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Singleton welcomes treks on Wyo. ranch

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Dean Singleton

Dean Singleton

Craig F. Walker

Youth groups, wards and stakes take handcarts west across Wyoming each year to re-enact portions of the Mormon Trail. In addition to walking in the footsteps of their forebears, some of these trekkers walk across property belonging to a high-profile newspaper chain owner.

Dean Singleton, chairman of the board of directors of The Associated Press, CEO of MediaNews Group and publisher of the Salt Lake Tribune, owns several cattle ranches. One of them, called Split Rock Ranch, encompasses 14 miles of the Sweetwater River and a rugged bluff pivotal in Mormon history, known to many Mormons as "Rocky Ridge."

Singleton described the five-mile "Rocky Ridge" portion of his ranch as "a huge, red bluff" made up "of rugged, split rock." It's where members of the Willie Handcart Company found themselves with depleted supplies and in the midst of a snowstorm in October 1856. The company was rescued by a party sent from Salt Lake City, but not before several people died.

Singleton said he was aware of the history of the property before he purchased it five years ago. While the land's unique history didn't play into his decision to buy it, he understands its significance to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which is why he, like the owners of the ranch before him, allows the church access to the property.

"As long as I own it, the church is always welcome to use it as they see fit to re-create moments of their history," he said.

The ranch consists of 202,000 acres — part of which are leased from the Bureau of Land Management — and is located near Muddy Gap, Wyo., in the south-central part of the state. It's about 38 miles long from north to south, and 14 miles from east to west, Singleton said.

In addition to its significance in Mormon history, the ranch is also on the path the Pony Express took, and each year a commemorative ride is held.

Singleton said, "A lot of things in American history went across the ranch."

He said that while he's never taken a pioneer trek himself, a number of his friends who have say it's a great experience.

"I'm honored to allow them to re-create history there," Singleton said. "I'm not a member of the church, but I have the utmost love and respect for the church and their history."

E-MAIL: mfarmer@desnews.com