Human History in Dinosaur National Monument: Josie Bassett Morris


There are countless colourful characters that make up the patchwork quilt of the past. Josie Bassett Morris was definitely one of the brightest in what is now Dinosaur National Monument, Utah.

Josie was one of the infamous Bassett sisters (her sister was “Queen Ann”), involved off and on with the Wild Bunch gang. Married five times, Josie decided at age 40 that she wanted a home of her own. She chose a little spot on Cub Creek, just off the Green River, in 1914. One year later, this spot would become part of Dinosaur National Monument.

Here she carved out a home in the wilderness. Josie heated her cabin with a wood fireplace and lit it with oil lamps. She planted fruit trees, tended her garden and reportedly took a neighbour’s cow or two now and again. Josie was tried for rustling twice, but never convicted.

Josie’s Cub Creek cabin built in 1935 (photo: Brad Kopp)

In 1963, one of Josie’s horses pushed her and she fell, breaking her hip. She remained alone at her cabin with a broken hip until neighbours popped by for a visit a few days later. Josie was 89. She died a few months later.

An interpretive sign photo of Josie at her ranch.
An interpretive sign photo of Josie at her ranch.

Bib overalls, a broad-rimmed hat and  – I’m positive – a devilish twinkle in her eye. I’d like to have met Josie. Echoes of her spirit still resonate in the canyon country she called home.

If you go:
To reach Dinosaur National Monument, drive 13 miles (22 km) east of Vernal, Utah on Hwy 40 to Jensen. Follow 149 north for 7 miles (11 km) to the entrance.

You can visit Josie’s homestead 12 miles (19 km) down the Cub Creek Road from the Quarry Visitor Centre. Be sure to pick up a copy of the Auto Guidebook for the Cub Creek Road, “Tour of the Tilted Rocks.” Josie’s place is Stop #15.

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