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Front Page » May 20, 2008 » Local News » on the road to Robber's Roost
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on the road to Robber's Roost

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Staff writer

SouthEastern Utah OHV club hits the outlaw trail

The SouthEastern Utah OHV Club visits Robber's Roost spring and hears the local history from Ted Ekker.

With thoughts of bank robbers, stolen horses and bad guys swirling in their heads, the members of the SouthEastern Utah Off Highway Vehicle Club followed ranch owner Ted Ekker into Robbers Roost Canyon to revisit some of the stomping grounds of outlaws of the past. For more than 30 years during the late 1800s and early 1900s, many outlaws, including Butch Cassidy for a short time, made this area their home.

SEUOHV club asked Ekker to guide them into the area because he spent much of his youth in the area and now calls Green River his home. During Ekker's youth, he spent many years on the ranch near Robbers Roost. Ted's brother Arthur was the first person to take Ted into this area.

As a young boy, Ted lived near Hanksville and his family, including his eight brothers, Arthur, Bruce, Derris, Harold, Horace, Jess, Riter and Glen, placer mined in the Henry Mountains. When their mine was washed out, Arthur and his wife took Ted with them and went to the ranch in the Robbers Roost area. Ted worked on this ranch for many years.

During his time at the ranch, Ted would explore looking for anything from the days of the outlaws. One time as he was operating a bulldozer building a road, he suddenly had no place to go. He got off the dozer and began to walk around to find a way out. While he was searching, he found a large number of .44-40 shell casings on the ground. These were the type used by many of the outlaws during their era in the Roost.

Ted first took the SEUOHV club to a spot at the head of Robbers Roost Canyon. They could see from the Henry Mountains on one side to the LaSal Mountains on the other side. In between those two ranges, is the biggest part of the area know as Robbers Roost. He said this spot was where one historian said the Battle of the Roost had taken place.

Legend has it that three outlaws, Blue John, Silvertip and Indian Ed stole a herd of horses in Moab. Sheriff Tyler gathered his posse and gave chase. The posse caught up with the outlaws near this spot in Robbers Roost Canyon. A gunfight ensued and Indian Ed was wounded and later escaped to a nearby ranch where he recuperated.

This old chimney is all that remains of the cabin belonging to a man named Burr, who was a tailor from Denver. Modern day campers seem to have moved in for a visit.

The next spot on the Roost tour was Silvertip Spring, so named for the outlaw Silvertip. Just south of this spot was where another account was said to name the site of the gun battle. No one knows for sure, but Ekker knows he found a great amount of empty shell casings in the area.

As lunchtime approached, Ted took the group to a large area of slick rock. The top of the rock outcrops was pock marked with holes worn into the rock over time. These holes catch rainwater during the rainy season and hold a drink for animals and others who may venture into the area during hot weather. Ted said rocks and flint chips wash into the holes and some have been known to find arrow heads in the potholes.

Another interesting aspect of the slick rock formation were grooves worn into the rock's surface. Ted asked everyone for a guess as to when the tracks were made. Many guesses came but none were even close. "Under the edge of this slick rock is a cave known as Cowboy Cave," said Ekker.

"Many years ago the University of Utah came to dig out the cave. They spent two years out here and they dated everything they found. They found remains of mastodons, saber toothed tigers, giant sloths, and humans, along with many other artifacts. They concluded the tracks leading across this rock were made 13,000 years ago by wild horses. Prof. Jenkins wrote about it in his book called The Cowboy Cave," concluded Ekker.

Ted went on to explain the area was much different in the days right after the glaciers receded when those animals were here. It was said to have been heavily forested with Ponderosa pine trees. Today there is a lot of red sand and slickrock with a few cedar trees.

"Come on people, we're burning daylight," said Ted after lunch over the two way radios everyone was carrying. The tour began again and the group passed a distant mesa with a flat top. Ted told them the mesa was named Dead Man's Hill.

Another gunfight had erupted near the hill. During this gunfight between the bad guys and the good guys, an 18 year old young man was shot. One of the good guys took the boy and tried to get him to help. The young man died on top of that mesa and is buried there.

Ted then took the OHV riders to a location at head of the canyon known as No Man's Canyon. He said it is known as that because no man should venture into this canyon. Angel's Trail begins at the spot.

Vali Wilberg looks into No Mans Canyon on the Robbers Roost ride.

Ted said along Angel Trail there are many Indian artifacts and a very interesting cave.

As the tour progressed, the group found themselves in front of a ranch house complex in the distance. Ted told the group this was the Ekker Ranch. "It is for sale now, and we don't work it anymore. It is leased out so we can't go any closer," said Ted. During the reminiscing of memories of the ranch, Ted told the group of meeting Robert Redford and bringing him here to learn from A.C. Ekker, Arthur's son, more of the outlaw trail and the history of this area. Out of this meeting came Redford's documentary movie The Outlaw Trail.

The final stop of the tour of the Robbers Roost area was a view of Happy Canyon. This canyon is where the ranchers from years past would bring their sheep herds to graze while they went home for Christmas. It is said they were happy to get the sheep into this canyon so they could go home.

The SEUOHV Club rides together as a group once a month. Though all of the rides are great, it is good just be riding, this one was one of the more colorful rides and rich in historical treasure.

This ride was attended by more than 50 people on more than 50 machines. The weather cooperated with enough warmth to keep them comfortable and just enough wind to keep the dust blowing off the trail.

For more information concerning joing the club or for any other questions, contact Annette Allen at 384-2690, Glenys Sitterud at 286-2258 or Mark Williams at 381-2493.

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