Looking for a bit of history mixed in with your hiking? Many areas across the state offer a peek into the ancient world via crumbling ruins, pieces of pottery, or vibrant rock art. Some spots are attached to more recent happenings, their stories passed down with verbal and written communication. Fort Pearce Historic Site is a diverse area that shares its story with modern day hikers in a variety of ways.
Fort Pearce was an eight foot tall stone guard post built during Utah’s Black Hawk War. This war was actually a period of raids taking place between 1865-1870. During this time the Mormons attempted to drive the Native American Ute tribes from their native land. Fort Pearce Wash was used by the Ute and Navajo as a pathway for Mormon livestock raids. The fort was built by Mormons to defend their property. It was manned intermittently by Mormons until the end of the Black Hawk War raids in 1873 and is one of three remaining forts from the raids. Today, located just outside Saint George, Utah, people travel to the fort to get a firsthand look at its history and beauty. Fort Pearce is reached by a well maintained dirt road accessible by passenger vehicles, though caution should be taken if it is raining. The road stops at a generous parking area adjacent to the fort. A short stroll to the crumbling walls offers a doorway to the past and the struggles of those long before us.
After exploring the fort, individuals can take a trail down the hill towards the wash. A towering rock wall stands to the right, with several large boulders perched at ground level beside the trail. Names of settlers, also known as cowboy glyphs, can be found etched into the rock. Several ancient petroglyphs are carved into a low spotting boulder near the start of the trail, an intricate mural carved farther down the trail near the top of the rock wall. The contrast in the glyphs serves as a reminder of the conflict between the Natives and the settlers and how the landscape has changed over time. Rock art tells its own unique story, and must be preserved and respected. Please do not climb on or touch the petroglyphs. This helps ensure they stay around for years to come.
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A visit to Fort Pearce would not be complete without a photo of Red Man. This dynamic, three foot tall pictograph is painted high on the rock about a mile down the trail. Most of the trek is flat, but the final ascent is steep and rocky. The figure stands alone, as if overlooking its kingdom from high in the skies. After getting up close and personal with the figure, hikers may choose to return to the parking lot on the trail they had come or hike back along the top of the rocks.
The hike is easy overall, and has something everyone can enjoy. It does leave hikers exposed to the sun with no shade, so packing plenty of water and sunscreen is a must. Checking the weather before you go is also important, as temperatures in Saint George can peak at 110 degrees Fahrenheit in the summertime. Take your time and enjoy the little piece of history in the gorgeous desert landscape.
Written By Lauren Kehoe