By Judy Leavitt
Itinerary/directions: (St. George), I-15 north, Leeds/Silver Reef, I-15, (Cedar City), Iron Mission State Park, Hwy 56 west, Old Iron Town, Hwy 56, (Enterprise), Hwy 18 south, Mountain Meadow Monument, Hwy 18, Snow Canyon State Park-volcano hike, Hwy 18, (home). Mileage-about 133 miles.
Silver Reef, or Silver City, became a boom town in the 1870’s when silver was discovered there. This is the only location in the United States where silver has been found deposited in sandstone. This community was the most diverse of southern Utah’s early settlements, comprising mostly Protestant, Catholic, and Chinese families. The old Rice Bank served as a jail for a time, and is now a small gift shop. The Wells Fargo building houses a museum, and famed sculptor Jerry Anderson’s paintings and bronze work.
It is open Monday-Saturday, from 9:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. A small stone building next to the Wells Fargo houses a model of the town, and a picture gallery. If you have a little extra time, go on up the canyon, heading west on the main road through Silver Reef. Take the right fork towards Oak
Grove. On the right, a short distance further, is a parking area. Take the short hike that leads to one of the old stone kilns, used to process the ore. Iron Mission State Park is located at 635 N. Main in Cedar City. Cost is $3 per person, or $6 per vehicle. It is open daily until 5:00 p.m. We enjoyed playing with the model railroad, and the displays of carriages, farm implements, guns, and mining equipment. It was fun ‘riding’ in the Wells Fargo carriage, and imagining what life must have been like in the old log cabin. As the park’s name implies, settlers came into the area to set up an iron mill, and manufacture many items needed throughout the region. We studied the process, from start to finish, and have a new respect for the effort it took to make everything from a nail to a printing press. There is a hands-on’ children’s corner with a lot of fun activities, and the kids can complete requirements to become Junior Curators. Plan on spending at least two hours here, and pick up a booklet on Old Iron Town. Heading west on Highway 56, you will see Desert Mound off to your right after about 20 minutes drive time. Watch for the sign to Old Iron Town on your left. This historic site is located about ten minutes from the highway. Tour the ruins of the iron works and a preserved beehive shaped charcoal oven. Hike the short informative nature trail to the ruins of a pioneer cabin. Hit the highway again towards Enterprise, where you will turn south, heading for St. George. The Mountain Meadow Monument is a good place to stop for a few minutes. Reflect on what can happen when there are rumors spread, when people fail to communicate, and don’t take the time to really learn about and understand each other. Wrap up the trip with a fun hike up the volcano just south of the Diamond Valley turnoff. What an amazing view there is from the top! Hint-instead of taking on the north face, it’s a bit easier hiking around to the east and up the south side. Wear your good shoes!