heading into Sego Canyon. Take the right fork, which quickly leads to Sego's old cemetery. The ghost town of Sego is about another mile or so on up the canyon.


Sego got its start in the early 1890s when an affluent farmer/rancher named Harry Ballard discovered coal on land adjacent to his ranch. Keeping his discovery a secret, he began to buy the adjacent property and started coal operations on a small scale.


The small community that sprang up around the operations was first called Ballard, for its owner. The coal was initially dug out manually and hauled down the narrow canyon by wagons. Soon, news of the high quality coal in Sego Canyon reached Salt Lake City. When a hardware store owner named B.F. Bauer heard of the find, he bought out Ballard’s property and formed the American Fuel Company, selling stock valued at $1 million.  


In 1911, the company began to develop the area in earnest with aggressive plans for long-term coal production. They built the American Fuel Company Store, a boarding house, mining buildings, the first coal washer west of the Mississippi River, and a tipple.


They also renamed the settlement Neslin, for the general manager of the American Fuel Company, Richard Neslin.


Company Store in Sego, Utah

American Fuel Company Store, Kathy Weiser, April, 2008. This image available for photographic prints and downloads HERE!


Railroad Bridge in Sego Canyon, Utah

Several of the old railroad bridges remain standing in Sego Canyon, Kathy Weiser, April, 2008. This image available for photographic prints and  downloads HERE!


In 1914, the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad built a spur line from Thompson to the coal camp, which crossed the stream 13 times in its five mile journey. Almost immediately, the camp was plagued with water problems, which continued throughout the life of the camp. On numerous occasions, the water table was so low; the coal washer could not be operated. The camp also experienced problems with the railroad spur trains, which were often off their tracks.



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