History of Pack Creek RanchIn the beginning, there was redrock, blue sky and running water...
Step back in time a few hundred million years ago when North America was much warmer than it is today. What is present day Utah was a coastal geography where sand dunes were prominent and inland seas came and went. Dinosaurs ruled. What would eventually be the glimmering red rock walls of the Colorado Plateau were way off in some future world.
Fast forward to some 7 million years ago, and a large river — the Colorado — begins to cut through an emerging plateau of layered rocks. Snaking its way to the Pacific Ocean, this great river exposes and transforms ancient landscapes preserved in rock into a labyrinth of geological and photogenic wonders.
Water found its way into thick rock layers of salt — a legacy of those marine invasions from long ago. The salt dissolved causing the overlying rocks to collapse. Spanish Valley, downstream from Pack Creek Ranch, was formed.
Hot magmas from deep in the earth rose along cracks within this layer cake of sedimentary rock. They spreadhorizontally and cooled forming huge pillows of igneous rock. Millions of years of erosion have left these hard rock subterranean creations as mountain ranges. The most notable of these, the La Sal Mountains now form the spectacular eastern backdrop of the Pack Creek Valley and the City of Moab. This range rises to almost 13,000 feet and is the second highest in Utah.
The first human inhabitants of this dry high plateau world were ancient peopleswho migrated into the southern deserts from the Pacific Northwest during the last Ice Age, tens of thousands of years ago. With water tied up in continental sized ice sheets thousands of feet thick, sea levels fell so much that a land bridge with Asia was created. Soon after, North America's ecology changed forever as early nomadic peoples following herds of big mammals arrived and began to move their way south. They soon traversed the lands around the La Sal Mountains. Pack Creek was discovered.
At 6,000 feet Pack Creek Ranch is located in the western foothills of these mountains. The creek itself begins at 10,000 feet at La Sal Pass. Downstream it flows through Pack Creek Ranch. A mail route between Moab and the mining regions of Colorado passed through this area. A small log cabin at Pack Creek Ranch attests to this period. It was built long before the existing Ranch buildings were constructed and so serves as a constant reminder of how much our world has changed in the past century.
Highway 191 south from Moab through the Spanish Valley (on your way to Pack Creek) follows a section of the Old Spanish Trail — a major trading route during the period of European expansion into the west. Its 1,200 mile long route originated in Sante Fe, New Mexico winding its way north through Colorado, Utah, and Nevada before ending in southern California at Los Angeles. It was often described as the longest and toughest pack trail in North America. After 1848, wagon roads were established along portions of the trail which have since given way to state and interstate highways.
There are several good flowing springs above the ranch, and the Ute Indians spent time here as the combination of water, grass and game made it an ideal camp. Evidence of their presence can be seen in the large number of chipping areas, occasional arrowheads and grinding stones.
In the early part of the 19th century several trappers were chased into the valley by local bands of Ute Indians. In an effort to lighten their load and increase their odds of escape, they dumped their packs along the creek, narrowly escaping on horseback but leaving behind the packs that gave the creek its name.
In 1854, the Mormons scouted the Moab Valley. They stashed equipment and supplies for the settlers who were to come in the following year. This first effort to colonize the Moab area failed due to conflict with the native peoples.
Late in the 1800s settlers began homesteading in the valley. During that period, pioneering men and women raised cattle and sheep. By 1938, sheep man and rancher, Mr. Provincho controlled most of the property in the drainage. Pack Creek Ranch was his base.
In the 1940s the Mussleman family bought the ranch. In addition to running cattle, they built most of the present cabins and took 'city slickers' in as guests. On a parcel of leased land Dr. Brownell from California, built the Ranch House and the swimming pool for summer family use in 1955. Soon after, Grandfather Musselman was no longer able to continue to work the ranch because of health reasons. Dr. Brownell, concerned about the future of the property, bought the ranch and continued to offer it as a retreat destination for guests. The operation of the 'dude ranch' was turned over to his son and daughter-in-law Steve & Donna Brownell. Steve, with a degree in Agriculture, was more interested in raising hay and cattle and turned to full time ranching. In 1974 Dr. Brownell sold the ranch. Steve and Donna continue to live in the upper Pack Creek valley.
In 1986 Jane & Ken Sleight saw the potential of the property and the lands that surrounded it, and purchased the ranch. What you see today is the result of many years of sweat equity, significant financial investment and a true labor of love. Through the years, Pack Creek Ranch has hosted well known authors such as Edward Abbey, Terry Tempest Williams, Wendell Berry, Amy Irvine, Robert Fulghum, Wallace Stegner and Katie Lee. Actors Robert Duvall, Susan Sarandon, John Wayne and most of the crew of the movie Thelma and Louise made their base at Pack Creek Ranch. Physicist Stephen Hawking and other scientists have all enjoyed the unique setting of Pack Creek Ranch.
Ken and Jane's vision, generosity and untiring spirit have made Pack Creek Ranch the magical place it is today. Each of the cabins is now privately owned and most of the cabins continue to be rented out to guests. Jane and Ken live full time on the Ranch with their horses and goats.
Google Ken Sleight, for more background on this legendary river runner, horsepack guide and good friend of late author Edward Abbey. One of Abbey's notable characters in the Monkey Wrench Gang, 'Seldom Seen Smith' was none other than Pack Creek's Ken Sleight. See more history about these characters in the new movie "Wrenched". View the trailer here »
Pack Creek's Wild Side
The ridges, valleys and washes around Pack Creek Ranch support the high desert plateau forests of Pinion pine and Utah juniper. The undergrowth is a circus of sagebrush, rabbit bush, cacti and Indian rice grass, to name but a few of the hardy residents who thrive in this rugged mountain landscape.
This area is also home to coyotes, rabbits, black tailed deer, wild turkeys, bobcat, and mountain lion. Howling coyotes are part of the sweet soundscape that greet visitor and local alike.
Pack Creek Ranch is a winter refuge for both wild turkeys and deer which seem to parade across fields and between cabins with casual indifference. Ravens, magpies, jays and flickers make wing between the trees. Keep your eyes on lookout for the elusive golden eagle that occasionally can be seen soaring overhead. A Birder's Paradise »
Indeed, Pack Creek is a very special place on earth so vital in every season and shot through with a wildness that serves both to calm and rejuvenate those who tune in to its rhythms.