Browns Park is an area rich with Old West history that stretches between Diamond and Cold Springs mountains and across parts of northwestern Colorado, northeastern Utah and southwestern Wyoming.
The Old West history covers Native Americans, fur trappers, explorers, ranchers, rustlers and outlaws, with famous visitors and residents including Kit Carson, John Wesley Powell, Capt. John C. Fremont, Ann Bassett and Butch Cassidy’s Wild Bunch.
Native Americans from the Ute, Comanche and Shoshone tribes were inhabiting Browns Park when white fur trappers and explorers arrived in the early 1800s, and the Blackfoot tribe occasionally conducted raids in the area.
Fur traders built Fort Davy Crockett in 1832 where the Vermillion Creek fed into the Green River to serve as a post for trading with Native American tribes and to protect against raids by the Blackfeet. The fort was named for the frontiersman and congressman after his death in the 1836 battle of the Alamo.
Kit Carson visited the fort before it was abandoned around 1840 as the fur trapping business fell into decline. Capt. John C. Fremont camped at the site during a trip to California in 1844 and reported that little was left standing. Browns Park reportedly got its name from explorer John Wesley Powell as he passed through the area in 1869.
In the 1870s, ranchers followed the fur trappers into the remote mountain valley, along with rustlers and other outlaws, including the Wild Bunch. Brown’s Park became one of three hideouts along the Outlaw Trail; the others were in Wyoming and Utah.
Browns Park rancher Herb Bassett had dealings with the outlaws, and his daughters, Ann and Josie, reportedly became romantically involved with Cassidy and other members of the Wild Bunch and even visited the gang’s closely guarded Robber’s Roost hideout in southeastern Utah. Some historians believe that Ann Bassett was Etta Place, famed girlfriend of the Sundance Kid, though others dispute the claim.
Ann Bassett was twice accused of cattle rustling as her family and neighboring ranchers engaged in a feud. But she was never convicted of the crime and earned the the nicknames “Queen Ann” and “queen of the rustlers.”
Another Browns Park property, the Two-Bar Ranch, became the headquarters for one of the largest cattle empires in Colorado and Wyoming, with more than 10,000 head of cattle in the early 1900s. Several of the ranch buildings are preserved as part of the Browns Park National Wildlife Refuge.
The 13,000-acre refuge, which also encompasses Fort Davy Crockett, is home to elk, deer, river otter, Woodhouse’s toad and 200 species of birds.
Yet another historic Browns Park property, the John Jarvie Ranch, is preserved by the federal Bureau of Land Management about 40 miles across the border in Utah. The ranch dates back to 1880 and was owned by John Jarvie, a businessman from Scotland. Jarvie also had dealings with the Wild Bunch.