Into the Maze

The Maze is a district in Canyonlands National Park, located in Southeastern Utah. It is the one of the harshest and most remote regions of the country. Visitors reach the ranger station and The Maze beyond it after traveling for hours in four-wheel drive vehicles over winding, rutted roads. Those who visit the area should be self-sufficient and prepared for self-rescue. Few people visit the District for this reason. Only a handful of people make the area their home.

We spent time with two people who moved here and decided to never leave.

Click the forward arrow to proceed through the site.

"When places are actively sensed, the physical landscape becomes wedded to the landscape of the mind, to the roving imagination, and where the mind may lead is anybody's guess." — Keith Basso, Wisdom Sits in Places
Joe

About twenty miles away from the Maze District where Gary lives and works, Steve runs cattle in what is known locally as Robbers Roost Country at the historic Robbers Roost Ranch, a huge parcel of rangeland that sprawls across The Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Canyonlands National Park, and a land belonging to the Bureau of Land Management. The Roost got its name providing refuge to thieves, cattle rustlers, and outlaws like Cap Brown and Butch Cassidy and the Wild Bunch. White settlers arrived there with their families and herds in the late 19th century. They came in search of cheap grazing land and distance from government control, a trait that carried into the 20th Century, when the area was a hotspot of the Sagebrush Rebellion.

What is now The Bar Z Ranch was originally settled in 1909 by Joe Biddlecome, his wife Millie, and their small daughters Pearl and Hazel. Their life, like those of the other hardscrabble ranchers in that part of the world, was isolated and rugged. The ranchers' modest homes, sheds, and corrals were made of juniper and mud from the landscape around them. Joe Biddlecome passed his farm on to his daughters and and Hazel’s son, AC Ekker, who managed the ranch until his death in 2000. Now, the Gleave brothers own the private inholding where Joe Biddlecome’s historic buildings still stand, running cattle on much of the same land.

Joe

About twenty miles away from the Maze District where Gary lives and works, Steve runs cattle in what is known locally as Robbers Roost Country at the historic Robbers Roost Ranch, a huge parcel of rangeland that sprawls across The Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Canyonlands National Park, and a land belonging to the Bureau of Land Management. The Roost got its name providing refuge to thieves, cattle rustlers, and outlaws like Cap Brown and Butch Cassidy and the Wild Bunch. White settlers arrived there with their families and herds in the late 19th century. They came in search of cheap grazing land and distance from government control, a trait that carried into the 20th Century, when the area was a hotspot of the Sagebrush Rebellion.

What is now The Bar Z Ranch was originally settled in 1909 by Joe Biddlecome, his wife Millie, and their small daughters Pearl and Hazel. Their life, like those of the other hardscrabble ranchers in that part of the world, was isolated and rugged. The ranchers' modest homes, sheds, and corrals were made of juniper and mud from the landscape around them. Joe Biddlecome passed his farm on to his daughters and and Hazel’s son, AC Ekker, who managed the ranch until his death in 2000. Now, the Gleave brothers own the private inholding where Joe Biddlecome’s historic buildings still stand, running cattle on much of the same land.

Joe

About twenty miles away from the Maze District where Gary lives and works, Steve runs cattle in what is known locally as Robbers Roost Country at the historic Robbers Roost Ranch, a huge parcel of rangeland that sprawls across The Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Canyonlands National Park, and a land belonging to the Bureau of Land Management. The Roost got its name providing refuge to thieves, cattle rustlers, and outlaws like Cap Brown and Butch Cassidy and the Wild Bunch. White settlers arrived there with their families and herds in the late 19th century. They came in search of cheap grazing land and distance from government control, a trait that carried into the 20th Century, when the area was a hotspot of the Sagebrush Rebellion.

What is now The Bar Z Ranch was originally settled in 1909 by Joe Biddlecome, his wife Millie, and their small daughters Pearl and Hazel. Their life, like those of the other hardscrabble ranchers in that part of the world, was isolated and rugged. The ranchers' modest homes, sheds, and corrals were made of juniper and mud from the landscape around them. Joe Biddlecome passed his farm on to his daughters and and Hazel’s son, AC Ekker, who managed the ranch until his death in 2000. Now, the Gleave brothers own the private inholding where Joe Biddlecome’s historic buildings still stand, running cattle on much of the same land.

Joe

About twenty miles away from the Maze District where Gary lives and works, Steve runs cattle in what is known locally as Robbers Roost Country at the historic Robbers Roost Ranch, a huge parcel of rangeland that sprawls across The Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Canyonlands National Park, and a land belonging to the Bureau of Land Management. The Roost got its name providing refuge to thieves, cattle rustlers, and outlaws like Cap Brown and Butch Cassidy and the Wild Bunch. White settlers arrived there with their families and herds in the late 19th century. They came in search of cheap grazing land and distance from government control, a trait that carried into the 20th Century, when the area was a hotspot of the Sagebrush Rebellion.

What is now The Bar Z Ranch was originally settled in 1909 by Joe Biddlecome, his wife Millie, and their small daughters Pearl and Hazel. Their life, like those of the other hardscrabble ranchers in that part of the world, was isolated and rugged. The ranchers' modest homes, sheds, and corrals were made of juniper and mud from the landscape around them. Joe Biddlecome passed his farm on to his daughters and and Hazel’s son, AC Ekker, who managed the ranch until his death in 2000. Now, the Gleave brothers own the private inholding where Joe Biddlecome’s historic buildings still stand, running cattle on much of the same land.

Joe

About twenty miles away from the Maze District where Gary lives and works, Steve runs cattle in what is known locally as Robbers Roost Country at the historic Robbers Roost Ranch, a huge parcel of rangeland that sprawls across The Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Canyonlands National Park, and a land belonging to the Bureau of Land Management. The Roost got its name providing refuge to thieves, cattle rustlers, and outlaws like Cap Brown and Butch Cassidy and the Wild Bunch. White settlers arrived there with their families and herds in the late 19th century. They came in search of cheap grazing land and distance from government control, a trait that carried into the 20th Century, when the area was a hotspot of the Sagebrush Rebellion.

What is now The Bar Z Ranch was originally settled in 1909 by Joe Biddlecome, his wife Millie, and their small daughters Pearl and Hazel. Their life, like those of the other hardscrabble ranchers in that part of the world, was isolated and rugged. The ranchers' modest homes, sheds, and corrals were made of juniper and mud from the landscape around them. Joe Biddlecome passed his farm on to his daughters and and Hazel’s son, AC Ekker, who managed the ranch until his death in 2000. Now, the Gleave brothers own the private inholding where Joe Biddlecome’s historic buildings still stand, running cattle on much of the same land.

Joe

About twenty miles away from the Maze District where Gary lives and works, Steve runs cattle in what is known locally as Robbers Roost Country at the historic Robbers Roost Ranch, a huge parcel of rangeland that sprawls across The Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Canyonlands National Park, and a land belonging to the Bureau of Land Management. The Roost got its name providing refuge to thieves, cattle rustlers, and outlaws like Cap Brown and Butch Cassidy and the Wild Bunch. White settlers arrived there with their families and herds in the late 19th century. They came in search of cheap grazing land and distance from government control, a trait that carried into the 20th Century, when the area was a hotspot of the Sagebrush Rebellion.

What is now The Bar Z Ranch was originally settled in 1909 by Joe Biddlecome, his wife Millie, and their small daughters Pearl and Hazel. Their life, like those of the other hardscrabble ranchers in that part of the world, was isolated and rugged. The ranchers' modest homes, sheds, and corrals were made of juniper and mud from the landscape around them. Joe Biddlecome passed his farm on to his daughters and and Hazel’s son, AC Ekker, who managed the ranch until his death in 2000. Now, the Gleave brothers own the private inholding where Joe Biddlecome’s historic buildings still stand, running cattle on much of the same land.

Joe

About twenty miles away from the Maze District where Gary lives and works, Steve runs cattle in what is known locally as Robbers Roost Country at the historic Robbers Roost Ranch, a huge parcel of rangeland that sprawls across The Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Canyonlands National Park, and a land belonging to the Bureau of Land Management. The Roost got its name providing refuge to thieves, cattle rustlers, and outlaws like Cap Brown and Butch Cassidy and the Wild Bunch. White settlers arrived there with their families and herds in the late 19th century. They came in search of cheap grazing land and distance from government control, a trait that carried into the 20th Century, when the area was a hotspot of the Sagebrush Rebellion.

What is now The Bar Z Ranch was originally settled in 1909 by Joe Biddlecome, his wife Millie, and their small daughters Pearl and Hazel. Their life, like those of the other hardscrabble ranchers in that part of the world, was isolated and rugged. The ranchers' modest homes, sheds, and corrals were made of juniper and mud from the landscape around them. Joe Biddlecome passed his farm on to his daughters and and Hazel’s son, AC Ekker, who managed the ranch until his death in 2000. Now, the Gleave brothers own the private inholding where Joe Biddlecome’s historic buildings still stand, running cattle on much of the same land.

Joe

In the 1920s oil companies like Phillips and the Texas Oil Company became interested in the Maze, Robbers Roost, and their environs. The story was always the same: machinery and workers were brought in at great expense and effort, little if anything came out of the ground, and operations folded in short order.

In the late 70s and early 80s, in reaction to the OPEC oil embargo and a push for increased domestic oil production, a full scale, government-subsidized tar sands operation was proposed within the Maze, with a huge industrial refinery to be built on the mesa top on Gordon flat. When President Reagan ended the subsidy, those plans went by the wayside.

But in 2007, when oil went up to over $120 a barrel, oil companies sought to renew their leases from thirty years prior. Some of those leases had been lapsed for more than 25 years, and environmental groups handily repelled the efforts. However, many activists and natural resource managers, including Gary, took no comfort in what they saw as a temporary victory in a historic battle over public lands.

Joe

In the 1920s oil companies like Phillips and the Texas Oil Company became interested in the Maze, Robbers Roost, and their environs. The story was always the same: machinery and workers were brought in at great expense and effort, little if anything came out of the ground, and operations folded in short order.

In the late 70s and early 80s, in reaction to the OPEC oil embargo and a push for increased domestic oil production, a full scale, government-subsidized tar sands operation was proposed within the Maze, with a huge industrial refinery to be built on the mesa top on Gordon flat. When President Reagan ended the subsidy, those plans went by the wayside.

But in 2007, when oil went up to over $120 a barrel, oil companies sought to renew their leases from thirty years prior. Some of those leases had been lapsed for more than 25 years, and environmental groups handily repelled the efforts. However, many activists and natural resource managers, including Gary, took no comfort in what they saw as a temporary victory in a historic battle over public lands.

Joe

In the 1920s oil companies like Phillips and the Texas Oil Company became interested in the Maze, Robbers Roost, and their environs. The story was always the same: machinery and workers were brought in at great expense and effort, little if anything came out of the ground, and operations folded in short order.

In the late 70s and early 80s, in reaction to the OPEC oil embargo and a push for increased domestic oil production, a full scale, government-subsidized tar sands operation was proposed within the Maze, with a huge industrial refinery to be built on the mesa top on Gordon flat. When President Reagan ended the subsidy, those plans went by the wayside.

But in 2007, when oil went up to over $120 a barrel, oil companies sought to renew their leases from thirty years prior. Some of those leases had been lapsed for more than 25 years, and environmental groups handily repelled the efforts. However, many activists and natural resource managers, including Gary, took no comfort in what they saw as a temporary victory in a historic battle over public lands.

Joe

In the 1920s oil companies like Phillips and the Texas Oil Company became interested in the Maze, Robbers Roost, and their environs. The story was always the same: machinery and workers were brought in at great expense and effort, little if anything came out of the ground, and operations folded in short order.

In the late 70s and early 80s, in reaction to the OPEC oil embargo and a push for increased domestic oil production, a full scale, government-subsidized tar sands operation was proposed within the Maze, with a huge industrial refinery to be built on the mesa top on Gordon flat. When President Reagan ended the subsidy, those plans went by the wayside.

But in 2007, when oil went up to over $120 a barrel, oil companies sought to renew their leases from thirty years prior. Some of those leases had been lapsed for more than 25 years, and environmental groups handily repelled the efforts. However, many activists and natural resource managers, including Gary, took no comfort in what they saw as a temporary victory in a historic battle over public lands.

About this Project:

We are a group of writers, ecologists, filmmakers, and artists who met through the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies.

This project is the result of a week spent in and around The Maze District of Canyonlands National Park, one of the most remote regions in the continental U.S. We were guided through it by two men who know the place intimately – Gary, a National Park Service employee, and a rancher named Steve. They were generous in sharing their knowledge of the Maze’s ecology, geology, and millennia-long history of human habitation. Our hope in stitching together this text, audio, and video footage of our time with Gary and Steve is to go beyond describing the features of the Maze. We hope to recreate the impressions Gary and Steve left upon us and to consider what it means for a person and a place to be entangled with each other.

The project is generously supported by Sage Magazine and the Mellon Collaborative for Southern Appalachian and Place-Based Studies

Credits:

Created, written, and designed by: Avana A. Andrade, Jason Daniel Schwartz and Noah Sokol

Videography: Nelson Walker
Video editing: Coco Young & Noah Sokol
Sound editing: Daniel Maynard
Photographic Material: Gene Rimmer, Northern Arizona University Special
Collections and Archives
Web development: Tim Lai, Danny Cochran & Barefoot Coders
Project Team: Avana A. Andrade, Ben Mylius, Jason Daniel Schwartz,
Nelson Walker and Noah Sokol

Special thanks to: Gary Cox, Cowboy Steve, Cynthia Cox, David Haskell, Peter Moscone, Mary Evelyn Tucker, Karen Yu, Linda Mayes, Sabeth Jackson