Magazine article Sunset

Way Down South In. Utah

Magazine article Sunset

Way Down South In. Utah

Article excerpt

TRAVEL * RECREATION

Dixie has it all: mild weather, red rock hiking, historic lodging, golf-even a little cotton.

* The hike we had intended as an early-morning stroll through a red rock canyon outside of St. George, Utah, has quickly become the kind of adventure better done with eyes wide open and mind alert.

The BLM Red Cliffs Recreation Area is just north of this city of 70,000, but it feels like a spot in the middle of nowhere. The canyon's twisting wind- and water-carved walls, deep red and stained by desert varnish, shut out the outside world.

Even in this dry year, water pools up in a few basins. But the scoured sandstone and dry waterfalls of polished rock reveal that the canyon has seen much higher water flows. Carved toeholds allow access around one drop-off and into a slot canyon that's no more than an arm span across.

Then comes a passage requiring an awkward scramble that seems just too daunting-particularly when the alternative is simply to turn around and head back for breakfast.

And so the siren call of the Bear Paw Coffee Company in downtown St. George drowns out the call of the wild, if only for a couple of hours. There are, after all, plenty of other adventures ahead in this southwest corner of Utah, the region known as Utah's Dixie. The name notwithstanding, Dixie is decidedly more Old West than Old South. Ghost towns and high-desert scenery combine with early Mormon history to make it an ideal destination for a long weekend.

Mining and farming flourished

St. George's rich history isn't readily apparent beneath the growth of recent years. You drive through fairly generic strip development to reach the city's historic district. But your reward is blocks of tree-shaded streets lined by 19th-century homes.

The most famous of these is the Brigham Young Winter Home. Young first wintered here in 1873 after directing Dixie's early development. He initiated the Cotton Mission, the effort to settle this region and cultivate cotton, as part of the goal to make Utah's Mormon pioneers self-sufficient. The Dixie moniker dates to this time, thanks to the many families of Southern origin, the cotton crop, or the region's mild weather-depending on the account.

St. George is the largest of Dixie's surviving 19th-century settlements. Others, like the Silver Reef ghost town, have been mostly lost to history. As the town's name implies, mining powered its growth, not cotton-$10.5 million in silver through the 1880s. …

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