Day Trip through History

Recently, I took a day trip with my roommate to Delta, UT and some surrounding sites in Millard County. Each site had a little historical significance whether for the state or the nation.

Great Basin Museum

Our first stop was in Delta. My roommate was taking photos for his job of the main drag in the town. While we walking around, we visited the Great Basin Museum, just a block off Main Street. There we were welcomed by some very passionate locals who told us all about the history, both natural and human, of the area. We were shown beautiful fossil and mineral specimens including some that are only found in that region. One cool one was Beryllium, a metal only found there and in Russia. It is a light-weight, extremely strong metal that has been used for space travel since it was discovered.

Topaz Internment Camp buildingAlso at the museum, we saw artifacts from the major industries of the area, a beautiful watercolor painting collection of area buildings, and artifacts from the pioneer era and from Topaz Internment Camp. One highlight, if I can say this about the artifact, is an original building from the Topaz camp that we could go in. It showed us the living conditions of the families there and had many original pieces like furniture from the site. There was also a cabin that was a mobile home of sorts from its time. The family that lived in it a hundred years ago moved the cabin into town in the winter so the kids could attend school and then back to the farm in the summer for work.

Also cool was seeing a foot x-ray machine that I saw on Modern MarvelsFoot x-ray machine just a couple days before the trip. These were recalled after it was realized that radiation leaked all over from the machine. According to the History Channel, most of these machines were destroyed upon recall by the government. However, some slipped through the cracks and the museum has one.

Topaz Internment Camp

From there we went to the site of the Topaz Internment Camp, one of ten such camps in the country, where thousands of Japanese-American families were sent unlawfully for three years during WWII. There isn’t much left at the site and it is in the middle of nowhere but if you are interested in WWII history or Japanese-American history, then you should make the trek out to it. There is a memorial with information on a couple of plaques and then the site itself, a one-mile-square plot of desert. There are some foundations left of some of the buildings and maybe even some artifacts lying around, and thanks to an Eagle Scout project, there are some signs to show where certain buildings and blocks were. It is sad to think that we did such a terrible thing to our fellow countrymen, and it is sobering to visit the site of such an atrocity.

Fort Deseret and Great Stone Face

Just outside of Delta is the small town of Deseret. Just beyond this is the site of Fort Deseret. This was one of a few forts built by Mormon settlers during the Black Hawk War. Today only the wall surrounding the fort stands crumbling around the fort interior. It isn’t as well preserved as Cove Fort but it is much bigger in space. The walls are made of adobe. There is one remaining room in the corner of the wall. If you are going to visit Fort Deseret, be sure to also visit Cove Fort to learn about the need for and use of these forts.

Just down the road from the fort is the turn off for the Great Stone Face. This is a big rock that when looked at properly is said to resemble Joseph Smith. In a photo that was in the Great Basin Museum, it did look like the portrait they had next to it, but after years of weathering you have to look hard and use your imagination to make out the Prophets profile. Fortunately, this six mile, BLM, dirt road that takes you to the stone also leads you to some Native American petro glyphs. They are pretty cool and according to the plaque, are a treaty between two tribes for water and hunting rights in the area.

On the way back through Deseret, we found an old public school house that I saw a painting of at the museum. It is a cool old building but is very dilapidated. If it weren’t in the middle of nowhere Utah, I would love to restore it and maybe even live in it.

There are some fun adventures in Millard County that should be investigated. Also in the county, across I-15 is Cove Fort and Fillmore, home to the old Utah territorial state house. Highway 6 through Delta is also the route to Ely, NV which is the hub city for Great Basin National Park. There is also a bird refuge just south of Deseret for the birders out there.

Now go find pieces of history near you and have your own adventure.

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