Bar J Ranch

The History

The Jorgensen family has been ranching in South Central Utah and particularly

Sevier County since about 1865. Johann Gustav Jorgensen and his wife Serina

(Norwegian immigrants) were perhaps the first homesteaders at Fishlake. They ran a

dairy at “Jorgensen Creek” near the north end of Fishlake on Pelican Bay. Serina, with

the help of the children, ran it in the summer while Johann tended the crops and fields at


They established good relations with the Indians and at least one of the children,

Enoch, spent some summers with them and was able to communicate with the Ute and

Piute Indians. Enoch became a star pupil of Karl G. Maeser at the fledgling Brigham

Young Academy and went on to help pioneer the creation of the Utah public school

system. He founded the Price Academy, the Heber Academy and launched the new

Jordan High School. He also founded the second seminary in the Church at Jordan.

His half brother Sam became a prominent livestock producer and long time

member of the Utah legislature. About 1915 to 1920 Sam carved the Jorgensen Bar J

Ranch out of the then Salina Grazing Association property on Lost Creek in which he

owned a very large interest. Sam grazed large herds of sheep and cattle throughout what

is now Fishlake Forest and the West Desert.

The first homesteaders at the ranch were the Rex and Durfy families, who are

reported to have built a primitive homestead in the mid 1860s. The rock meat house on

Lost Creek is said to be one of the original structures. The cabin burned down about the

turn of the century and the existing cabin was rebuilt on the old site about 1895 to 1900

using some of the materials from the original cabin. The west “wing” or more accurately

the west room was added about 1922 and the north bathrooms with the first indoor

plumbing with water from a well were added in 1990. About 1930 Sam tried running a

water pipe from Wood Tick to the cabin. However, the water was too hard and his wife

refused to use it. Culinary water was carried from a spring downstream on the east bank

of Lost Creek.

The extraordinarily beautiful valley on Lost Creek was a favorite resting place for

the Indians who hunted and fished the region during the summer. Many artifacts attest to

their long presence on the ranch. It is rumored that the Butch Cassidy gang sometimes

picked up fresh horses at the ranch as they headed east into the “bad lands” to elude the

law. An Allred, associated with the gang, built some furniture in the cabin.

In the 1930’s there were a couple of CCC camps located near the ranch and they

built dikes on Gates Creek, outhouses around Gooseberry and graded roads with teams.

Unfortunately they were given the assignment to kill the gofers with poisoned grain and

in so doing eliminated in one season the huge population of Sage Hens.

At Gates Creek Eiler Freece leased some of the irrigated ground to an immigrant

Japanese truck farmer who raised magnificent cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower. Over

the years other crops raised at Lost Creek and Gates Creek include barley, oats, wheat,

corn, milo, alfalfa and a variety of pasture mixes. Vegetable gardens were maintained at

both locations and the usual milk cow, pig and chickens were also kept for personal


At various times the ranch has supported sheep and cattle--since 1990 exclusively

cattle. Elk were introduced in 1928 and some were reportedly corralled and fed hay at

Gates Creek for a couple of months. Recently moose were introduced. In 1997 an elk

hunter drove out of the forest with a bull moose on his roof. It was assumed to be the

young bull which had been at the Lost Creek ranch all summer. In 1998 a very large bull

moose spent the summer on Lost Creek and a cow with twin calves summered above

Cyclone. These yearling calves were seen again in the late summer of 1999 at the

Cyclone salt lick

In 1986 Dan C. Jorgensen, a grandson of Enoch, purchased the Jorgensen Ranch

from the sons and families of Sam Jorgensen senior. Dan’s father, Henry was General

Manger and a founding father of the Church’s great Florida ranch. Henry was also a

member of the Church’s General Welfare Committee responsible for agriculture. The

Jorgensen family has five generations involved with ranching in Sevier County.

Dan acquired the Freece Ranch in 1987, expanding the ranch to about 6,200 acres

of deeded land. Dan rebuilt almost all the fences and modernized the Gates Creek

irrigation system with a sprinkling system also adding a small hydro-electric plant on the

10” pipeline. Later he also added a solar system. In the early 2000s Dan built a large

shop, barn and log home at Gates Creek. The ranch house was built using two pioneer

cabins. One (circa 1860) was hauled up from Redmond and the other (circa 1870) came

from Dan’s Crane Ranch on Gooseberry Road near I-70.

In 1987 Dan purchased and consolidated a few large BLM sheep permits on the

East Desert at Crescent Junction and Thompson. With the BLM’s help they were

converted to cattle permits. The Bar J cattle were run on this outstanding range until

1996 when it was sold together with the Lost Creek permits in the Fishlake National

Forest which had also been purchased in 1987. At one point Sam owned a majority of

the permits around the ranch but over the years these permits were sold by his children.

In 1987 Dan also purchased a sheep permit of about 30,000 acres for 2,000 head,

east of the Milford Airport. It also included 5,000 acres of deeded land along the

railroad. Sheep were brought in from Wyoming. The operation was never profitable and

the band of sheep was sold into Wyoming and the permit and deeded land went to an out

of state group.

The current Bar J Ranch is said by many to be the best ranch in the region. Best

for grazing, best for the water, best for the rich abundance of game and the wide variety

of plant life and birds. With its breath taking views and cold swift trout streams it soon

becomes a part of you. Dan’s first visit was in April 1985 and it was wet with a lot of

new snow on ground but he knew at first sight that this was the place he had been

searching for.

The plant and animal life changes from the dry lower elevations of about 6,700

feet at Gates Creek headquarters to 9,300 foot elevation at the south east corner. The

fields and meadows at Lost Creek are about 7,500 feet. From the meadow the view

sweeps east through the sage and snow berry flats into the thick oak and then over and

down Wood Tick Ridge and up again into the hard woods and the huge aspen groves on

the upper east side of the ranch.

With the early morning fall mist thick in the aspen and the clacking of a big bull elk

moving through the trees during the rut, the worries of civilization are left long behind.

April 2019