U gains canyon in land swap

By Chris Mumford, Staff Writer

Additions to the U are usually celebrated for being new and cutting-edge, but the latest is just the opposite: an archaeological site that dates back to 400 A.D.

The U acquired from the state 2.3 square miles of Range Creek Canyon, an area containing some 400 archaeological sites, in exchange for four square miles of deer and elk habitat lands in Carbon County.

Control of the Range Creek area will allow U archaeologists to pursue research projects that last 20 to 30 years in the area without having to obtain permits from the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, said U archaeology professor Duncan Metcalfe.

“That allows you to not have to hurry,” said Metcalfe, who heads the five-year-old Range Creek research project.

Metcalfe said that freedom from having to negotiate permits would enable researchers to seamlessly build upon research from previous years.

The sites are a rich source for archaeologists studying the Fremont culture, with abundant, readily found artifacts, masonry granaries built into the cliffs, residential sites, smoking houses, rock art and other relics, according to the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.

“Most of (the sites)have not been vandalized and that’s what makes it unique,” Metcalfe said.

Owned for most of the 20th century by a family of cattle farmers, access to the sites has been limited to tourists, who have trashed or vandalized other historical areas in the state.

Under UDWR stewardship, public access was granted on a limited basis and might still be available after the U assumes ownership, but Metcalfe said nothing has been decided yet.

The U is still working on a comprehensive management plan for the area, including infrastructure development to support research projects.

Previously, under UDWR ownership, Metcalfe said that researchers were forced to make a five-hour round trip journey to Price for supplies.

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The Associated Press contributed to this article.