One of the most enjoyable aspects of a road trip is discovering hidden gems.
The tiny town of Castle Dale, population 1700, and miles off the beaten path in central Utah,
offered two surprising gems. The excellent Museum of the San Rafael and the Pioneer Museum
were totally unexpected and perfect examples of American-style "can do". Their
fascinating contents were contributed mainly by area residents.
The Museum of the San Rafael
The Museum of the San Rafael presents the natural history
of the remote and colorful badlands of central Utah. The most prominent exhibits
covers the Jurassic era dinosaurs for which the area is renowned. (The famous
Cleveland-Lloyd Quarry is nearby.)
Also, many other types of fossils and minerals. There are exhibits of
contemporary mammals, insects, and birds.
Rural folks in the west tend to live an outdoor life, exploring, hiking,
hunting, and fishing. Many have found extraordinary things in this lightly
traveled area. At right, a completely intact tool kit and knapsack belonging
to a medicine man of the ancient Fremont Indians (contemporary to the Anasazi).
This unique, world-class artifact was found in a cave by a local and donated
to the museum. At left, a well-preserved pot from the Fremont culture.
The Pioneer Museum
The Pioneer Museum, located across the street in
the old fashioned City Hall (right), offers an informal look at 19th century
life in central Utah. There are a number of rooms crammed with artifacts
donated and/or loaned by local families. For example, one room contains a wide
variety of tools related to mining, livery stables, etc. Other rooms are
fashioned as an early one room school house, a grocery store, a dining room,
and a kitchen.
At left, an old-fashioned stove with all the various implements of a 19th
century kitchen. The view above includes the cupboard and the dining table.
The Wasatch Range rises to the west of the badlands. A short drive
takes you out of the heat and into heavily wooded mountain country, lush
with lakes and streams. At right, a fly fisherman tries his luck in
a peaceful setting. The area also offers many excellent campgrounds.