The name of the state of Utah was derived from the name Ute. The word Ute means "Land of the sun" . "Ute" possibly derived from the Western Apache word "yudah", meaning "high up." This has led to the misconception that "Ute" means people high up or mountain people.
The Utes occupied significant portions of what are today eastern Utah, western Colorado, including the San Luis Valley, and parts of New Mexico and Wyoming. The Utes were never a unified group within historic times; instead, they consisted of numerous nomadic bands that maintained close associations with other neighboring groups. Unlike many other tribal groups in this region, they have no tradition or evidence of historic migration to the areas now known as Colorado and Utah ó ancestors of the Ute appear to have occupied this area for at least a thousand years. The last time the Ute ever migrated was in the year 1885.
Back in 1859, prospectors from the "Gregory Diggings" poured over Kenosha Pass into the South Park country. Most of them found gold, but a few found tragedy and death. At that time the beautiful South Park country was a perilous land to enter. The lush park was the abode of the Ute Indians who treasured its pure springs, abundant game, and mild climate. The Utes resented the presence of white prospectors who, in their search for gold, fouled the streams and decimated the game. Very early on, they responded to the white invasion with deadly violence. In both South Park and nearby Taylor Park, the Utes hunted down and massacred parties of prospectors.
That year, a party of 6 prospectors was caught by the Utes in the Gunnison country near Taylor Park. In a canyon that came to be known as Dead man's Gulch, the miners were annihilated by the besieging Utes. Two years later, the bleached bones of the prospectors and their horses were still lying in the gulch.
That same year of 1859, some of the first prospectors to enter South Park were killed by marauding Ute Indians. Near the headwaters of the South Platte River, a small party of 3 prospectors was caught by the Utes. The Indians killed Burt Kennedy and Dr. I. L. Shank while William Slaughter managed to escape from the ambush. Another account describes the fate of 7 prospectors who were discovered by the Utes in a canyon located just west of Kenosha Pass. The Utes killed every last one of them. When other prospectors stumbled upon their bleached bones in the canyon, they named the place "Dead Man's Gulch". Now, there were two canyons named for the dead miners found in them.
Prospectors were drawn to Dead manís Gulch, because almost every stream in this part of South Park is gold-bearing. The mining history of the area is rich and varied. But Dead manís Gulch also holds a secret. Somewhere along its headwaters, a rich lode of gold lies hidden.
The history of the Lost Mine of Dead Man's Gulch begins in 1863, four years after the initial rush to South Park. During that year, two German prospectors discovered a rich lode of gold somewhere up the gulch. Rumors circulated that the two prospectors took out $7000 worth of gold ore during their first week of digging. But their good luck was not to last. One of the German prospectors died suddenly and the other left South Park forever.
Local prospectors swarmed up Dead manís Gulch in search of the abandoned mine. They combed the entire watershed but found nothing. In 1885, a local rancher stumbled upon an exposed mine portal in Dead manís Gulch. Unfortunately, the mine contained only low-grade deposits of gold. The rich lode discovered by the Germans back in 1863 still hasnít been located.