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The Pioneers of Utah’s Canyon Country

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Even though Pioneer Day has passed, it’s never too late to learn more about Utah’s pioneer history beyond the classic tale of “This is the Place.” Venture down to Southeastern Utah, where many of the pioneers settled what is now San Juan County — Utah’s Canyon Country. After surviving the dangerous 250-mile trek which included blasting a trail through the Colorado River gorge, these gallant pioneers were able to found Bluff Fort in 1880. 

The pioneers have deep roots throughout Utah’s Canyon Country, but they weren’t the only ones to leave an impact on this culturally-rich corner of Utah. Let’s explore some of the amazing areas shaped by the peoples of Utah’s Canyon Country. 

Bluff Fort Historic Site 

There’s no better place to start than the Bluff Fort Historic Site. This replica of the original Bluff Fort settlement will transport you back in time. Local families have graciously donated their ancestor’s furnishings to fill the cabins and meeting hall. Stop by the visitor center located in the Co-op store to learn about the settlement. Get fully immersed in the experience by panning for gold, wearing pioneer clothes, pulling a handcart, climbing aboard a covered wagon and exploring a Native American hogan.


The Frontier Museum 

Located in Monticello, the Frontier Museum holds over 100 years of history. The barn building that is now the museum is over a century old. Much of the original post-and-beam construction is still visible helping to highlight what life was like in the day-to-day for those who lived here before. Explore exhibits of vintage clothing and household items and displays featuring the works of the Ancestral Puebloan people, along with the evolution of more modern items like telephones. Discover bits of history of the cowboys, outlaws, farmers and shopkeepers who have touched the area. 

Goulding’s Museum 

Set up in the original 1920 trading post, Goulding’s Museum is a tribute to all peoples of the Monument Valley region. With an inside look into how the trading post ran, view the “Trading Post Bull Pen” and the “Ware Room” where the bartering and displaying of goods happened. Photographs showcasing the early days of the trading post fill the rooms along with cases of historical pottery and pieces beautifully crafted by the local Navajo People. Step into the “Movie Room” for a taste of how Hollywood has interacted with Monument Valley. Learn how Harry Goulding managed to lure Director John Ford to film many classic John Wayne movies in the iconic Wild West. Goulding’s history is deeply rooted in a love and respect for Monument Valley and the Navajo people, so while the museum seeks to entertain it also hopes to educate and instill respect for the Navajo and their way of life. 

Edge of the Cedars State Park Museum 

Before the pioneers ventured to Utah’s Canyon Country, there were many Native American tribes populating the area. Tribes like the Utes and Navajo and their predecessors the Ancestral Puebloans and Fremont each left their own unique print on the history of the area. Edge of the Cedars State Park and Museum is an established archeological site, repository and museum. Get an inside look at an excavated and restored ceremonial kiva — a ceremonial room for the Ancestral Puebloans. The museum is home to an extensive collection of pottery and artifacts as well as jewelry, basketry, tools and more used by the Ancestral Puebloans. 


While the classroom is a great place to learn, getting out and exploring the world around you to experience the history of Utah firsthand can leave an everlasting impact. Get in one last hurrah before school is back in full swing. Mix in plenty of hikes and monuments with the historical sites for a fun, full trip in Utah’s Canyon Country.