A Stream That Flows Into The River Is Called A Place Called Indian Springs – Tooele County, Utah

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A Place Called Indian Springs – Tooele County, Utah

One evening after work I decided to go for a walk in the desert. I left my house at 8:30pm and I arrived at the mouth of Indian Springs Canyon at 9:10pm. This canyon is located in the Simpson Mountains which is a short range just west of the Sheeprock Mountains. They are named for Captain James Hervey Simpson, who explored the wilderness in the late 1850s. On my way out I ran into a herd of Onaqui Mountain wild horses on the Dugway / Lookout Pass road. There were at least 150 horses and I had to go very slowly and move them off the road.

I noticed that the minor eastern peaks of Big Davis Mountain are very high above the valley floor from the eastern perspective of Skull Valley. I finally reached the Pony Express trailhead and headed west through Government Creek. The creek bed here had a nice flow of really muddy water and it was the first time I had seen it running.

I drove around the northern end of the Simpson Range and saw several interesting roads leading out of interesting rock formations at their base and even some hollows in the rocks that looked like caves. I continued walking and after 19 miles from Dugway I passed Simpson Springs and thought about Chorpenning, Major Egan, James Simpson, Clara Anderson and all the other history of the place.

About 5 miles west of Simpson Springs I took a good road south and a sign read “Death Canyon 12 miles; Indian Springs 5 ​​miles.” I followed this road about 6 miles and came to a small bend in the west road which branched out from the main road about 70 yards to the edge of a dune standing on flat bench ground above the Old River bed. What a view of the desert, Table Mountain and Camel Back Ridge to the north. I surveyed the scene for a while and then decided I had gone too far south for the Indian Springs road.

I then backtracked north about 2 miles and came upon an old 2 track that I believed was the road up Indian Springs Canyon. I parked the truck, took my bike off the rack, looked over my shoulder at the fading evening light and the misty golden desert sky punctuated by mysterious rocky ridges, and started east into Indian Springs Wash/Canyon. As I started to ride east, I passed out two mule deer who seemed very surprised by my presence. I followed this road through sage and scattered juniper until I came to a junction with a better and more obvious road coming from the north-west. I feel this new road will be the road of choice if I visit this place again. I marked this junction with a white rock in the gray dirt and continued east up the canyon.

I had read reports of large amounts of water in this canyon and I had gone over a mile and a half and there was no sign of water in the dusty drainage. By then all daylight was gone but the moon was ¾ full and there were only a few clouds so the ambient lighting was pretty good and I continued on. At about the 2 mile mark I heard water leaking and gurgling. As I continued on, I saw a large ravine open to the south of the road. Moonlight will play tricks on your depth perception and height / distance estimates but I’d say the canyon was at least 60 feet deep in places and the bottom was full of water. There is a possibility that the road in this area will wear out in a few more years due to massive erosion.

Further along the canyon began to change markedly. There were large puddles of water on the road and then came the forts. The creek crossed the road 6 times on my way and 4 of these crossings ranged from 6 to 40 feet long and some were knee deep. Due to the changing geology from desert to high valley, erosion was not very prevalent here and the water was very cold and clear as it reflected the moonlight and I could clearly see the rocks on the bottom.

As I ascended the canyon, I thought of the Indians who must have frequented the place such as Chief Peenum, Old Tabby, Chief Tintic and others. I also thought of the emigrants on the California Trail who are said to have traveled south of this canyon, rich in timber and water. I thought of Captain Simpson and his expedition and wondered if it was the waters of the Champlain Mountains that saved his life after the disastrous crossing of the Sevier Desert and Keg Mountain. And finally, I realized that I was treading the same ground that Colonel Patrick Edward Connor did when he marched up the Salt Lake Valley with his 3rd California Infantry Volunteers. In fact, it was Connor’s men who, under his direction, first cut the road down Indian Springs Canyon and Pass to Lee Canyon and Porter Valley. All these thoughts raced through my head trying to get past the canyon.

About 4 miles up the canyon in the middle of the 4th ford, my bike chain broke and hung behind me in the creek. I suddenly stopped and splashed in the water up to my knees. It was a warm night so the water felt really good. I cleared the stream and assessed the situation. It had been dark for an hour but there was good moonlight, the temperature was comfortable, my brakes were working well and my tires were in good shape so I decided to continue. I rode my bike through the last 2 ridges and approached a heavy cow guard.

By then the ground in the valley was moist, with good grass everywhere and the sound of running water filled the night air. At this point I looked directly north and the western face of the Indian Peaks loomed large above me. In the moonlight it was well defined and clear and appeared a sort of powder grey/blue. The valley opened up a bit and I came to another fork in the road. I followed the thorn to the source of the water, which I had heard was one of the old mines of the long-forgotten mining town of Indian Springs.

The road was badly damaged and violent streams of water were rushing on each side. Just south of the road was a large stream of water in the Balshas. I was about to give up on my mission to reach the old town, when the whole place was turning into a slippery swamp, when I came around a huge juniper and was shocked to see a ramshackle old building. A dark space peered at me through the doors and shadows through the windows, and the whole structure was bathed in pale moonlight. As Louis Lamour once said, “A dead tree is terrible, so it is terrible”.

Surprisingly, I had no creep at all. I was glad that by moonlight I came to the Old Town site of Indian Springs Canyon. I parked my bike on a large patch of thick grass that abounds in the area and walked up to the old building and peered inside. It was an old tin building and incredibly rusty. Numerous bullet holes were visible in the ceiling allowing moonlight to penetrate the thick blackness within. I decided not to enter the old building, but I admired the craftsmanship of the old steel hinges where there was a door. I went back to where my bike was and looked up at the sky. The stars were absolutely beautiful. The Big Dipper shone clear and bright directly above the old city.

When the clouds passed in front of the moon, a strange appearance appeared. It was like you’d have a light dim switch and the whole landscape would go dark and then light again. I fully expected to see a moonlight scene in the trees but I tried my best not to think about such things. Instead I thought of catamounts quietly lurking around waiting for a snack opportunity… me! And I realized that this would be my last walk in the desert without a weapon.

I looked around a bit but due to the high water in the area, low light and the late hour I didn’t find any more structures. I got on my bike and rode down the canyon. As I descended the canyon I became aware of the night sounds and smells of the cool canyon—crickets, night birds calling, and the fragrant smell of big sagebrush and Utah juniper. I had to stop my useless bike and walk all ford which turned my sneakers into a soggy mess that I had to walk dry every time I heard “squish” “squish” which can be very annoying.

I finally got back to my truck at 10:55pm. The entire 8.5 mile adventure took me just under 2 hours. It would have been a lot less if my bike chain hadn’t broken. I thought I had gained about 2,000 feet to the city site. What a workout and what a beautiful night. I will never forget Indian Springs in the moonlight in May.

If you decide to hike into one of the many Simpson Mountain canyons, make sure you have good maps, plenty of water, and that you tell someone where you’re going. Also, if you’re out and about at night, especially in the summer, beware of the numerous snakes out and about in the dark. Old mines and buildings are mostly private property and should not be disturbed. The main attraction here is complete solitude and plenty of water in the middle of the desert.

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