Sand Wash Basin has an amazing history. Follow along and lets uncover the secrets of Sand Wash Basin.
Have you ever wandered through the Basin and wondered what the Basin was like a thousand years ago, or maybe even a million years ago? What about 50 million years ago. The more time I spend in the basin the more I look for answers for those questions.
We know that Dinosaur National Monument is just south west of Sand Wash Basin, so did the Basin have dinosaurs?
What about human life? When did the first humans live in this area?
I’m not a expert, but I will share with you some of the information that I have found that answers these questions, and if you are like me it leads you to more questions.
As we embark on this journey let me remind you of a few rules the BLM has about anything that is in the basin. You can look for more information at https://www.blm.gov/paleontology
In general you need to remember that we want to leave what we find and not destroy the surrounding area. Remember most of what you might find has never been seen by another human being in thousands of years, maybe longer.
If you find a fossil of a vertebrate or Indian artifacts it is illegal to remove them. If you think what you have found is an important or large find, please report it to the BLM and they can evaluate the find and determine the course of action.
As you travel through the Basin you will see several Interpretive Signs, take a minute to read them they have a lot of valuable information.
During the Eocene Period, 50 million years ago, Sand Wash Basin was part of Lake Gosiute! According to the following article it was a “large crocodile infested body of water”. It blew me away when I heard that during the Eocene period much of Sand Wash Basin was under a huge lake and it was a hot humid climate! For those of us that go out now wondering when the next rainstorm will fill the ponds again that is almost too much to imagine. Although most of this article refers to Wyoming area, there are photos and information about Sand Wash Basin.
During this time there were also stromatolites. About 10 miles into the Basin you will find an Interpretive Sign along the edge of 67 and there are trail markers that will take you to some fossilized stromatolites.
There are many fossilized stromatolites in Sand Wash Basin. They are easy to identify by the round shape and the layers the create them.
Joseph Kiprop stated the following
Stromatolites are formed by primitive one-celled cyanobacteria, which are also known as blue-green algae. These deposits consist of thin, alternating dark and light layers. The photosynthesizing cyanobacteria can be found in a wide range of environments including rivers, soils, lakes, and shallow shelves. The organisms are prokaryotic cells, which means that they lack a nucleus that contains DNA, and are some of the earliest forms of life on Earth. In fact, stromatolites, which can be up to 3.5 billion years old, contain evidence of some of the earliest forms of life."
Sand Wash Basin has many hidden treasures. Remember you may not disturb fossils of vertebra, that includes turtles and alligators or crocodiles. Once they are exposed they can be damages very easily. If you find some that you believe is of significant value please leave it in place and report it to the BLM.
You can find an abundance of chert and petrified wood in Sand Wash Basin. You may collect unworked chert and petrified wood. Chert that has been worked, or chipped is considered an Indian Artifact and you may not remove it. If in doubt leave it.
Here are a couple of links that will help you understand the BLM guidelines to rockhounding or collecting on public land.
Collecting on Public Lands
Prior to the Tayor Grazing Act the gun battles over the right to graze livestock of public land were numerous, and the public land was being overgrazed.
Ferry Carpenter was from Hayden, Colorado, making the grazing allotments in Sand Wash Basin Area very personal to him,
Establishing Management under the Taylor Grazing Act Author: F.R. Carpenter
The following link will take you to an interview and article written in 1962 by F.R. Carpenter it explains his part in the Taylor Grazing Act.
“It wasn't until the year 1934 that the western states faced a crisis and the crisis came on pretty much in the conflict between the cattle and sheep interests. We had no way of keeping a sheep man off the cow range. He could move in and settle around the water with all his dogs and his wagon and the cows wouldn't go near it. The cattleman had to move out. Well, we didn't move out peaceably and so we had range wars all over. The law officers said nothing and nearly every western state tried some kind of a law to regulate range use. We had a law in Colorado whereby we could go to court and have an adjudication of our ranges for cattle and sheep. But as soon as we did it, some sheep man would get his herd to going and file a homestead in the middle of our land. We couldn't do anything about it because the Federal Government gave him the 640 under the homestead laws. So the states were unable to handle the problem. This Rangelands 3(3), June 1981 was the origin of the Taylor Grazing Act.”
Although the above article is lengthy it is very interesting and gives us a flavor of what life was like in the 1930’s.
Ferry Carpenter was from Hayden, Colorado. The Carpenter Ranch is still in operation. It is now a Nature Conservancy on US Highway 40.
Early in the 1900's the wild horses roamed much of the land in Sand Wash Basin and the surrounding area. It was not until the 1970's and the Wild Horse and Burro Act that the wild horses were fenced into Sand Wash Basin Herd Management Area.
In the prior years the land owners in the area maintained the herd population by periodically gathering the wild horses.
Horse Loop 1 will take you around the southern area of Sand Wash Basin. It is a well traveled road, but is not maintained. You should be aware of the weather, the roads are generally not passable if it is rainy or wet from snow melting. Always have a spare tire and the equipment to change it.
This video only takes you about 2/3's of the the way up the east boundary. It is a fairly easy road when dry. Both the north and the south ends of County Road 75 have steep areas that are dangerous if the road becomes wet and slick.