|History of Pack Creek Ranch & Road House
About 300 million years ago an inland sea covered what is now Moab and surrounding landscapes. The sea rose and fell many times leaving behind layers of salt laden beds thousands of feet thick. Some 225 to 65 million years ago dinosaurs flourished in the area. Areas of rising hot magma were emplaced in these sedimentary beds some 25 million years ago before cooling into hard igneous formations.
Fast forward to some 7 million years ago when the Colorado River begins to cut through the emerging plateau. Eroding wind and water cut into the thick sedimentary layers dissolving ancient ocean salts forming magnificent cliffs and valleys including Spanish Valley where Moab sits today along an ancient fault. The harder igneous formations were less effected and are visible as the13K foot La Sal Mountains that now form the spectacular eastern backdrop of Pack Creek Valley and the City of Moab.
Archeological evidence suggests that Moab and the surrounding country was inhabited by “archaic” peoples perhaps as early as 10,000 years ago. They practiced a wandering, hunting, and food-gathering life-style. Some of them began to develop into the distinctive Anasazi culture (Navaho for "Ancient Ones”). During the last two centuries B.C., they began to supplement their food gathering with maize horticulture which played a significant role in the area economy. In fact, the present town of Moab sits on the ruins of early pueblo farming communities dating from the 11th and 12th centuries.
The Anasazi Indians left in the middle of the 13th century for unknown reasons. Nomadic Native-American tribes (including Pueblo, Ute and Navajo) continued to roam the area for decades until Moab’s first permanent settlers arrived. In the 1830's, pack trains traveling early versions of The Old Spanish Trail brought more travelers and early explorers heading west. The earliest evidence of these prospectors was left by a French-American fur trapper named Denis Julien in 1844, who chiseled his name and date into Moab's rocks.
In 1855, the Mormon Church set out to establish a trading post at the Colorado River crossing in Moab. They built a stone fort and horse corral, planted crops and attempted to strike up friendly connections with the Ute Indians. After those efforts failed, no permanent settlers lived in the area and it became a rough and tumble place home to outlaws and other various characters and missfits including cattle rustler Negro Bill. In the late 1800's, prospectors began exploring the rugged region on horseback and it wasn’t long before word of unclaimed grazing lands held promise for pioneers looking for agricultural and ranching opportunities.
Around the time Moab was incorporated in 1902, a local band of Ute indians chased some trappers into our valley. In an effort to escape, they dumped everything they could along the creek leaving behind their packs - and the legend - that gave the creek its name. The land changed hands several times over the years but ranching was always a foundation.
In 1938, a sheep man and rancher named Provincho controlled most of the property in the valley using Pack Creek Ranch as his base. In the 1940's the Mussleman family bought the ranch to raise cattle and built most of the present day cabins. They also took 'city slickers' in as guests. One parcel of land was leased to a Dr. Brownell from California who built the Ranch House and the swimming pool for summer family use in 1955. Soon after, Grandfather Musselman was no longer able to continue to work the ranch due to health reasons. Dr. Brownell, concerned about the future of the property he loved, bought the ranch and continued to offer it as a retreat destination for guests. The 'dude ranch’ operation was turned over to his son and daughter-in-law Steve & Donna Brownell. However Steve, with a degree in agriculture, was more interested in raising hay and cattle.
The ranch changed hands a few times until 1986 when Jane & Ken Sleight saw the potential of the property and surrounding lands and purchased the ranch. Much of what you see today is the result of a true labor of love. Ken and Jane's vision, generosity and untiring spirit have made Pack Creek Ranch the magical place it is today.
Today, each of the cabins is now privately owned and most continue to be offered for rent. Jane and Ken live full time on the Ranch with their horses and goats. Through the years, Pack Creek Ranch has hosted well known authors such as Edward Abbey, Terry Tempest Williams, Wendell Berry, Amy Irvine, Robert Fulghum, Wallace Stegner and Katie Lee. Actors Robert Duvall, Susan Sarandon, John Wayne and most of the crew of the movie Thelma and Louise made their base at Pack Creek Ranch. Physicist Stephen Hawking and other scientists have all enjoyed the unique setting of Pack Creek Ranch.
Google Ken Sleight, for more background on this legendary river runner, horseback guide and goodfriend of late author EdwardAbbey. One of Abbey's notable characters in The Monkey Wrench Gang, 'Seldom Seen Smith' was none other than our neighbor Ken Sleight. See more history about these characters in the new movie "Wrenched".
Pack Creek's Wild Side
The ridges, valleys and washes around Pack Creek Ranch support the high desert plateau forests of Pinion pine and Utah juniper. The undergrowth is a circus of sagebrush, rabbit bush, cacti and Indian rice grass.
This area is also home to coyotes, rabbits, black tailed deer, wild turkeys, bobcat, and mountain lion. Howling coyotes are part of the sweet soundscape that permeate the valley.
Pack Creek Ranch is a winter refuge for both wild turkeys and deer which parade across fields and between cabins with a seemingly casual indifference. Ravens, magpies, jays and flickers make wing between the trees. Keep your eyes peeled for the elusive golden eagle that occasionally can be seen soaring overhead.