This Saturday we took a disappointing trip. I’d be interested if any of you readers know what we did wrong.

I had heard that Manning Canyon was a premier location for fossil hunting–that the shale in the clay pits there contained a wide variety of plant and animal life from the Mississippian and Pennsylvanian ages. We couldn’t contain our enthusiasm, so last Saturday we headed around Utah Lake toward Fivemile Pass to see what we could find.

Manning Canyon is wide and long, running up to a mountain peak in the far southern tip of the Oquirrh mountains. Just over the hill to the west is the huge Mercur gold mine. The Manning Canyon shale is reportedly grey and black, and it sits above a large layer of (ordovician?) blue limestone. Back in the day it was called Lewiston canyon, and contained gold mines and a small town, with a cyanide mill for collecting the gold. More recently it seems to have been used mostly for off-roading, due to its proximity to Fivemile Pass.

The canyon can be reached by driving south from Cedar Fort on Hwy 73 and turning west on a dirt road. I misjudged the turnoff and ended up getting lost. We eventually found a rutted road heading in that direction and winded our way there. When we arrived at the mouth of the canyon, we saw a number of signs designating road closures. The main road was straight, newly-graded, and paved with gravel, but apparently the entire area was closed…

We visited some nearby areas to try to find the Manning Shale formation. We saw an outcropping of the blue limestone, poked around for a few minutes and found a few shells and crinoids, then climbed up the hill a little to see if we could find the shale seams, but didn’t see much.

I had assumed that the Manning shale layer would be down in the clay pits, but it might possibly be up in the hills. I’m sure there are many other places nearby where we can find these fossils. Could anyone enlighten us on the subject?


  1. Just downloaded and viewed your digital guide. That is awesome. Thanks a million. I will look to add sites that you don’t have; but all the places I’ve been are on there already.

  2. After the trip I did a little digging around and found this:

    Notice is hereby given that the Notice of Temporary Closure
    for the Manning Canyon area, first published in the Federal Register on
    October 29, 2002 page 66000, volume 67, number 209, is hereby extended
    until rehabilitation, and range, habitat, and watershed restoration are
    successful. The area described is hereby closed to all motorized
    vehicle and mechanized vehicle use to protect the rehabilitation
    efforts of the Manning Canyon hazardous mine tailings remediation
    project. The opening date for the West Manning Canyon and Lewiston
    roads will be determined by mutual agreement with Utah County….

    …This closure of the public lands to
    motorized vehicle and mechanized use will serve to protect the
    rehabilitation of the lands following the cleanup of hazardous material
    in Manning Canyon. The hazardous material consists of numerous mine
    tailings piles containing large concentrations of heavy metals, such as
    lead and arsenic. As a result of the cleanup of these hazardous mine
    tailings, large areas were re-contoured and reseeded and a repository
    was created to contain the tailings. These areas require protection
    until the rehabilitation actions are determined to be successful.

    The original document can be read here.

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