San Rafael Reef, Utah

SanRafael Reef, I-70, Utah [38°55′19″N 110°26′17″W]

This geologic feature located in Emery County in central Utah is a part of the Colorado Plateau. Approximately 75 miles (120 km) long, it is composed primarily of steeply tilted layers of Navajo and Wingate Sandstone, it has been eroded into tall fins, domes, cliffs, and deep canyons. There are also numerous slot canyons that twist their way through the flanks of the San Rafael Reef, among them Crack Canyon, Chute Canyon and Straight Wash. According to the Bureau of Land Management the first mining in the San Rafael Swell area was by Native Americans. The colored carnotite ores were used to make pastes that were applied as war paint. In 1871 Uranium was identified and developed some small mines. The uranium ore mined in Utah was used overseas as dye colorant, manufacturing of glass, pottery, steel plate, and for photographic experimentation. In early days there was no clearly organized mining district associated with the San Rafael Swell and many of the deposits were discovered accidently by ranchers moving livestock through the area. By 1906 the area was producing about 200,000 tons of ore annually with most of it going to Germany to be used in medical treatments and for radium research. Serious prospecting in the San Rafael Swell area began in 1948-49 with 910 claims filed in Emery County. The number of claims filed during the period from 1950 to 1956 eventually exceeded 50,000. Although a few significant claims were identified, such as the Delta-Hidden Splendor mine that sold for $9 million dollars in 1954, most of the mines were small in scale with little marketable ore being produced. The 1960’s saw a virtual end to further exploration work with only a few claims remaining active… Photo taken few days ago on the way from Colorado to Los Angeles.


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