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The Tosawihi (Western Shoshone for “white knife”) Quarries located north of Elko have been in use by the Tosawihi Shoshone and their ancestors for over 12,000 years. Artifacts made from the white chert attained at the quarries have been found hundreds of miles away, which infers that it was a prized trade item. Finished chert points encountered on the ground were not picked up as they could belong to someone such as a Shaman or Coyote.
Nevada may be famous for its gambling but it has something much older and more valuable. Most of Nevada is located in the Great Basin desert it, and the Colorado Plateau in Utah have preserved some of the finest perishable artifacts ever found anywhere.
Duck decoys of tule, yucca fiber sandals, beautiful basketry, woven mats, bags, and hats with duck feathers woven in as decoration, all protected for thousands of years in the dry desert caves. Yucca was woven or braided into many styles of sandals; baskets were woven out of yucca fibers and used to hold food items such as corn and other seeds. Yucca fiber was twisted into cords and used to hang pottery vessels filled with foodstuffs and water. Turkey feather blankets were made using yucca “twine” as warp. Yucca flowers could be eaten raw and seeds either raw or roasted. Pounded yucca roots were eaten or used for soap. Yuccas “leaves” were used as paintbrushes. Modern Acoma still use the fine tip of the yucca to paint intricate designs on their pottery.
In stark contrast to the surrounding Nevada desert the Humboldt National Forest and Lamoille Canyon in the heart of the Ruby Mountains are about a half hour drive south of Elko. Lamoille Canyon Road with its granite peaks, alpine streams, avalanche chutes, and glacier valleys is one of the most picturesque places in the Great Basin.
Leaving the Ruby Mountains take Hwy 93 to Ely Nevada then highway 6/50 east. On maps, the highway makes a dogleg north but instead of following the highway around, head straight towards Pilot Knob Ridge and Osceola on State Road 38. At one time Osceola was an active mining town but now it is deserted with the exception of a few hard-core old timers that still eke out a living by working old claims. On the other side of the pass, SR 38 once again meets up with 6/50 at Sacramento Pass Recreational Area then past the Baker Archaeological site and into Utah.
The Baker site is one of the many Fremont Indian sites found in the Great Basin and Colorado Plateau areas. The Fremont Indians (no one knows what they called themselves. Fremont was used because one archaeological site was located near the Fremont River ) were an enigmatic group whose style of art exhibited trapezoidal human figures. They were also distinguishable by their unique footwear. While surrounding groups used yucca fiber sandals the Fremont formed footwear from deer or elk leg skins with the dewclaws on the heels of the moccasins, which possibly worked like hobnails to improve traction.
The best-preserved Fremont site is Range Creek Utah where local rancher Waldo Wilcox, guarded the site for over half a century until 2001 when he sold it.. The 4000 acres and over 800 villages that exist in this isolated canyon and left untouched for 800 years are now owned by the State of Utah and the Federal Government. The State of Utah has been reluctant to prosecute pothunters desecrating graves and looting archaeological sites by saying it is nothing more than a casual past time activity that some families in the area have been doing for generations. Due to this reluctance of Utah authorities to prosecute those that loot and sell artifacts very real concerns are that no longer protected by the vigilant eyes of the Wilcox Family looters and pothunters will ravage the area.
Buried beneath "Five Hills" the largest Fremont Indian village was discovered when the hills were about to become road fill for Interstate 70 in 1983 near Richfield Utah. Excavations were done and an excellent museum and trail system was created to preserve artifacts and display the pictographs and petroglyphs on the surrounding cliffs.
From Richfield head to Hwy 12 and the town of Boulder which has about 200 residents. “ Main Street ” (Hwy 12) has a café, motel and trading post. On the other side of the “street” is a pasture full of cows. The people are friendly and food is good, Burr Trail Grill has a patio that allows pets to acompany their masters. The Anasazi State Park is located just north of Boulder . There is a small museum with artifacts from the site and from a large private collection. Although the site has not been completely excavated, it is worth the stop. Located seven miles south of town, on Hell’s Backbone Road the Boulder Mountain Guest Ranch will prove to be the perfect spot to use as home base, no phone or TV and limited internet service, pure heaven! The on site staff make visitors feel like old friends and your faithful four legged companion is free to go into the main lodge for meals and internet use. Stepping out the front door of the cabin, there is over a million acres to roam in during the day and with Garfield County promoting Dark Skies, spectacular star gazing at night. Earth Tours offers guides into slickrock country where waterfalls, slot canyons, and the geological phenomenon that gave the town its name, thousands of basalt boulders setting on the sandstone slick rock like huge bowling balls.
While in Boulder, be sure to drive Burr Trail to the Petrified Forest . It is not unusual to see only one or two vehicle on Burr Trail and walking the mile or so to the Petrified Forest from Burr Trail no one. For those used to hiking alone they will be fine for those not so used to aloneness it could be intimidating.
South of Moab on Hwy 191 Edge of the Cedars State park has many artifacts and information about the surrounding area. Also stop at the Mule Canyon Ruins rest stop outside of White Mesa Utah. In Farmington New Mexico , visit the Salmon and Aztec Ruins. Both of these sites offer nice museums, gift shops and well marked trails through the ruins. Anyone interested in Ancestral Pubeloan archaeology should make time to visit these sites. They are located near each other and can be viewed in one day. The last leg of the trip should be to Mesa Verde Park near Cortez Colorado. Reading about the many cliff dwellings found within its borders will not prepare the traveler for seeing it in person it will be an experience not soon forgotten.
Winding up the mesa for twenty miles there are ancient ruins and breath taking vistas. At the top there is a nice restaurant, gift shop, and museum. Words cannot describe Mesa Verde it must be experienced in person. Make plans to spend an entire day as the viewpoints are many and some require short hikes. Hopefully this has piqued your interest in the resourceful people and the harsh but beautiful country they lived in for millennia. Sadly, past generations and some modern people have vandalized, desecrated, and looted graves and ruins out of greed or ignorance. As people learn how ingenious and adaptable the Ancient Ones were maybe more respect will be given to their earthly remains whether human or material.