Explore a Pioneer Homestead Near Flaming Gorge
John Wesley Powell named Flaming Gorge in 1846, after he and his men saw the sun reflecting off the canyon's red rock walls during their historic float trip down the Green River. Rock art and artifacts suggest members of the ancient Fremont Culture and later, Comanche, Shoshone and Ute tribes hunted game in the Flaming Gorge. Utah visitors can still experience this largely-untouched natural area the way it was hundreds of years ago, including a visit to an historic homestead in the beautiful national forest off U.S. 191.
Credit: USDA Forest Service
The Historic Swett Ranch
In the heart of Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area, the Swett Ranch is a testament to Oscar Swett’s self-sufficiency and ingenuity, representing the bygone homestead era, and it’s a historic site not to be missed by those interested in pioneer life.
In 1909 Oscar was only sixteen years old, which meant he was too young to file for a homestead at the location he had picked out in the Uinta Mountains. So his widowed mother did it for him. In 1913 Oscar and his wife, Emma, moved to the isolated, high-country ranch and lived in a one-room cabin that Oscar relocated from another ranch. At the time of his death in 1968, Oscar and Emma were the last remaining homesteaders in the area, having accrued 397 acres and constructed eighteen buildings, three of which were homes for his wife and constantly expanding family of nine kids. In 1972 the Forest Service bought the ranch and has subsequently turned it into a working historical site, where you can now get a taste of the homesteading years and what it took to make a living so far away from civilization.
The three Swett Ranch homes have been restored and decorated with items donated by Oscar’s daughters, now living in Vernal. Swett Ranch is open Memorial Day through Labor Day, Thursday through Monday, 9:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. Look for the sign on Highway 191, a half mile north of the Highway 44 junction. A 1.5-mile dirt road, manageable for regular cars if it isn’t muddy, leads to the ranch.