Researched and compiled by Ron Smith, Mayor of Parowan from 2002-2006

On March 24, 1930, a letter was written by W. Clair Rowley, President of the Parowan Chamber of Commerce, to Mr. Orange A. Olsen, District Supervisor for the Dixie National Forest.  Mr. Rowley asked Mr. Olsen if it would be possible, and what the necessary steps would be, to have a few acres of ground at the “Five-Mile” in the first left hand fork of the Parowan Canyon, the purpose being to set apart an area designated as a community resort.

It was stated in the letter that “the Five-Mile is a very beautiful spot and is used very much in the summer for community and family outings.” It was mentioned how much nicer it would be “to have the area designated and fenced because of the many cattle and sheep that trail over the area detracting from its attractiveness.”

Response to that letter was received dated the next day, March 25, 1930.  This letter indicated that the Forest Service would be pleased to cooperate with the people of Parowan in establishing a public camp ground at “Five-Mile.”

The Forest Service indicated that they had $120.00 which they could divert to the project to be used for fencing the area, and that some other funds were available to use in the building of necessary camp tables, benches, toilets, etc.  They said it would be well to get started on it as soon as possible so the work would be completed and the area in service for the coming season.

A letter was sent to Mr. Orange A. Olsen at the Forest Service dated March 27, 1930:

Mr. Olsen:

I wish to thank you for your prompt answer to my letter to you regarding the improvement of the “Five Mile” in Parowan Canyon for a camp and recreational spot for the public.  A committee will call on you within the next few days to work out the details of this improvement.  Your splendid attitude of cooperation in this matter is much appreciated by the people of this community.

Respectfully yours,

Clair Rowley

With regards to this, the headlines of a newspaper article in the Parowan Times dated March 18, 1930 reads,“Forest Service will help to establish public camp ground at Five-Miles Springs.”

Quoting from this article that reflects the Parowan sentiments:

The idea of establishing a public camp ground at the Five-Mile Spring in our first left hand canyon has been suggested often with the result that Chamber of Commerce officials recently took the matter up with the Forest Service Office in Cedar City. “Five-Mile” as we call it is one of the beauty spots of our canyon, close enough to us that it can be reached in a few minutes, and an ideal place for camping, picnics, etc.

The fascinating part of this whole process (at least for me, Ron) is that it took one day from the request to final approval.  By the same token, it took me 2 ½ years with constant negotiations to acquire a lease agreement with the Forest Service so we could re-open the Five-Mile after it had been closed for seven years due to flash flood damage.

In the next weeks, it was announced in the local newspaper that “a public day at Five-Mile is proposed.”  The community of Parowan was asked to spend a day, probably a Saturday, to fence a tract, build camp tables, comfort stations, and to put the place in shape for suitable picnics as well as providing a campground.  “Each person who goes up there to work should provide his own shovel, pick, ax, or other implements with which to do the necessary work.”

On April 18, 1930, the news article said, “Splendid work done at Canyon Camp.”  From that article we read:“A lot of very good work was done last Saturday at the newly designated canyon camp at the Five-Mile.  A large number were on the job and as a result the ground was completely fenced, a flag pole was raised, a bridge made across the bog, a garbage pit was dug, brush cleared for parking and some other improvements made.”

We might want to note that this work was all accomplished without backhoe, posthole digger, brush hog, nail gun, or a cordless drill.

“The workers were bounteously fed at noon by ladies of the community under the leadership of the Relief Society and the Young Ladies M.I.A.  All in all, it was a splendid bit of community work.

A large number of local people enjoyed a community outing at the dedication of the canyon camp at the Five-Mile on Saturday afternoon, April 15, 1930.  Arriving about noon, everyone spread out their lunches and enjoyed them as the first order of the day.  Following that, the crowd was formally called together by a bugle note from Mr. Engar’s trumpet, after which a detachment of boy scouts raised the flag for the first time on the new flag pole.”

Further details of the dedication indicate that Principal Amos Hatch was in charge and announced the program.  First were a couple of band numbers.  Then Forest Supervisor Olsen and Ranger Seaman spoke briefly expressing their thanks for the cooperation of Parowan in the matter.  They were followed by the famous Adams-Garner-Marsden-Watkins quartet who sang a couple of numbers.   Mrs. Paul M. Adams (Fred Adams’ Mother) gave a reading and Mayor Adams spoke, thanking the community for all the work of those who had contributed in the various ways to establish the campground.  Wilford Day offered the prayer, dedicating the spot to the use of the public for recreational purposes.  Following the prayer, Elder Wm. M. Dalton, who had just returned from a mission, was called upon and in a brief talk extended his greetings and expressed his pleasure at being home again.  The celebration closed with another number by the band at which time the crowd disbursed to visit among themselves, played games, or hiked about as their inclination led them.

“The day was ideal for the occasion and thanks to the carefulness of those who drove cars, there were no accidents of any sort to mar the pleasure of the affair.”

The opening of the Five-Mile for community use was just the beginning of good activities and experiences in the picnic and campground areas.

The Pioneer Day Celebration was held Thursday, July 24, 1930.  While events began in Parowan, a special program was held at the Five-Mile as well. In Parowan there was a special program held for the older folks which included all of the community over sixty years of age.  At the 10:00 A.M. meeting, Scott M. Matheson was the principle speaker.  Pioneer stories were told, Phyllis Orton sang a solo, followed by a duet rendered by Mrs. Blanch Hammond and Mr. L.J. Adams.

At 1:30 P.M., all those over sixty years old were taken for a ride through the valley, ending up at the Five-Mile where lunch was served by the relief societies of the two wards.  All community members, other than the older folks, who cared to were also invited to come to the Five-Mile.  Of course, they had to provide their own lunches if they wanted one.  In the evening, there was a dance for everybody.

While accounts do not tell us this, that summer dance was probably held at the Blue Lantern. The Blue Lantern was an open-air dance hall located on Parowan’s Main Street where “Wild Bill’s” now stands.  Dott Davenport Smith, my Mother, remembered it well and how many people gathered there to enjoy dancing.  Those who didn’t dance would park across the street in front of Andy Burton’s Garage and sit and watch the ones who did dance. The area was lighted  with a string of lanterns, thus the name “The Blue Lantern.”

Now, these whole days of celebration did not just happen.  Two committees were appointed to insure the success of this particular July 24th celebration.  The transportation committee consisted of Albert Adams, chairman, with Arthur Joseph, Clair Rowley, L.H. Marsden Jr., and Clair Hulet as committee members.  One would wonder if these gentlemen had access to cars that were particularly useful, perhaps the larger ones in the community, that could do the transporting.  The committed called to assist the Relief Society was headed by James C. Robinson with Joseph B. Dalton, Taylor Miller  and Peter H. Gurr as other members.    Again, one may suppose that these gentlemen had wives in their respective wards Relief Society presidency, or they were just the better cooks in town.

Two newspaper articles of interest follow:

“Many Enjoying Five-Mile Camp These Evenings” – dated 7-17-31

The Five-Mile camp is proving a particularly popular retreat for townspeople and their visitors during the warm afternoons we have been having this month.  Two or three groups of people are there about every evening.  Friday night of last week Mrs. Chas. D. Adams, Mrs. Maribel Griffith, Mrs. Ellen Thornton, Mr. and Mrs. Oscar Wiltsey and members of their families formed one party there while another included Mr. and Mrs. P.S. Clark, Mr. and Mrs. L.J. Adams, Mr. and Mrs. Wm. Marsden, Mr. and Mrs. W.L. Adams, and Mr. and Mrs. W. W. Mitchell and their kiddies.

On Saturday, the Mortensen and Morris branches of the Wimmer family and the Wiltseys were there and on Sunday evening the Adams, Burt, Miller, and D.A. Matheson branches of the David Matheson families with the latter and his wife, the Thomas D. Adams and Harley N. Dalton families with Miss Vilo Redd, and the John W. Benson and Leroy Moore families and Mrs. Cook were among those who enjoyed the evening there.

And so it goes about every evening.

“Join the Outing” – dated 3-23-34

The proposal for a community outing next Saturday should strike a responsive chord in the mind of every local citizen.  There is always merit in such an affair but more than usual interest should attach to this one.

The Forest Service expended a large sum of money last fall to improve the Five-Mile camp ground for our convenience and enjoyment and to furnish local people much needed employment.  It is fitting that we show our appreciation of this in a public celebration.  How better could we celebrate, how more appropriately, than by going to that camp and enjoying it after further efforts at beautification in the way of cleaning up.  If we evidence our appreciation in this manner, we may be remembered with further expenditures.

Not less import to a lot of parents will be the opportunity of going with their children for an outing on Saturday, rather than having the latter spend Sunday in hiking or other forms of outings.  A supervised Easter outing on Saturday with regular attendance at Sunday School and church on Sunday should be far more desirable from any angle than the usual Easter hike.

Apparently, flood damage has always been a problem as indicated in a memorandum dated April 14, 1931, which reads, “The bridge plank removed by flood waters should be replaced” and also “The fence damaged by flood should be repaired.” In another article, dated August 29, 1930, it states, “Approximately 1,000 feet of the pipe line from the 6-Mile Spring was washed out by a gusher which came down the canyon Saturday.  Other damage was done in the canyon, principally to the road and to the camp at the Five-Mile, where the stream sought a new channel right through the camp.”

On May 19, 1935, the Five-Mile got a new name.  To quote from a letter sent to the Parowan Chamber of Commerce from the Forest Service, “In response to your advertisement for a new name for the Five-Mile Camp Ground, a lot of good names have been suggested and it was hard to choose between some of the names submitted.  The name “Vermillion Castle Forest Camp” submitted by Mr. S.A. Matheson has been chosen as the most appropriate.  Some people think the name should not have been changed. Of course local people know what it is and perhaps it will be hard for them to change or get in the habit of using the new name.”

Quoted from an April 26, 1935 newspaper article entitled Five-Mile Camp to be Cleaned and Christened”: A good spring clean-up and a more appropriate name is proposed for the Five- Mile Forest Camp, popular recreation area in Parowan Canyon.  This proposal comes today following an inspection trip to the camp by Supervisor Gurr, Ranger Seaman, A.C. Hatch of the Chamber of Commerce committee on Forest Recreation Area Development, A.B. Matheson of the same committee and last year’s caretaker at the camp, and Reginald Pragnell, landscape engineer for the Forest Service who is to work with the Dixie Forest office this season.  It has been suggested often that the camp should be given a name more descriptive of its beauty and grandeur.  In an effort to find such a name, the Chamber of Commerce has decided to offer a $5.00 cash prize to the person who submits the most appropriate name.  The forest officials are to be the judges and the names are to be submitted in writing on or before Thursday, May 9th to A.B. Matheson who will deliver them to the Forest office.  Announcement was made that a clean-up is scheduled, a name will be selected and the camp will be officially re-christened in connection with a spring clean-up of the camp on Saturday, May 11th in which the citizens of the community are asked to participate.  In this connection it is well to keep in mind that the Forest Service plans extensive improvements at the camp this season if local people show the proper interest and appreciation, and if funds are made available as it is anticipated they will be.

These improvements, if present plans materialize, will include greatly enlarging the area, building of some sort of shelter against storms, tennis court, ball diamond, wading pool, improvement of the platform at the amphitheater, etc.  The inspection trip today, with Mr. Pragnell, was made for the purpose of having plans complete and ready to go whenever the improvements are authorized.  The schools part in the clean-up program will probably be done on Friday, May 16th, since that date has been set for the school’s annual day observance and students will be spending the afternoon at the camp any how.

Citizens can well afford to make their plans now to join in the clean-up campaign on the 11th.  A good response from us will be decidedly to our best interests as a community.

In a newspaper article dated May 17, 1935 entitled “Vermillion Castle New Name for Five- Mile” there is a reporting of the planned clean-up and renaming events:  Weather Interferes with clean-up and christening program; Forest Service to Start Improvement at Early Date.  Submitting the name “Vermillion Castle Camp,” Simon A. Matheson was awarded the $5.00 prize offered by the Chamber of Commerce for an appropriate name for the Five-Mile Forest Camp.  That name was selected by Forest officials from a large number submitted by local people and takes its significance from the vivid red castle-like cliffs in the vicinity.  A sign board with the new name on it was placed at the entrance to the camp on Saturday and there was to have been a formal christening of the camp in connection with a general clean-up, but a previously scheduled outing at the camp by the Branch Agricultural College prevented clean-up work in the morning and threatening weather and rain kept local people home in the afternoon, so there was little cleaning-up and no christening.  School students did some good work there the previous afternoon, however, and CCC boys have also done some work there.

Whether the new name is going to be readily accepted by the public remains to be seen.  Some dissatisfaction has been expressed, but time may overcome that.  Unless there develops pretty general sentiment against it, the Times will hereafter refer to it as Vermillion Castle.

Let me (Ron Smith and author of this history) interject right here that even with its new name, all the historical data I compiled still referred to it as “The Five-Mile.”  I came along in 1942 and never knew it as anything but the Five-Mile.  When we re-opened it in 2004, overnight camping was no longer permitted so a name change was necessary. The overwhelming feeling was, “Why not call it what it is?”  Thus, the name “Five-Mile Picnic Area” came to be.

As we’ve enjoyed this re-opening of the Five-Mile, it needs to be stated that, for the most part, the area is treated with respect and everyone goes the extra mile to keep it neat and clean.  There are a few exceptions to the rule not only now, but also back in the beginning as indicated by a letter sent to an individual whose name I shall not mention, but will share a portion of the letter dated May 21, 1935:

Dear Sir:   During the course of my inspection I found that some depredations had taken place at the campground and as a result the sum of the recreational values has been depreciated.  While there is not evidence that you were responsible for this, and while we doubt very much that you would be maliciously guilty of such acts, nevertheless, I did find your name written on the registration booth at the campground.  The writing of names on these improvements mars and detracts from the aesthetic value.  Not only this, but it is not in good taste for one to subscribe his name in places of this nature.  We sincerely solicit your cooperation in this, and do not desire to be placed in a position where stringent legal action becomes mandatory.

Very truly yours,

James E. Gurr

Forest Supervisor

Major improvements were approved October 26, 1935.  A tennis court was approved to be constructed of concrete and a volleyball court of clay and other natural surface was approved. They were to be positioned with the longest dimension running north and south to avoid players facing to the sun while playing.  Also approved were horseshoe pits, a basketball court, and children’s play apparatus, such as swings, etc.

As development proceeded, a letter was sent to the Parowan Lion’s Club, Attention: Mr. Ivan Decker President. The letter read as follows: Dear Mr. Decker:  As over fifteen hundred people use the Vermillion Castle Campground per month, and most of these are from in and around Parowan, it is thought that your organization would be interested in the future recreational plans of the area.

A thirty-man-stub camp from the Duck Creek Civilian Conservation Corps Camp this summer, under the foremanship of Mr. Jay Moore of Parowan, is detailed for proposed recreational improvements.  Among the various projects proposed will be a large naturalistic wading pool, foot and car bridges across the creek, community shelter, volleyball court, baseball field, two additional masonry toilets, additional hydrants, individual camps with road parking areas for each camp, house trailer camps, horseshoe courts, additional swings, tennis court, barbeque pit, and community stoves, etc.  With these additional assets to the camp, the city of Parowan, your organization, and the general public should be well satisfied with the good fortune of such convenient and clean recreation.

It had been hoped to make the tennis court of concrete, thereby making it convenient for group organization dancing and, in the winter, skating. However, with a reduction of funds, this is not possible for the Forest Service to accomplish.  It is hoped, however, that some civic minded organization, preferably the Lions Club, could sponsor a drive to obtain enough money for the materials, that is for three hundred fifty sacks of cement and twelve hundred square feet of one and one half inch mesh wire, then the Forest Service would do the work.

This drive would necessitate a great deal of hard work; however, your city and your members would benefit from this for years to come.

Very truly yours,

A.R. Standing

Forest Supervisor

A newspaper article dated April 26, 1935, indicates that this was not the first time the CCC was involved with the Five-Mile project.  “About ten or fifteen CCC boys under the direction of Forest Ranger Frank Seaman, have been working for several days on the Five-Mile Forest Recreation Camp in our canyon, putting in some more teeters, swings, etc. and doing some clean-up work.”

The next year an inspection was made of the camp with seventeen suggestions for improvements as well as some constructive criticism.  One notation read : “Very much displeased to find one set of teeters that has not been used all year due to a large growth of Russian Thistle under the teeters.  Just a personal observation, having sat on a Russian Thistle once, I can’t say as I blame kids for shying away from teeter tottering on top of one.”

We also find a memorandum sent to Ranger Seaman dated May 27, 1935 that “the toilet seats did not operate freely on the gents side of the latrine.  These should be repaired at the earliest possible date.”

Another memorandum was sent to Ranger Seaman, from Forest Supervisor James E. Gurr, dated June 11, 1935, indicating that Ray Adams was now caretaker of the camp and needed supplies consisting of posts, two scrubbing brushes, a map of the camp ground, envelopes and stationary to be used to correspond with the office, forms 30-R-4 to report usage of the camp, Nile green paint, and linseed oil.

On the following page there is a copy of Ray Adams’ camp report dated June 27, 1935.  Also, there is a typed copy of a handwritten report in letter form sent by Ray to the forest office dated June 28, 1935.

Ray Adams Document:

In a memorandum sent to recreational planner, Reg C. Pragnell, with a carbon copy to foreman Jay Moore, dated August 1, 1936, is the outline for the tentative work projects for August and Sept.  Here it is noted that a trail to Noah’s Ark was to be constructed.

CCC Stub Camp, located at Five-Mile – dated June 12, 1936: A stub camp of CCC workers are again located at the Vermillion Castle Forest Camp to finish up the work started in the fall. This camp is a branch of the Panguitch Lake main camp and is made up of thirty-five boys.  They will probably be there all summer, working on the improvements there.  These improvements consist of fencing more ground, making a baseball diamond, tennis courts, wading pool and adding more playground facilities, and some other things.  When these are finished, the camp will be one of the finest on the forest, and as it is more accessible to the public will be as popular as any.

Mr. A.B. Matheson is caretaker at the camp and is there almost every day to ensure that everything is taken care of.  In this connection, Mr. Matheson would like it called to the people’s attention that so many of the willows are being cut for sticks to roast marshmallows and weenies on that these bushes are getting depleted.  He asks that people be more careful about this as a means of preserving the beauty of the place.”

In an article dated August 21, 1936 entitled Future Farmers Initiate New Membersit reads:  “The annual initiation ceremony of the Parowan Chapter of Future Farmers of America was held Friday evening at Vermillion Castle recreation Camp.  President LaMar Jensen was in charge of initiations of fifteen boys to the Green Hand degree.  Twelve boys were raised to the Future Farmer degree.  After the initiation, a program was enjoyed and marshmallows roasted by the group.  Following a few words of instruction in the duties of their respective offices by the Agricultural Instructor, Mr. D. J. Rollins, the meeting was dismissed.”

In 1937, the 24th of July celebration was held at the Five-Mile.  The theme was “This is the Place.” A program was held at 11:00 A.M.  This was followed with a band concert, sports, ball games, races, etc.  Everyone brought their own lunch.  People gathered at the library, starting at 9:00 A.M. and were transported to the Five-Mile in cattle trucks.  The cost for this was 5 cents each way.

On July 28, 1937, an inspection was conducted as to the progress with the scheduled campground improvements.  Some of the notations were:

  1. The tennis court needs several loads of clay to cover the course gravel now on the play area. The two net posts have not been put up for use yet.
  2. The painting of the two unit rock toilet has not been completed. Mr. Nichols criticized this!
  3. The two unit community stove needs maintenance. Several rocks are cracking, smoke escapes between the iron grate and chimney causing poor draft.
  4. The willow bridge near the community area needs repair. The rails are unsafe creating a serious hazard for small children.
  5. The legs for the log tables need a creosote bath.
  6. The tables should be tightened and then sealed with a wood plug. Nail plugs in as these tables are expensive and care should be made to make a perfect inlay.


Summer of 1937:

While they’re not exactly sure of the date but know it to be sometime during the summer of 1937, “The Mortensen family held a reunion at the Five-Mile commemorating the 118th birthday of Neils Mortensen, one of the early settlers of Parowan.  Ninety of his descendants with some special guests gathered at the Five-Mile for a supper and a general get together.  Following a bounteous supper prepared by the women of the group, those present assembled around a bonfire circle where a program was enjoyed. It was almost ten o’clock before the group split up and went home.”

That same summer, Seymour Oliphant and his family spent two days in Parowan visiting his sister, Mrs. Grace Gurr.  One evening while here, the families enjoyed supper together at the Five-Mile.  This was the first time Grace had seen her brother in eleven years.

On a personal note, I (Ron Smith) spent time in the Oliphant home while serving a mission in San Jose, California from 1961-1963.  The connections among residents and former resident of Parowan are far-flung, as we connect and reconnect.

On June 8, 1937, “The American Legion’s Seventh District Convention was held at the Five-Mile and proved to be a most delightful affair.  One hundred seventy-five delegates and state officials assembled at the World War Memorial Park in Parowan at 2:00 P.M. Following a short concert by the Parowan High School band, the entire group was taken to the Five-Mile.  The Parowan Post and Auxiliary cooked a barbeque dinner which was enjoyed by all.  A.C. Hatch was there as Mayor of Parowan and W. Clair Rowley from the Parowan Post acted as toastmaster.  Those from Parowan in charge of the event consisted of Post Commander and Mr. Albert E. Adams, Mr. and Mrs. Harrell Dalton, William T. Orton, Auxiliary President Cora Davenport, Mr. and Mrs. Jasper Cartwright, and Mr. and Mrs. A.B. Matheson.”

On March 1, 1938 in a letter to Mr. Frank Seaman, A.C. Hatch referred to his diary to furnish a report on the visitor count at the Five-Mile for the 1937 year.  From July to September there were 3,500 visitors, 900 in September, 450 in October, 200 in November, and 60 in December for a total of 5,110 total visitors for the year.

A Newspaper article dated August 22, 1941 gives the following:  Exchange Club to Hold Ladies Night at Five-Mile. The banquet committee says that the luscious barbecued mutton will be just right to suit the delicate taste of the ladies next Monday.  With an expert group of culinary artists consisting of Ray Adams, Alvin Decker, Karl Mitchell, Claude Burton, and Clair Rowley handling this feed there should come out of their efforts something mighty tasty what with the main course and all the ‘fixins.’ Corn on the Cob handled ‘catch as catch can’ will also be on the menu.  Ray Gardner will head the physical exertion committee and some lively contests will no doubt materialize.  It is likely that entertainment will develop from several surprising sources during the evening to be on hand, for all you who like good clean fun and nourishing eats.  The dinner will be charged for at the rate of .50 cents per plate, and the money should be paid to Charles F. Bentley, secretary of the club.  Let all who likes a good time be at the Vermillion Castle Camp at 6:00 P.M., Monday, August 25th.  If your wife has left you, bring someone else’s or come alone.  Stags of both sexes are welcome.  Ladies, remember that the men do the work.  Keep husband wised-up on this date, and see that he brings you. Those who intend to be present, please leave names with Secretary Bentley as soon as possible.

On December 19, 1944 the Parowan Exchange Club made a request that the Forest Service construct a mile of electric power line and install lights at the campgrounds.  It was the opinion of the Forest Service that the project had merit as a postwar project, but not a project to be done during the war.

A letter dated June 17, 1945 was sent from Ranger Bentley to the Regional Forester, Albert Albertson, explaining that “due to insufficient funds the Forest Service hasn’t been able to keep the camp ground up, but the people of Parowan have been very cooperative to improve the conditions there.”

It was noted that on May 29 of that year that “a large group from that little community turned out and cleaned up the area.  They oiled the tables, and the seats around the bonfire circle, among other things they sealed the wading pool which was not holding sufficient water to make it usable.”

It was also mentioned in this letter that “the people of Parowan have been successful in getting the road oiled up Main Canyon which runs a mile within the Five-Mile Campground and the people of Parowan now feel that the Forest Service should oil the road from Main Canyon on up to the Five-Mile.” It was mentionedthat “due to the dust that raises from the road bed it would be nice if the road could be oiled.”

Ivan Decker, President of the Parowan Chamber of Commerce sent a letter to Mr. Albert Albertson dated June 12, 1946 requesting that a caretaker be placed at the Five-Mile to live in the ranger cabin located there.  One of the main responsibilities of this caretaker would be to make sure there was firewood at the various camps, because considerable damage had been done to tables and benches by campers and picnickers who had chipped them off for fuel.  Even some of the shingles had been ripped off the shelter house for this purpose.

On August 7, 1946 Ivan Decker received a letter in reply to his request.  It stated that the Forest Service now had funds with which to hire a caretaker for the Five-Mile.  “Please recommend someone to come to this office with the idea of hiring him for the job.  It will be necessary for the man who takes the job to have his own transportation as we are not prepared to furnish him with an official car or pickup.”

A letter was sent to the Forest Service indicating that on August 6, 1946, 60 members of the Robert Halterman family held a reunion at the Vermillion Castle Forest Camp and they complained that the garbage cans were all full, and that the odor coming from these cans and the toilet near the creek made it so the group could hardly stand it while they were preparing and eating their lunch.

In that same letter mentions were made that they had received other complaints regarding the campground and that it needed more attention. It was stated that funds were available to hire additional help and that the Parowan Chamber of Commerce had recommended two or three for the job.  They asked Ivan Decker, Chamber President, to have one of them report for an interview for the job, and in the meantime, they would do whatever was necessary to keep the campground in proper condition.

A letter in response was written to Robert Halterman August 13, 1946 by Forest Supervisor Albert Albertson, indicating that the matter of the undesirable conditions existing at the campground during his family reunion had been taken up by Ranger Bentley and Forest Guard Grant Seaman.  Mr. Seaman said that when he cleaned the camp on August 8th, he did find that the garbage cans were rather full and did smell bad due to the fact that they hadn’t been emptied for about a week.  Mr. Seaman stated that someone had killed two woodchucks and thrown them into the barbeque oven right near the community circle and that the decaying flesh of these two animals was the source of the bad odor causing offensive conditions complained about.  He said, “We try to keep the area sanitary, but when the public do such things as this, we can’t be held responsible.” He concluded by apologizing to the Halterman family and thanked them for calling it to their attention and that they hoped to hire a caretaker in the near future which would help with such problems.

In 1949 water rights were sought by the Forest Service for the Five-Mile.  This was protested by the people of Parowan. A memorandum was sent from the Forest Service, dated June 21, 1949: “On June 20, we contacted Mayor E. Ray Lyman of Parowan relative to the elimination of protest from the people of Parowan to our securing a water right for the Vermillion Castle Forest Camp.  Mr. Lyman advised us that he would contact the irrigation companies concerned and that he would see to it that there was no protest from Parowan against the Forest Service securing a water right for the campground.  It is our opinion that Mayor Lyman has sufficient interest in the campground and influence in the community so that we can count on this being done. We, therefore, believe that it is safe to go ahead with the water filing.”

Due to the large amount of people using the Five-Mile, a request was made to have flush toilets installed instead of chemical units.  This request was made August 15, 1961.

A memorandum sent October 11, 1961 states that “The region does not have any plans for flush-unit toilets at the Five-Mile.”  In response to that memorandum, a letter dated October 24, 1961 was sent to the regional forester saying, “We recognize the fact that at the present time there are no plans for slush-unit toilets, but we feel that due to the type of use this site receives, it warrants a flush-unit toilet.”

As correspondence concerning the matter continued, we read from a memorandum dated November 6, 1961,“The five unit flush toilet mentioned in your October memorandum has sufficient capacity to serve the three group units.” It also said, “In the future please prepare plans in pencil, not in a combination of ink and pencil.”

No further mention was made of the issue until a letter dated December 18, 1961:  Subject: Flush-unit toilet for Vermillion Castle Camp and Picnic Grounds. It stated that the Division of Engineering was revising the plans and specifications for the five unit comfort station plan # 73A.  “May we expect these plans in time to obtain materials and begin construction work in April or May of 1963?”

Finally, a memorandum dated January 2, 1963 was received from Assistant Regional Forester J. M. HerbertSubject: Plans/Four-unit Flush Toilet. It read, “Plans for a four-unit flush toilet have just been drafted and will be available in time to obtain materials and begin construction by April.”

On April 29, 1963, plans were completed with modifications for the Vermillion Castle flush toilet.  In a letter accompanying those plans was a request that the bid opening for their construction be held June 10, 1963.

Again, as a personal observation, this is more representative of my experience dealing with the governmental process.  It took from the original suggestion and request on August 15, 1961 until June 10, 1963 to see this project from start to finish.

One year later, June 18, 1964 an article appeared in the Iron County Record reporting about all the work and expensive improvements that had taken place at Vermillion Castle (Five-Mile).  The following is that article:  Extensive Work Completed at Vermillion Castle by Dixie Forest

“An extensive rehabilitation and remodeling program at the Vermillion Castle Recreation Area (Five-Mile), in Parowan Canyon, was completed during the past week by a crew of workers of the Dixie National Forest, it is announced by Foyer Olsen, district forest ranger.

The improvement program was started last summer and was made much more extensive by the disastrous flood which hit the campground late in July, Mr. Olsen states.  The extensive renovation program has been done by a forest crew under the supervision of Marlo Davis, former resident of Parowan, who has now moved the workmen to a similar job at the Duck Creek recreation area.

Under the program, the three picnic areas at the Five-Mile have been made over and enlarged and one new one has been installed up at the east end, with new tables and stoves at all sites.

Two new rest rooms have been added, one at the east end, and a new and enlarged one which takes the place of the wooden facilities at the main picnic centers. This last one is provided with flush toilets, the only one on the Dixie National forest, Mr. Olsen states, and are of the red cast stone construction.  They have also been provided with lighting facilities for night time convenience, Mr. Olsen adds.

Water for use at the recreation area is now supplied from a tank connected to Parowan City water lines and from springs in the area.  To insure a pressurized service, the forest has installed a 1000 gallon storage tank with a pressure pump, which can be cut in at any time needed.

Parowan City will continue to furnish power for lighting at the recreation area, with the power to be metered on an experimental basis to determine what is used. If the load reaches a certain amount, beyond which the city feels it can stand, the Forest Service will cooperate in the cost of the lighting program, we understand.

A project of the recent work crew at the Five-Mile has been to place the wiring underground with the lines connected to each picnic area for the convenience of after dark suppers, etc.  The power lines come out of the underground system at an upright standard, with wires low enough to be reached from the tables for installation of globes.  Plugs are also installed for use in heating coffee percolators or water for other hot beverages.  The power lines also connect up with rest room facilities as stated above.”

Since its beginning, the Five-Mile has been threatened with a constant problem of flooding.

A memorandum dated April 12, 1968 confirms the challenge flash floods have always been at the Five-Mile.  The contents of that memorandum are as follows:

To:       Forest Supervisor

From:   Foyer Olsen, DFR

Floods during the past several years in Bower  Creek have damaged the Vermillion Castle Camp Ground.  Excess water has made a number of channel changes and deposited rock and debris in other locations.  In several locations, even a small increase in water overflows the bank and floods existing camp and picnic sites. To prevent flood damage to existing developed sites, I recommend some work be done in the channel with a dozer. Some areas need trees and brush removed so that the channel can be deepened; other places need straighteningThe work required is not a big job and could be accomplished in one day with a D-7.  Would it be possible to route a piece of equipment by this project while en route to some other job?  Also, we should get together and agree on just what should be done to prevent further damage.

Parowan citizens are asked to pay for the use of the Five-Mile:

One of the hardest things for the people of Parowan to accept and adjust to was the Forest Service decision to begin charging for the use of the Five-Mile.

The idea was recommended in 1972, but it wasn’t until October 18, 1974 that official direction was made that they include Vermillion Castle as a charge site.

Apparently, there was considerable resistance from Parowan townspeople, because in the letter announcing the intention to charge, let me quote two short sentences:  “The reason you have for not charging was that local people feel they own the site and would be upset with a fee.  This is not a valid reason for not charging.”

Thus, the plan was finalized to implement the charge program when the campground opened in the spring of 1975.

My wife, Cherie Smith, was teaching the Mia Maids in 1975 and I’ll long remember the night she returned home having taken the girls to the Five-Mile for Mutual that night.  She was so upset she would cause a night crawler to coil up and strike like a rattlesnake as she burst in the house and screamed, “Can you believe the nerve of those people?  They charged us $2.00 to roast marshmallows in our own Five-Mile.”  I asked her if she gave them the money.  She said, “Yes, along with a piece of my mind.  The girls had to restrain me from wringing his neck!”

The Forest Service had sufficient protests to the fee charge that they asked the Parowan City Council if they would be interested in managing the campground.

Parowan City reminded the Forest Service how much time and effort Parowan City and the town people had put into building the campground. Then they said they were not anxious to take over the site unless it could be without any Forest Service involvement, and they objected to the $2.00 user fee.

The final decision was that the Forest Service would retain the campground and initiate the $2.00 user fee.

These final documents concerning the Five-Mile were dated August 4, 1978:

Arrangements for payment on the concrete were made on AD-744 for 4 1/3 yds @ $50.00 a yard unit price.

LaMond Davis

Accident at Vermillion 8-04-78 – about 11:50 A.M.

Concrete Truck – Table Mishap

We were pouring concrete fire rings, and since the brakes on the concrete hauling truck apparently wouldn’t hold securely, rocks were used for blocks when the “pour” was at a steep place.  On the “pour” where the accident happened, the fifth of 13, Stuart placed a stone behind the wheel.  (Stone about 6” in diameter), and driver of truck assumed the operators position for dumping concrete from mixer.  The truck maintained its position until mixer was rotated, rock mashed into roadway and truck started backing downhill.  Eric was positioning the concrete discharge chute and was standing behind chute and in front of a picnic table which was about 5’ from the truck.   As the truck backed downhill it was necessary for Eric to climb over the table to stay clear of the truck.  The concrete uprights on the table slowed or stopped the truck so the driver of the truck could climb into the cab and apply the foot brakes and drive the truck up the hill. Stuart and myself were shoveling concrete at the form and it was only necessary for us to step to one side to be clear of any danger.  Tad was present but I don’t know his position.

I did not make a careful inspect of the table but I believe all (or most) of the concrete support were broken and about 1 ½ yards of concrete was emptied at the sight which had to be shoveled into wheel barrows and moved to the next fire sites.

Max Huff

Ron’s Personal Notes:

Putting together this brief history of the Vermillion Castle Campground, now known as Parowan Five-Mile Picnic area, has indeed been a labor of love.  I have in my possession letters of correspondence with the Forest Service, newspaper articles, original documents, etc. to substantiate the accuracy of this history as nearly as possible.

The history of “Our Five-Mile” is made up of people, places, dates, and documents, but far more importantly are the fond memories that will last forever in the minds of those of us who grew up enjoying that wonderful place.  To us, it was all about family, friends, and relationships, as we enjoyed the three wading pools, the bridge over the creek, the swing sets, the teeter- totters, and the aroma from the huge rock barbecue oven, not to mention the feelings one gets just to be in that gorgeous setting.  Every chance we get we still take our children and grandchildren there to enjoy a campfire and picnic.  The little kids never tire from throwing rocks into the creek; we hope the tradition will last forever.

Lots of things have changed in terms of the landscape, but nothing can ever erase the choice memories deeply embedded in a person’s heart and soul, having felt the special spirit that’s always present whenever we go there.

I find it interesting that no matter who you talk to, they consider it “Our Five-Mile” which is as it should be.  May it continue to be so FOREVER.


Ronald K. Smith