Scenic outdoor areas abound in the western United State, but one area tops the list for Utah locals. Ashley National Forest is a scenic, adventurous, outdoor recreation area in the north eastern corner of Utah, entering Wyoming. Within the boundaries of this national forest resides breath taking views of mountain peaks, crystal clear streams and an abundance of wild life. The Uinta mountain range, within the Rocky Mountain chain, makes up the majority of the national forest and is home to the tallest peaks in the state of Utah, the tallest being Kings Peak.
Making sure this area is safe from destruction and preserved for generations to come, it is overseen by the United States Forest Service. Ashley National Forest is comprised of 1,384,132 acres, elevations ranging from 6,000 to 13,500 feet and accommodates millions of visitors a year. According to the Forest Service, over 2.5 million people visit yearly. Visitors take part in camping, fishing, hunting, hiking and many other outdoor activities.
The Uinta mountains and the area around them were established as a national forest in 1908 by Theodore Roosevelt. Theodore Roosevelt was a well know conservationist and established the frame work for conservation efforts of the United States. On August 31, 1910 Roosevelt delivered a speech in Osawatomie, Kansas summing up his convictions of conservation. He states “Conservation means development as much as it does protection. I recognize the right and duty of this generation to develop and use natural resources of our land but I do not recognize the right to waste them, or to rob, by wasteful use….” In the same speech he continues “Conservation is a great moral issue, for it involves the patriotic duty of insuring the safety and continuance of the nation.”
President Roosevelt did much for the advancement of conservation, he established the U.S. Forest Service and dedicated land all over the country as national forests, parks and monuments. Clearly, President Roosevelt saw the need to preserve areas such as the Uinta Mountains and the resources inside.
Once the area was designated a national forest it needed a name. Looking into the history of this wilderness a figure stands out, General William Ashley. William Ashley was a General in the Missouri State Militia and at one time the Lieutenant Governor of Missouri. In 1822, Gen Ashley and his business partner Maj. Andrew Henry set up a temporary fur trading post within the mountain range. That post stood from 1822 to 1823.
After returning to Missouri, the lure of the Uintas brought Gen. Ashley back for more in 1825. The area needed more exploration, so Gen. Ashley put together a team of six men and returned to the Uinta mountains. Their exploration of the mountain range was primarily done by floating down the Green River. Starting on the northern end, where Flaming Gorge Reservoir currently resides, they worked there way south though the area.
As the expedition enter the Flaming Gorge area, Gen. Ashley wrote “we entered between the walls of this range of mountains, which approach at this point to the waters edge on either side of the river and rise almost perpendicular to an immense height.”
Due to the work and exploration of Gen. Ashley in the area, the National Park now bears his name. If Gen. Ashley could pick any wilderness area to attach his name to, it’s a good bet he would have chosen this mountain range. One of the most beautiful areas in the state of Utah, many visit and are drawn back, much like Gen. Ashley was.