Bluff Fort Historic Site
The original Bluff Fort has been rebuilt and lovingly restored through the efforts of the Hole in the Rock Foundation (www.HIRF.org ) and is open to visitors free of charge. The original Barton Cabin may still be seen at the Fort. In addition, replicas of the original log cabins and the Meetinghouse have been constructed to give the visitor a glimpse of pioneer life on theSan Juan in the 1880’s. A replica of the Co-op Store was completed in 2013 and serves as the Visitors Center and Gift Shop. Admission is free.
550 East Black Locust
Bluff, UT 84512
Click here for the Hole in the Rock Foundation (HIRF) Website
Hole in the Rock Trail
Bluff, the first Anglo community in southeastern Utah, was settled in April 1880 by Mormon pioneers seeking to establish a mission on the San Juan River in the present-day Four Corners area. The San Juan area of southeastern Utah was then known as a refuge for lawless men. The San Juan Mission would act as a buffer for the rest of settled Utah, establish law and order, and maintain friendly relations with the Indians in the area.
A “mission call” went out in December 1878 and was answered by numerous southern Utah families, many of whom gave up fine homes to move with all their possessions to the remote San Juan area. Seventy families consisting of around 250 men, women and children, left Escalante in south central Utah in October 1879 intending to establish the mission at Montezuma on the San Juan River.
Using a route advised by a previous scouting party known as the “Escalante short cut”, the pioneers expected the 125 mile trek would take 6 weeks. Instead, the journey extended 260 miles over 6 months via the Hole-in-the-Rock-Trail in arduous, winter conditions. Historians consider the Hole-in-the-Rock Expedition one of the most extraordinary wagon trips ever undertaken in North America and a fine example of pioneer spirit. Many sections of the trail were almost impassable. To allow wagon passage, the men spent 6 weeks blasting and chiseling a path through a narrow, 1,200 foot drop in the sandstone cliffs known as the Hole-in-the-Rock, which is still visible at present day Lake Powell.
Crossing Comb Ridge proved to be another grueling part of the journey, requiring yet another dugway to be built up the face of the solid rock Comb Ridge. The pioneers named this “San Juan Hill”.
By April 1880, most of wagons had pulled onto the flat river bottom near Bluff. Although the intended destination was less than 20 miles upstream, the expedition was too exhausted to continue. The river valley appeared to offer good farmland. Calling the new location Bluff City, the pioneers began dividing the land into lots, building log cabins and digging an irrigation ditch from the river to irrigate fields.