Summer Travel Series: Cove Fort

The 300-mile drive between Utah’s busy Salt Lake Valley on the north and St. George on the south features many miles of barren land and sagebrush. In an obscure spot on I-15 between Fillmore and Beaver, however, sits an oasis for those seeking a brief rest from driving and a rich history lesson of sacrifice, faith and courage.

That oasis is Cove Fort, a historic site of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“Cove Fort is like a green oasis where daily concerns can be left behind for a short time to consider how life may have been for the families that lived here so many years ago,” said Elder LaDell Dye, director of the Cove Fort Historic Site.

Historical Background

On 12 April 1867, Brigham Young wrote a letter to 38-year-old Ira Hinckley, asking him to take the lead in building a fort on central Utah’s Cove Creek. This fort was meant to be a way station for Latter-day Saints traveling along the Mormon Corridor — settlements stretching from Idaho to Nevada connected by a network of roads, telegraph lines and postal routes. Hinckley left five days later to begin constructing the fort.

Between April and November 1867, quarrymen, stonemasons and carpenters from central Utah settlements labored together to construct the fort. Built of black volcanic rock and dark limestone quarried nearby, the walls are 100 feet long and 18 feet high. Lumber was used for the roof, 12 interior rooms and the massive doors at the fort’s east and west ends.

For more than 20 years Cove Fort served as a protection against Indian attacks on the telegraph offices and mail stations and as a daily refuge for weary travelers in need of shelter, fresh water and feed for livestock. In 1890 the Church leased out the fort and by the turn of the century sold it to the Otto Kesler family. Nearly 100 years later, in 1989, descendants of the Hinckley family purchased the fort from the Keslers and made a gift of it to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as a historic site. Plans were made to restore the fort to its original condition, and on 21 May 1994, President Gordon B. Hinckley (great-grandson of Ira Hinckley), then first counselor in the Church’s First Presidency, dedicated the Historic Cove Fort complex.

What to See and Do

Senior missionary couples provide Cove Fort tours. Each tour begins outside the fort in the Hinckley log house with a 14-minute video tat explains the fort’s history and purpose. Visitors are then shown the fort, the barn, the cowboy bunkhouse, the ice house and the shop where Ira Hinckley was a blacksmith. The complete tour takes about an hour.  

“People will often tell us, ‘I don’t know why, but I felt like I needed to pull off the highway and stop here,’” Elder Dye said. “Those who exit the freeway to visit Cove Fort will be rewarded with an appreciation of the people who settled in this harsh valley, giving them courage to face their own challenges in this day and time.”

Another fort activity is the annual Cove Fort Days, which is held the first Friday and Saturday of August. Activities include a pioneer village, musical programs, stagecoach rides, blacksmith shop demonstrations, a loom, period costumes and free hot dogs and drinks.

Cove Fort Historic Site

Hours: 8 a.m. to sunset

Address: Junction of I-15 and I-70

Beaver, UT 84713 (driving directions)


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