Tuesday, October 23, 2012

St. George

St. George with its Mormon temple
St. George is a town in the southwest corner of Utah that is the financial center of Washington County. The area is nicknamed the "Dixie of Utah" and the city of St. George lies just south of the Dixie National Forest. Why Dixie you ask? Because it was supposed to be the Mormons' cotton capital.

At the start of the Civil War, Brigham Young was concerned that cotton supplies from the Southeast would become unavailable, so he sent a contingency of 300 volunteer families south from Salt Lake City to establish cotton plantations around the Virgin River. Of course, most of the families had no idea they were volunteers until their names were read from the pulpit at the announcement of the project, but who was going to argue with Brigham?  The "St. George" of the town's name, by the way, was not a dragonslayer. He was George Smith, an apostle of The Church who led the expedition. They did manage to grow some cotton but because of the arid conditions it was difficult and prohibitively expensive. It was never produced at competitive market rates and the project was eventually abandoned.

Snow Canyon
I had always considered St. George to be a place that you drive through in order to get someplace else more interesting, but it turns out there are some nice areas around the city. Just north of town, for example, is Snow Canyon State Park. Don't expect to see much of the white stuff here, the canyon is actually named after early Mormon settlers Lorenzo and Erastus Snow and hardly ever gets any fluffy precipitation. It is carved out of the red and white Navajo sandstone that makes up so much of the area. There is a single campground that accommodates RVs with water and electric hookups and a central dump station. We did not stay here but we drove through the campground and it looks reasonably nice.

Red & white Navajo sandstone
Pine Valley group campground
A little farther north, you run into the aforementioned Dixie National Forest. It contains the tiny community of Pine Valley and just beyond lies the Pine Valley Recreation Area. This turned out to be a small valley filled with beautiful pine forest. I don't know how far you would have to drive to find another pine forest in this area, which is mostly red rock desert. The recreation area is quite beautiful and has about 50 RV campsites up to 60 feet long. There are no hookups but the camping areas are recently renovated and quite nice. There is a small reservoir with fishing available. We did not see anyone with any actual fish, but that's the way I prefer my fishing. It seems like a perfect place to dry camp for a few days if you're in the area and at $12 a night it's a bargain.
Campers going through the motions of fishing

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