Jarvie Ranch is a unique historic site located in Browns Park (or Browns Hole), which lies on the Utah-Colorado-Wyoming border.
Before Flaming Gorge Dam changed water flows, the Green River spread out over the land during times of high water levels, naturally irrigating the meadows and creating a lush valley. A temperate climate made Browns Park a winter haven for the wildlife as well as Utes and Shoshones. During the 1800s, the protected valley also attracted Anglo Americans.
John Jarvie, a Scotsman, settled his ranch in Browns Park in 1880. He was known as the “sage of the Uintas,” the genius of Browns Park. An astute businessman with interests in mining and livestock, he provided the area with a general store-trading post, post office, blacksmith shop and ferry. He also had a license to make and sell whiskey. The ranch provided him with fruit from the orchard, potatoes, and corn from which to distill the spirits.
Jarvie was an educated pioneer who wrote and recited poetry, read stories, played the organ and concertina, and entertained the Browns Park residents at social functions.
The isolation of Browns Hole, combined with its other advantages, also provided a backcountry setting for the bad men of the time.
Notorious outlaws would “hole up” in Browns Hole. The “Hole” was encircled by three states, allowing an outlaw to easily travel outside a state lawman’s jurisdiction. Jarvie knew Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid of the Wild Bunch, outlaws Matt Warner and Isom Dart, and Queen of the Rustlers Ann Bassett.
Browns Park visitors rode the trails either by horseback or horse and wagon. The sights and sounds would have been much different than those of today. You could hear wind, animals, and the crackling of a campfire. You could smell sagebrush and the aroma of coffee on the campfire. Brilliant stars would light the night, along with lanterns and candles.
Today, visitors to the Jarvie Ranch can experience and imagine the lingering sights, sounds, and smells of the old West. The Jarvie Ranch still has original structures and a fascinating history. Two festivals take place at the ranch each year, on the Saturday before Father’s Day and on the first Saturday in December. Visitors travel from the neighboring three states to attend the festivals, which feature western activities for the whole family.
From Vernal, Utah (via Clay Basin): North on Highway 191 for 55 miles to the Wyoming-Utah border, then east 22 miles on maintained gravel road which includes 2 miles down Jesse Ewing Canyon with grades approaching 14 percent.
From Vernal, Utah (via Crouse Canyon): North on Vernal Avenue to Fifth North, then east 25 miles to the Diamond Mountain and Brown's Park signed turnoff. From there, travel 16 miles north on an infrequently maintained dirt road to Browns Park. Follow signs to the Jarvie Ranch. Call ahead for road conditions if weather is a question.
(contributed by the Bureau of Land Management)