Recapture Canyon

Recapture Canyon is located in San Juan County, Utah and sits adjacent to the City of Blanding. With its pristine stream that runs through its canyon floor, Recapture has long served as a natural route from the San Juan River to the Blue Mountains and has been traveled for centuries. 

Evidence of ancient habitation in this canyon is obvious as one visits Recapture--pottery shards are scattered along the canyon floor and cliff dwellings line the canyon walls. Evidence of more recent use of the canyon is also evident in the records of San Juan County and the journals of its settlers. After arriving in the Bluff Basin on the banks of the San Juan River, settlers of Bluff, Utah set to establish a community complete with jurisdictional areas and government. A court was soon put in place and the region of the Bluff precinct was defined. On the June 7th 1880 record, it reads:

 

"Resolved that Bluff City Precinct shall include all that portion of the County bounded on the East by the Recapture Creek and the wagon road leading North from said Creek to Cane Springs"

 

Later the Bluff court went on to define the nature of the road in Recapture Canyon as an official county route. The September 29th 1884 record reads:

 

"The road running from the mouth of Recapture Creek to the Northern line of the County via the Blue Mountains and Cane Springs was declared a County Road"

 

At this same time, the Lacy Cattle Company--known as the LC Ranch--was establishing a cattle business in the area and Recapture Canyon played a role in that business. One of the more famous employees of this company was Harry Langenbaugh, more commonly known as The Sundance Kid. In his book Butch Cassidy: A Biography, Richard M. Patterson details The Sundance Kid's time with the LC Ranch and how this employment was likely key to his meeting and teaming with Butch Cassidy. See page 112:

Albert R. Lyman, one of the early settlers of the area and a recognized historian and respected local author of his time also wrote of the LC Ranch and its presence in Recapture Canyon.

 

 

 

 

"It will be remembered that during the eighties and the early nineties the great L. C. cattle company occupied all of White Mesa and much of the country surrounding it, but in the latter nineties they began to close out and the remnant of their herd changed hands several times before it was all rounded up and driven away. Along with these changes, unscrupulous men saw opportunity to steal the neglected calves which were growing up to be mavericks, and the country between Blue Mountain and Big Bench became a den of thieves. From stealing mavericks, it was but a short step to the practice of taking every unbranded calf they could find. It is related that one man operating in that section had a cow with fifty calves. Four white men and a Ute named Brooks, camping on Johnson Creek while they combed "the long-eared ones" from Brushy Basin, discovered the shod horse track of A. R. Lyman where he had gone in search of his lost horses, and where incidentally, he had followed their tracks a little distance to ascertain how many there were of them. According to Brooks, the sight of that track on theirs led them to imagine all sorts of things, and they didn't even dare to return to camp, but stampeded in four directions, agreeing to meet on the Dolores River in Colorado. So far as is known, they returned no more to San Juan, and the calves they had swiped, were left to be reswiped by someone with more enduring gall. Their camp outfit, pack covers, panniers, pack saddles, ropes, beds, provision, etc., lay there on the creek bank for several months before passers-by carried the last of it away. Besides this thieving element which absorbed range cattle and saddle horses like a sponge, three wild stallions ranging back and forth over the country, made it all but impossible to corral a horse after he had been free ten days on the range[.] One of these creatures, a beautiful bay, met his waterloo in the shape of a man with a "thirty-thirty" on the brink of West Water; and a roan B. P. mare, who tried to keep up the reputation of the band came one morning in contact with F. B. Hammond Jr., and her bones are bleaching there yet. Blind corrals which never fooled a wild horse, were built and are still to be found among the trees, and here and there on rocky points, little linings of white bones tell where the fleet-footed creatures passed in their checks." (History of San Juan County, Albert R. Lyman, chapter XLIX)

Travel was frequent in the canyon and the road there was well established. In 1924, Rand McNally, a well-respected map making company, produced an Auto Trails Map of the United States and the road in Recapture Canyon can be found there.

In 1938, the Department of the Interior published a study they had conducted of the San Juan County area. It was a geological and historical report of about 155 pages. In it, further mention of the road is made and Recapture is mentioned 63 times. On page 31 the construction of the road is cited as an effort of the initial San Juan Exploration Team sent in 1878:

From 1938 to the late 1900s, travel on the road in Recapture was enjoyed by thousands. In the 80s proposals were made to construct a dam at the head of Recapture Canyon and install a pipeline in the first three miles of Recapture Canyon from the Dam site heading south as a means of bringing irrigation water to Blanding. Mining operations have also taken place in the canyon and it continues to be used as a drive route for cattle.