Monday, April 25, 2011

Easter at Bluff Fort

This past weekend, I pre-packed an Easter basket, checked out a book on tape from the library, and drove down to Bluff, Utah in the southeast corner of the state. Bluff’s first annual Easter egg hunt was being held at the old Bluff Fort.

I took off Friday afternoon and arrived at the Desert Rose Inn & Cabins in Bluff around 10:00 p.m. Let me just give a shout out, quickly, to the Desert Rose. Wonderful. Beautiful rooms with old-fashioned quilts on the bed and Navajo art on the walls. Decks outside had seating for guests to enjoy an amazing view of the Bluffs. The original Hole in the Rock pioneers wish they’d had large, air-conditioned rooms with internet and ESPN waiting for them when they arrived.

I first became acquainted with Bluff Fort through the Hole in the Rock Foundation, a non-profit historical preservation society working to preserve the history and share the legacy of the Hole in the Rock pioneers. I admit, five years ago, I’d never heard of them. But recently they’ve been getting a bit more attention. Author Gerald Lund wrote a historical fiction novel, The Undaunted, set against the backdrop of the grueling Hole in the Rock trek, and LDS Apostle Jeffrey Holland has recounted the amazing tale of Stanford and Belle Smith at a couple of stake and regional conferences.

Not familiar with the story? It involves an intrepid band of pioneers attempting to settle in the Four Corners area to establish good relations with the local Native Americans tribes and bring law and order to a lawless corner of the state. It also involves lowering an entire wagon train 1,000 feet through a narrow slit in the sandstone wall of a cliff. And that’s just part of their harrowing adventure. You can read more about the Hole in the Rock trek here.

The pioneers finally established a settlement in an area surrounded by remarkable sandstone formations; they named their settlement Bluff Fort. Only one of the original cabins still stands, but the Hole in the Rock Foundation has rebuilt the fort including reconstructions of the old meeting house and 14 log cabins, each one built to commemorate one of the original settler families. There is also a visitors center, a hogan, a teepee and numerous covered wagons, including one of the original wagons to come through the Hole in the Rock.

Visitors can tour each of the cabins and go inside the meetinghouse. The visitors center even has pioneer costumes, and tourists can dress up and pose for pictures on the covered wagons. Bluff Fort is located along highway 191. They receive thousands of visitors every year, many from countries as distant as Denmark, Japan, Australia and France. Guests really get a hands-on historical experience. One French tourist left this comment in the log book: “We love this little town. Very interesting for us, it’s better than western movies!”

Easter weekend, Bluff Fort held their first annual community Easter egg hunt. It was a wonderful mix of locals, tourists, and hundreds of candy-filled eggs along with other treats hidden all around the fort. The festivities concluded with a community pot luck lunch.

Bluff Fort is amazing. It combines history with breathtaking scenery; it makes a great mini-vacation or weekend getaway. I so many photos that I overloaded my memory card, but you can go see beautiful, high-quality images of the fort at their Facebook page. Be sure to click “Like.”

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