Range Creek was home to the Fremont people more than a thousand years ago. Pithouse ruins, scattered artifacts, and adobe granaries perched throughout breathtaking Range Creek canyon remain as markers of these ancient people. Long after the Fremont left, Range Creek became a haven for 19th century cattle ranchers. These hearty pioneers were undoubtedly enticed by the same lush meadows and clear streams that drew the Fremont. Cattle rancher Waldo Wilcox and his family lived and worked alongside ancient ruins and petroglyphs in the remote canyon for over fifty years. The family knew of the vast archaeological complex surrounding them, but kept quiet and protected the area. Since Wilcox sold Range Creek to the State of Utah in 2001, archaeologists have recorded hundreds of archaeological sites and features and discover new and exciting finds each season.
The Fremont people were a diverse group of farmers and nomads living across Utah and beyond. The people of Range Creek were living in small farming communities comprised of pithouse villages. They hunted game, gathered wild plants, and grew corn and other crops in the lowland meadows. All of the tell-tale signs of Fremont culture — distinctive rock art, clay figurines and gray pottery — can be found throughout Range Creek. Range Creek supported the Fremont for centuries, but there is every indication that life in the isolated canyon was not easy. Most of the sites in Range Creek date to a population boom between 1000-1200 A.D. This period left a lot of evidence for archaeologists to work with, and intriguingly ties in with the larger mystery surrounding the fate of the Fremont people.
By 1250 A.D. the entire Fremont culture 'vanished' from the archaeological record. Like the Ancestral Pueblo people to the Southwest, the history of the Fremont Indians is unclear and highly controversial. Archaeologists have worked for decades to uncover what exactly happened to the Fremont. Archaeologists can only recognize ancient cultural groups from the evidence they left behind. It is unclear if the Fremont people moved on, died out, or so drastically changed their lifestyles that we can no longer see them archaeologically as a distinct culture. Before they disappeared, the Range Creek Fremont began doing peculiar things like storing food on sheer cliff-sides and moving whole villages to towering ridge tops. These behaviors suggest these communities were facing serious threats. And therein lies the rub — what was troubling these ancient peoples? Environmental stress? Unfriendly neighbors? Internal conflicts? Researchers increasingly look towards climate change as a factor in the Fremont peoples' seemingly bizarre adaptations, making the history of Range Creek extremely important and a timely story archaeologists are eager to tell.