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Picturing history: Cache Cave and Echo Canyon, Utah

Cache Cave and Echo Canyon, Utah, were two distinct natural features on the Mormon Pioneer National Historic Trail.

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Remnant of breastworks in Echo Canyon. This may have been initially prepared during the Utah War period.

Kenneth Mays

On July 12, 1847, President Brigham Young and the pioneer company arrived at the east end of Echo Canyon in present-day Utah just west of its border with Wyoming. Company member Norton Jacob referred to the spot as “a fine valley … where there is better soil than we have found since we left the Big Platte” (see ”The Mormon Vanguard Brigade of 1847: Norton Jacob’s Record,” edited by Ronald O. Barney, page 206.)

Nearby, a small cave was discovered by Jackson Redden. At first, the cave was referred to as Redden’s Cave. It is a “natural tunnel in a sandstone rock” and is “probably Utah’s most noted trail landmark” (“Sacred Places, Vol. 6: Wyoming and Utah,” by LaMar C. Berrett and A. Gary Anderson, page 251).

Horace K. Whitney recorded that the opening of the cave “is 12 feet in width and some 15 feet in extent — and is high enough at the mouth, to admit of a man standing upright” (“The Journey West,” edited by Richard E. Bennett, page 297). The pioneers continued west through Echo Canyon, “a 24-mile-long defile in the earth’s crust that breaks out of a level plain in the Wasatch Mountains about 10 miles southwest of Evanston, Wyoming, at Wahsatch, and descends toward the southwest to its mouth at Echo City. The modern freeway, I-80, passes through the length of the canyon” (“Sacred Places, Vol. 6,” pages 255-256).

Representative of many recorded impressions of the canyon is this written by William Clayton: “The echo, the high rocks on the north, high mountains on the south with the narrow ravine for a road, form a scenery at once romantic and more interesting than I have ever witnessed. … the scenery is truly wild and melancholy” (cited in “Sacred Places, Vol. 6,” page 258).

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Famous image of a pioneer wagon train working its way through Echo Canyon.

Church History Library

Kenneth Mays is a board member of the Mormon Historic Sites Foundation and a retired instructor in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Department of Seminaries and Institutes.