Moab Happenings Archive
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Butch Cassidy Was Here: Temporary Summer Exhibit
Highlights Historic Inscriptions


Historic inscriptions found across the southwest help tell the story of human history through time. Photographs by James Knipmeyer.

Across the West, Indigenous people, ranchers, homesteaders, miners, trappers and traders, outlaws, Spanish and Mormon missionaries, and others have signed their names and left their mark on the landscape. Today, leaving your mark in these ways constitutes vandalism, but historically people left their mark to communicate to future passersby and to record their history as it unfolded. Historic inscriptions invoke wonder, inspire curiosity, and tell stories to visitors about how people of the past have traveled across this varied and rugged landscape, and may come in a various forms: carved, pecked, or chiseled into sandstone, etched into the bark of aspen trees, or scrawled on historic buildings.

A temporary exhibition entitled Butch Cassidy Was Here: Historic Inscriptions of the Colorado Plateau, opens on June 7th at the Moab Museum. The exhibit dives deep into the history of the region’s inscriptions and showcases a selection from the rich photographic archives of history experts and backcountry adventurers James Knipmeyer and Mike Ford. Beginning in the 1970s, this pair of history enthusiasts and backcountry adventurers began a decades-long effort to explore and photograph lesser-known sites throughout the southwest.

Knipmeyer’s research focus has long been on historic inscriptions. To date, Knipmeyer has composed over 1,600 images of remote historical inscriptions across the region, amassing a collection that is invaluable for researchers and is presented in his 2002 book Butch Cassidy Was Here: Historic Inscriptions of the Colorado Plateau.

Ford’s photography, also on exhibit, provides complementary context to the inscriptions: depicting the landscapes through which Ford and Knipmeyer traveled on their adventures. From sweeping vistas to desert wildflowers, Ford’s photographs help tell the story of two friends on their quest to explore the human history of the vast landscape.

“Methods for communicating messages have changed drastically from what they were during the early 19th century and prior. Without phone or a speedy post, people relied on carving to convey vital messages of survival, discovery, or claim to property. This exhibit offers visitors the chance to reflect on how and why travelers historically left their mark, and how we commemorate our travels now,” comments Tara Beresh, Curatorial and Collections Manager for the Moab Museum.

The Moab Museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. through 6 p.m. Butch Cassidy Was Here: Historic Inscriptions of the Colorado Plateau, opens on June 7th and will be on exhibit through the summer. For more information, please visit

118 East Center Street, Moab, UT • 435-259-7985

Movie & Western Memorabilia Museum at Red Cliffs Lodge

Indiana Jones PosterRed Cliffs Lodge, on the banks of the mighty Colorado River, is home to the Moab Museum of Film & Western Heritage. The lodge is built on the old George White Ranch, a key location for nine of the big westerns including Rio Grande, Cheyenne Autumn, Ten Who Dared, The Commancheros, and Rio Conchos.

The late George White was founder of the Moab to Monument Valley Film Commission, the longest ongoing film commission in the world.

In the museum one can learn more about film locations, how the sets are built, and how the filming process is managed on nature’s own sound stage. On display in the museum are production photographs, movie posters, autographed scripts, props from the many pictures filmed in the area, and displays about the western ranching heritage. For information, call Red Cliffs Lodge at 435-259-2002.

Rio Grande Through the magnificent landscapes of southeastern Utah, writers have been inspired and stories born here. Zane Grey, the famous western novelist, traveled through the area in 1912. His visit inspired him to write his book Riders of the Purple Sage. The book was made into a movie starring Ed Harris and Amy Madigan, and filmed on locations around Moab.

A partial list of stars that have made movies in Moab
John Wayne, Maureen O'Hara, Henry Fonda, Lee Marvin,
Rock Hudson, Jimmy Stewart, Richard Boone, Anthony Quinn,
Mickey Rooney, Shirley Temple, Kris Kristofferson, Billy Crystal,
Robert Duvall, Gene Hackman, Bill Murray, Jack Palance, Susan Sarandon, Geena Davis, Ted Danson, Tom Cruise, and many more.

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