Corner of Colorado-Utah-Wyoming

NOTE: The book "Colorado Mapology" (Erl H. Ellis, 1983, Jende-Hagan Book Corporation) is an excellent resource, from which I obtained much of the information presented on these pages. The black-and-white photos below were taken by him, and are published in that book.

According to the Congressional definition of the boundary of Colorado, this point is theoretically where the 41st parallel north latitude intersects 32 degrees west longitude as measured from the Washington Meridian*. The south line of Wyoming was surveyed by A.V. Richards in 1873, but he was not tasked with locating this corner. This location was fixed and monumented by Rollin Reeves in 1879 when surveying the west line of Colorado. Due to the technological limitations of that age, it's not in exactly the right spot (although these surveys do define the official boundaries, regardless of their accuracy).

* Many American surveys between 1850-1884 were based on this meridian, which was officially abolished by Congress in favor of the Greenwich Prime Meridian in 1912. "32 degrees west of Washington" is a few miles away from the 109th degree of longitude west of Greenwich (more info on this page).

According to Reeves' field notes, he monumented this corner by placing a large red sandstone that had the names of the three states and the coordinates of the location chiseled into it. On top of this was a pile of rocks about five feet high. About 50 years later (in 1931), this monument was found disturbed, so it was replaced with a standard benchmark set in concrete. In 1966, a large wooden interpretive sign was erected adjacent to the tri-state marker. It's visible at far left in the photo below:

Ellis, 1969

The fence in the foreground runs due north/south along the Utah/Colorado border, but just shy of the Wyoming line it splits into a triangle-shaped enclosure, which perhaps was built at the same time the sign was added. If you were to continue north along that fenceline, you'd reach the actual tri-state corner, visible in the distance, and shown close-up below:

Ellis, 1969

The bronze disk sits in the center of that concrete apron. I'm not sure what to call that, um... that "tripod-umbrella thing" that sort of protected the disk (it's gone now, as you'll see in a photo below). The top of the large sign shown in the first photo is enlarged below:

Ellis, 1969 (detail)

When Mr. Ellis visited in 1969, he noticed the longitude given on this sign was incorrect: it should be 109 degrees (plus minutes and seconds). His correspondence with the BLM resulted in a correction to the sign in 1972. Below is an enlargement of the text that was at the bottom of the sign:

Ellis, 1969 (detail)

It's unclear whether these service clubs were the ones responsible for embedding some of the original stones in the concrete, or if they were simply pointing out the significance of the stones that were already there (perhaps since 1931). I tend to believe the former (more on that later). I've displayed those parts of the sign because they're the only parts that differ from the text on the current sign (which appears in its entirety in a photo below). I'm not sure what happened to the original sign. I assume it was damaged or destroyed, but at any rate it was replaced in 1999 with the sign that was still there at the time of my visit (2006). Below is an overview of the site:

me, June 2006

That's looking north. The camera is in Utah, but just off to the right is a fence that marks the Colorado border. The fence visible ahead is the Wyoming line, so everything in the background is in that state. On the far right is part of Pine Mountain, and to the left is all part of the Red Creek Basin. Presumably those three poles originally bore the flags of the three states that meet here - but, although the poles are visible in Ellis' 1969 photos, he doesn't mention any flags in his text. The triangle-shaped enclosure is still there. Built into the fence is a metal turnstile intended to let people in but keep critters out. It makes for an amusing merry-go-round...

Troy, June 2006

...and if it's windy enough, you don't even need a push from your friend. Below is a close-up of the sign:

me, June 2006

I think that interprets the site quite well - it's a nice reward for making such a long trek. The text on that sign is identical to the text on the original, except for that on the bottom panel. Just to the east of the sign is the actual tri-state corner, shown below:

me, June 2006

That's looking northwest: the camera is in Colorado, but the guy wearing gray is in Utah, and the guy in white is in Wyoming. So is the guy wearing blue, but if he took one step forward, he'd cross into Colorado. At their feet is the brass tablet. You can see it's set in a small, square concrete base, which is surrounded by a larger triangle base. My theory is that the square base was the one set in 1931, and that the triangle base was added in 1966 (the same time other improvements were made to this site). Just outside the square base you can see where two of the three "tripod" legs were once set in the concrete. The disk itself is shown close-up below:

me, June 2006

Now for some info on how to find this tri-state corner. It's quite remote, and getting there is no trivial matter. The first time I tried, I got lost because I didn't have a detailed map along. The second time, I knew how to get there, but still couldn't, because I didn't have a four-wheel-drive. Third time was a charm...

The closest interstate access is from I-80's exit 99 in Wyoming. Heading south from Rock Springs on US 191, many maps indicate that you can take Sweetwater County Road 34* east for a few miles, and then CR 27** south to within a few miles of the tri-state corner.

*Some maps label this "Ramsey Ranch Rd", while others refer to it as "Salt Wells Creek Rd".
**Some maps label this "Aspen Mountain Rd", while others refer to it as simply "Aspen Rd".

However, when you turn off US 191 onto CR 34, you're greeted with this sign:

me, Oct. 2005

That was there during my first attempt in 1999, and still there in 2005, so it doesn't appear that repairing the bridge is a high priority. The directions are helpful, but pay close attention to the "10.3 miles", because the road you want is not marked as "CR 4-67" or "Clay Basin Rd"... it's actually signed as CR 62:

me, Oct. 2005

When you leave US 191 there, you won't see another paved road for a long time. CR 62 heads south, through a gap in the Tepee Mountains - shortly beyond that, you cross into Utah. It's also a little confusing once you get to Clay Basin - there are several roads around there, and it's unclear which is the "main" one that leads to Browns Park Rd. You're looking for a fairly well-traveled road that runs east-west, along the south side of the settlement. I don't believe it's marked as CR 192 (as the sign in the photo above indicates), or anything else for that matter, but all roads in the area connect to it eventually. Once you've reached it, go east for a couple miles, until you see this sign:

me, Oct. 2005

That turnoff is a road that essentially follows a small valley northward along the west side of Bender Mountain (this is the road which - according to maps - becomes CR 27 in Wyoming, but I'm not sure how far north you can actually go on it). About five miles into it, you cross a cattle guard and enter Wyoming. Not far beyond that, the road begins a fairly steep climb. When I was there, it was deeply rutted and badly eroded in spots - this is where you'll begin to be glad you have a 4WD. After about a mile, the road crests a ridge, where the sign shown below is posted:

me, Oct. 2005

(That's actually for drivers heading southbound. There's no similar sign heading north - perhaps it was removed because it referenced something ahead in Wyoming that you can no longer reach due to the bridge closure.) Anyway, the road east from here to the marker doesn't get any better. It was a bit foolhardy going even this far in my little Civic, and if something would've happened, it would've been a long hike back to find some help. I considered hiking the rest of the way to the monument, but I didn't have any way to carry water, nor was I prepared for three hours of sun exposure. So I reluctantly turned back...

...but fortunately (as you've seen above), I have some good buddies who own 4WDs and are always up for an adventure. We actually approached from the Colorado side: US 40 to Colorado 318. Where that highway crosses into Utah, it becomes the unpaved "Browns Park Rd", going up through Jesse Ewing Canyon towards Clay Basin. But the turnoff to the tri-state marker is just before you reach Clay Basin - it's marked with a BLM sign similar to the ones shown above.