One of the rest areas along I-70 in the stretch that goes through the San Rafael Swell area.

Sand Bench View Area

For my post about this section of Interstate 70 and links to the other rest areas on it visit this page.

Early Castle Valley

In the 1870s, the Mormon Settlers came east across the Wasatch Plateau to the high mountain deserts of Castle Valley and the San Rafael Swell. It was the last place Mormon colonizer Brigham Young called his people to settle. They were seeking new grazing lands for their livestock but found little of the lush pastureland they had been accustomed to in the Sanpete Valley. Indians warned them not to come because the water was bad and had killed their women.

Good or bad, water was so scarce, life here was harsh. The toughest of the desert cowboys and outlaws survived because they knew where every water hole and spring was hidden in the rocks and canyons. A few built livestock ponds, like the one pictured, and somehow made a living here.

Castle Valley Today

You have entered the San Rafael Swell. Remote and isolated as it may seem, civilization exists at the foot of the mountains at the western edge of the Swell. In Castle Valley, about 23 to 32 miles away, there are service stations, a clinic, museums, motels, eating establishments, and recreation. To get there, take the Monroe Exit 114 (a complete interchange). Follow the Moore Road northwest to State Road 10 then continue north to Ferron and the other little towns in Castle Valley. Turning south will take you to the town of Emery and on to the i-70 Interchange at Fremont Junction.

The San Rafael Swell

You have driven into a geologist’s paradise – the San Rafael Swell. Here layers of the earth’s crust are eroded and exposed for easy viewing, revealing millions of year’s of earth’s history. You can identify each layer by its color and characteristics. The dark velvety gray of the Mancos Shale to the west was deposited in an ancient Cretaceous sea. The yellows and golds of the Ferron and Dakota Sandstone tell of a time when this area was a great seashore with a delta, where materials laden with the plant and animal life that eventually became a source for coal and natural has, were deposited. Then come the soft purple, green, and red beds of the Morrison layer. When this layer was formed during the Jurassic Period, the area had tropical forests, inhabited by giant dinosaurs that died and left behind their bones to intrigue and enchant us. Ancient tidal flats created the many thin red layers of the Summerville Formation that you see before you. The view area itself is built on the beige-green Curtis Formation, which was deposited in an ancient Jurassic sea. To the east, the upward tilt of the layers is an indication of the huge eroded anticline that is the spectacular San Rafael Swell.