Utah Rock Asphalt

Index For This Page

This page was last updated on December 28, 2023.

(Return to Mining Index page)


(The focus of this article is the aerial tramway used by the Utah Rock Asphalt company from 1929 to 1947, to transport rock asphalt from the upper terminal at the open-face quarry, down to a lower terminal where trucks then hauled the rock to the crushing mill at Sunnyside.)

The following comes from the April 28, 1930 issue of the Salt Lake Tribune newspaper.

Rock Asphalt Industry At Price Starts Second Year At Price -- Operations at the Utah rock asphalt natural quarries near Sunnyside, which are the largest in the world, have started, and approximately 500 tons of the product are being milled each day at the company properties to supply a market now embracing seven states. This is the company's second year of operation. and it is expected that the output will be more than double last year's. In 1929, when work was handicapped by the necessary initial preparations, over 260 cars, containing an aggregate of 11,700 tons of asphalt, were shipped out. States using the material are Utah, California, Wyoming, Iowa, Illinois, Idaho and New Mexico.

Rock asphalt is regarded as one of the best road-building materials. It is taken out of the deposit in hard rocks, gradually reduced to an extreme fineness and laid on the roadbed, where, with continual use, it returns to its natural rocklike condition. Its production at the Carbon deposit bids fair to become one of the leading industries of the state, and is regarded as means of taking up slack labor from mines during summer. At the present time a payroll of nearly $10,000 is maintained, with over sixty men employed steadily.

In addition to being a large potential industry, the asphalt quarry and the conditions under which the deposit are worked is interesting. The entire mountain is one solid mass of rock asphalt, 2000 feet thick and probably ten miles long. It is estimated to contain 833,000,000 tons of the product. A uniform production test is obtained at the quarry faces, and another test made after blasting.

A complete chemical laboratory has been installed to take care of this portion of the work, and all of the inferior product is disposed of before shipment. The asphalt is loaded into conveyors which bring the product down to the discharge terminal on a huge tramway for a distance of three and one-half miles. It is then loaded into trucks for transportation the remaining one and one-half miles to the mill. It there goes through a series of crushers until it passes through a half-inch screen, and is then loaded directly on railroad cars for shipment.

After going through the mill, in which new screens have been installed, the asphalt will give proper compression when laid. Several hundred thousand dollars have been invested in the plant, and improvements are continually being effected.

The huge tramway is one of the features of the industry. Stretching through the canyon for three and one-half miles, the structure is supported by 28 towers and consists of spans ranging in length from 250 to 2250 feet. At its highest point it is 250 feet above the ground. It is capable of bringing down one ton per minute.

The following comes from the Eastern Utah Tourism and History Association in 2017.

The rock asphalt was discovered in the late 1890s by George Holladay and Doss Tidwell. The deposit was located north east of the town of Sunnyside near Bruin Point. The deposit, and subsequently the mine, was situated at 9,040 feet above sea level and extended to the top of Patmos Ridge, a thickness of over 1,000 feet that stretched approximately 17 miles. At its peak, the asphalt deposit was estimated to contain over 800 million tons of asphalt which is enough to pave a road 64 feet wide that circles the earth three times.

Holladay and Tidwell began their operations with a crew of six men and soon were producing high quality rock asphalt that was being hauled down the hand cut treacherous mountain road by horse drawn wagons. By 1901, the deposits had caught the attention of some investors with some deep pockets including George C. Whitmore, and production began to increase.

One of the benefits, or selling points of using rock asphalt for paving streets was that it could be laid cold. But this was also a limitation that increased its cost. The material had a high sand content and usually contained 7 to 10 percent asphalt, and was very sticky or gummy. During the crushing of the rock at the mill, all of the machinery (screens, rollers, hammer mills, etc.) rapidly become fouled and required regular and extensive cleaning. This limited the amount that could be produced and shipped.


Before Utah Rock Asphalt Company

In a hotly-discussed city council meeting on March 12, 1908, there were discussions of sources for rock asphalt for paving Salt Lake City's First South street, including from Salt Lake City's city-owned quarry near Thistle, Utah, with a comparable bid using rock asphalt from California being cheaper. The proposed paving job needed 6000 tons of asphalt rock, and some council members thought that the city-owned quarry, with its limited production capability, could not furnish the needed tonnage, forcing the paving of First South to be delayed. (Salt Lake Herald, March 13, 1908)

In late April 1910, a group of Salt Lake City city council members and other dignitaries visited the asphaltum beds of the Pittsburg-Salt Lake Oil company five or six miles above Sunnyside. "In the opinion of many of the persons who inspected the deposits, the asphalt is much better grade that the California product that is used almost exclusively on paved streets in this state." (Salt Lake Herald Republican, April 23, 1910)

April 23, 1910
"It has been practically impossible to get Utah asphalt into the streets of Salt Lake for a number of years past, through the claim that there is not a sufficient quantity of Utah asphalt available, and that it is not of as good quality as the California product. It is for the purpose of disproving both these claims that the trip has been arranged at this time. Samples of the asphalt in the beds near Sunnyside will be brought to Salt Lake and tested by the city engineer's office, and the same treatment will be accorded the finished product. Since P. J Moran obtained a strangle hold on the asphalt paving work in Salt Lake only the California asphalt has been used, with the exception of half a block of the Utah material on East First South street, and a fight is to be made to compel the use of Utah asphalt where it is desired." (Salt Lake Herald Republican, April 23, 1910)

(The controversy of source material for the paving of Salt Lake City streets continued well into 1913. Contracts were awarded, and protested, and retracted, due to insufficient and inadequate standards and specifications. Mostly the complaints were that Utah rock asphalt was not being considered due to stated inability to furnish sufficient quantities. Contractors stated they could and would use any material stipulated if the contracts were being advertised and awarded as such. Numerous petitions were submitted to allow Utah rock asphalt due to its superior nature, but material from California and other states was being used solely due to cost. The downside was that work was being started, then stopped to answer petitions and protests, leaving angry residents with torn up streets. In addition, city engineers were stopping work because the lowest-bid contractors were not performing the work correctly, with the proper machinery.)

(Other cities in Utah, such as Ogden and Provo, were seldom if ever mentioned in news items about street paving.)

May 5, 1910
The Pittsburg-Salt Lake Oil company announced that it would build a mill at Sunnyside to crush and prepare asphalt rock from its mine near Sunnyside. (Sun Advocate, May 5, 1910)

The asphalt beds inspected in late April 1910 were described a month later as being six miles from Sunnyside, and comprising 480 acres in area, and from surface appearances "indicative of tremendous tonnage of natural asphalt rock. The formation of the country consists of alternate layers of sandstone and shale, having a northern dip of five or six degrees. The asphaltum lodges themselves are sandstone impregnated with bitumen." "The ledges of asphaltum exposed are three in number. The lower one is 200 feet thick, the upper two are each in the neighborhood of 100 feet thick. We are of the opinion that an almost unlimited quantity of this material is available on this property. We have confidence in the statement of the company's officials that extensive tests have been made and that the material is a natural asphaltum, suitable for paving purposes." (Salt Lake Tribune, May 22, 1910)

June 20, 1911
A group of engineers and other interested parties from Salt Lake City visited the asphalt beds of the Pittsburg-Salt Lake Oil company near Sunnyside. The purpose was to determine the accuracy of the company's claim in late May that it could furnish 60,000 tons of asphalt rock for the purpose of paving the highway between Salt Lake City and Ogden. The visiting engineers and officials were greatly impressed by the tonnage available from the site, remarking that the quarry could easily furnish the stated tonnage. A railroad spur was less than five miles distant, and a good wagon road could be made covering the remaining distance. (Salt Lake Tribune, May 28, 1911; June 20, 1911)

July 6, 1912
Another inspection visit to the Sunnyside asphalt rock deposits of the Pittsburg-Salt Lake Oil company by engineers and dignitaries to "the great beds of asphaltum rock near Sunnyside, Carbon County, yesterday," "The asphaltum bed is declared to be the largest in the world. The immense ledge can be traced through the canyons for three or four miles." (Deseret Evening News, July 7, 1912)

A. V. Taylor and J. Heber Richards were regularly shown as principals in the Pittsburg-Salt Lake Oil company.

October 31, 1912
The Utah Asphalt Company filed its articles of incorporation with the Secretary of State. On the same day, the Utah Hyrdro-Carbon Company filed its articles of incorporation. The officers and directors were the same in both companies, and included A. V. Taylor and J. H. Richards. (Salt Lake Telegram, October 31, 1912)

September 24, 1913
"A. V. Taylor of the Utah Asphalt company said last night that his company now was prepared to deliver to the local contractors, Utah rock asphalt at the rate of three carloads per day, and that within a month a plant for treating the product would be in operation in Salt Lake. He said that some difficulty had been experienced in laying the Utah asphalt but that this was due to the method by which it had been heated and not on account of the quality or the adaptability of the material for street paving. He said that any delay that may already have been experienced in the delivery of material to the contractors was not due to the inability of the asphalt firm to deliver its product, but because the company had not received orders for material until a short time ago." (Salt Lake Herald Republican, September 24, 1913)

(On October 23, 1916, J. Heber Richards filed with the U. S. Land Office for patents on the mining claims associated with the Utah Asphalt company. Legal notices were published October 23rd through December 29th, after which the patents were awarded.)

(J. Heber Richards died of heat stroke on June 18, 1917 in southern Nevada while investigating a potential mining property on the Colorado River, 25 miles outside Las Vegas. He was 42 years of age.)

(After J. H. Richards' death in June 1917, Alvin V. Taylor moved to Texas to look after his oil interests. The mining claims at Sunnyside were apparently in his wife Blanche's name. Taylor returned briefly to Utah in 1921 for an indefinite period due to his wife [Blanche Powers Taylor] being seriously ill. She passed away on August 18, 1921, after which he moved to Los Angeles, where he died on January 25, 1939 at age 74. With Richards' death in 1917, and especially after his wife's death in 1921, Taylor apparently lost interest in the Utah Asphalt Company, and the mining claims lay idle until 1925.)

July 31, 1925
A legal notice was published stating that any heirs or other persons with an interest in the estates of J. Heber Richards and B. P. Taylor [Blanche Powers Taylor] had until 90 days after April 27, 1925 to pay their share of $422.62 (being their share of expenses in maintaining the mining claims in Whitmore Canyon near Sunnyside), otherwise their interest in those mining claims would be forfeited to Ralph T. Richards, brother to J. Heber Richards. (Sun-Advocate, July 17, 1925, legal notices May 8th through July 31st) (Blanche Powers Taylor was A. V. Taylor's wife; she passed away in 1921.)

Mid 1925
A. B. Christy and John P. Hutchinson acquired an option to the Utah Asphalt property in mid 1925. Hutchinson was to be the new company's general manager. The deposit had been discovered in 1901 "by two Salt Lake City men, Taylor and Richardson [sic] by name. A mining company was formed, but Taylor, the motivating force, died before it was well established. His associates, who were interested in other lines of business, allowed the property to lie idle. For some years thereafter it was tied up in legal disputes and in estate interests." (Price Sun, February 24, 1928) (Note the differences in names and circumstances, likely based on a single source.)

Utah Rock Asphalt Company

January 28, 1928
Utah Rock Asphalt Company was incorporated "today" in Denver, Colorado. The directors and incorporators were all residents of Pueblo. The new company's president, C. N. Power, stated that the company was organized for the purpose of taking over and developing a deposit of rock asphalt located at Sunnyside, Utah. "Rock asphalt is sandstone impregnated with bitumen, just as some shales are impregnated with petroleum." Quarrying of the product was to begin in April 1928. (Salt Lake Telegram, January 8, 1928)

May 2, 1928
Several 5-ton Federal trucks had been unloaded at Sunnyside for use by the new Utah Rock Asphalt company. Work was to begin immediately on the construction of a D&RGW spur from Sunnyside townsite to the new Silica townsite in Water Canyon. "The first development in this region of the rock asphalt resources was done in 1904, but the project was abandoned when a premature blast killed two men. Damage suits and judgments rising out of the deaths caused the cessation of activities and no further development was done until last summer, when a Colorado Springs syndicate, after surveys decided to start a development campaign." (Sun-Advocate, May 2, 1928) (Note the differences in names and circumstances, likely based on a single source.)

August 11, 1928
The Utah Rock Asphalt company's new mill at Sunnyside produced its first car load of product, which was to be shipped to Pueblo, Colorado, with several additional cars to follow soon. A spur track, three miles in length, had been completed between Sunnyside and the site of the newly completed mill. The mill was to produce six car loads per week, or 250 tons. A tramway, three miles in length, was to be built "this fall" to replace the use of four 10-ton trucks currently in use. (Salt Lake Tribune, July 2, 1928; August 11, 1928)

(Newspaper accounts get the distances confused. Some accounts give the spur track as being 2000 feet in length, which was likely the most accurate, and other accounts show the spur as being six miles in length. The lower terminal of the aerial tramway was at the mouth of Water Canyon, three miles north of Sunnyside. The tramway was three miles long from the quarry at the head of Water Canyon, down to the lower terminal where Water Canyon meets Whitmore Canyon. The product was then trucked to the mill, two miles in the direction of Sunnyside.)

January 30, 1929
Utah Rock Asphalt company awarded a contract in mid January with the American Steel & Wire company of Chicago for the construction of a three-mile aerial tramway to be built from its quarry, down to its mill. A separate news item in the same publication showed the tramway as being 16,500 feet in length, with an expected completion of early June. (Salt Lake Mining Review, January 30, 1929)

April 28, 1930
The Salt Lake Tribune newspaper noted that the tramway was 3-1/2 miles in length, and that trucks were used from the base of the tramway, an additional 1-1/2 miles to the mill. The finished crushed asphalt rock from the mill was then loaded into rail cars. The mill was producing 500 tons per day, or about fifteen car loads per day.

The aerial tramway, 3-1/2 miles long, was placed into service "this spring." The elevation difference between the upper terminal and the lower terminal was 2500 feet. The tramway buckets carried 1000 pounds each and the overall capacity of the tramway was 720 tons per day. A fleet of four 5-ton Federal trucks transported the rock two miles from the lower terminal to the mill in Sunnyside. (Salt Lake Tribune, October 19, 1930, with photo of the mill)

October 11, 1930
"The Utah Rock Asphalt company closed down for the winter months last Saturday." (Sun-Advocate, Thursday, October 16, 1930)

A check of a 1938 aerial photo of the area north of Sunnyside shows a building similar to the shape of the building in the 1930 newspaper photo, at the far north end of the D&RGW Sunnyside Branch. Several rail cars are visible in the aerial photo, both north of the building and south of the building, with a well-traveled road crossing the creek and leading north up the canyon.

May 10, 1932
"Personal property of the Utah Rock Asphalt company will be sold next Tuesday to satisfy unpaid taxes, according to a notice posted by County Assessor Silas Rowley. The sheriff's sale will be held in front of the corporation office at Sunnyside at 2:30 in the afternoon. The property to be sold is that belonging to the company but does not include the tramway. Property to be auctioned includes a shovel, loading conveyor and belt, tractor, hoist, gasoline engine, four trucks, office furniture and supplies as well as all mill machinery and equipment and a storage pile of ruck asphalt, approximately 325 tons. It is yet unknown as to what will be done with the property, claimed to be one of the most promising of this state's young industries." (Sun-Advocate, May 5, 1932, "Tuesday" was May 10th)

(Note that the sale did not include the aerial tramway, which may have been subject to a different mortgage and financial arrangement.)

(There were reports at the time, and in later summary descriptions that the rock asphalt product was being sold for $8 per ton, when its cost was $16 per ton to mine and process.)

March 2, 1933
The properties of the Utah Rock Asphalt company were leased to Henry H. Jones, who had supervised the construction of the mine and mill in 1927, and the aerial tramway in 1929. The seasonal startup was planned for May 15th. (Helper Journal, March 2, 1933)

The company operated by Jones for purposes of the lease was the Rock Asphalt Company of Utah.

April 6, 1933
The first car of the season of Rock Asphalt Company of Utah operations was shipped. (Helper Journal, April 6, 1933)

June 1, 1933
The Rock Asphalt Company of Utah sued the Utah Rock Asphalt Corporation of Colorado, along with the Pueblo Savings and Trust and that bank's trustees, to quiet the Utah company's title to the property. The intent of this court action was to give the Utah company full title and ownership of the property. (Sun-Advocate, June 1, 1933, with legal notices June 1st through June 20th)

June 23, 1933
The "huge" 56-ton crusher had been moved from the mill site, up to the quarry site, and was producing 240 tons of asphalt per day of eight hours. Several car loads were being shipped each day for use on the highway project in Price Canyon. By late July the production had been increased to 300 tons per day. (Sun-Advocate, June 23, 1933; Helper Journal, July 28, 1933)

December 8, 1933
Rock Asphalt Company production was halted due to heavy snow and freezing weather. Operations were to resume in June. The company had operated five months this season and shipped over 10,000 tons of asphalt, including to numerous cities and towns in Utah for paving projects. (Helper Journal, December 8, 1933)

August 9, 1934
At this point in the 1934 season, Rock Asphalt Company was employing 92 men in three shifts at the quarry and plant, and was shipping 350 to 400 tons per day. Production had exceeded the entire 1933 season. (Sun-Advocate, August 9, 1934)

All through the 1930s and 1940s, there were numerous news items in online newspapers about a wide variety of cities, towns and counties in Utah and a few other states, specifying the use of Utah rock asphalt for their roads, streets, sidewalks and curbs. But its major markets were localities close to the quarry in Carbon County, as far east as Grand Junction. A source for rock asphalt had been found near Vernal, taking away the market in Uintah County. Counties west of Carbon County on the other side of the Wasatch range had better access to competitive products, such as local aggregate mixed with either natural bitumen or asphalt, or with asphalt made from crude oil refinery residue. The Utah Oil refinery on 8th North in Salt Lake City had opened in 1908, and the Wasatch Oil refinery in Woods Cross opened in 1932.

There was a controversy in January 1936 when H. C. Means as president of the Rock Asphalt Company of Utah, publicly complained in an open letter about the state road commission preferring "oil mulch" to the local rock asphalt. The state road commission defended its preference due to overall cost, and oil mulch being a better product for roads.

Throughout the mid and late 1930s, the state road commission was using less of the rock asphalt product due to contractors placing lower bids that used oil mulch, a mix of bitumen, sand and aggregate. Another product was "oiled gravel" which was the process of using oil sprayed on an existing road surface. For oiled gravel, the process was to construct a high quality graded gravel surface, then apply a oil sealer in one, two or three successive layers depending on the service the road was to be used for. Studies had found that oil mulch and oiled gravel was more readily available in all locations across the state, was cheaper to transport to remote locations away from railroads, and was more flexible and not prone to breaking up in large pieces when the surface failed due to heavy use.

In March 1947, another controversy arose when it was found that the Salt Lake City streets commissioner had been using rock asphalt products for paving Salt Lake City streets, without a written contract. Henry H. Jones was still general manager of the Rock Asphalt Company, and promised to make good on all problems with rock asphalt pavement within the city. The city engineer defended the "handshake" gentleman's agreement that existed although rock asphalt was more expensive than bituminous mix, or sheet asphalt, stating that the rock asphalt product did not creep into the gutters like sheet asphalt did. Jones' Rock Asphalt company was also acting, without contract, as the paving contractor for Salt Lake City, and was active in the repair of areas of paving that had failed during the previous season. The repair work was to begin in mid May.

Additional comments by a Salt Lake City commissioner defended the use of rock asphalt: "Use of rock asphalt was recommended on certain city streets, because the material has extreme ductility, especially when laid on concrete or other hard surfaces. Its ability to resist wear and weather was considered by city and state road officials to offset the higher cost -- $12 per ton, compared with $6 for sheet asphalt." -- Salt Lake Tribune, March 11, 1947

October 23, 1947
Henry H. Jones resigned as general manager of the Rock Asphalt Company of Utah. "It has also been reported that the company will suspend operations on November 1 and following that, plans will be formulated for the mechanization of the quarry workings for greater production at lesser costs in order that the road surfacing material may be placed on the competitive market at a lower cost. Unconfirmed reports have been circulated recently of a complete reorganization of the company but nothing definite has been announced by company officials." (Sun-Advocate, October 23, 1947)

(This was the normal seasonal shutdown. New management took control in spring 1948, with a change that the aerial tramway was abandoned and the road to the quarry improved to allow truck haulage direct from the quarry to the crushing mill.)

(Henry H. Jones died on June 30, 1948 as the result of an automobile rollover due to a blown tire. The accident happened on U. S. 6 and 50, east of Woodside. Jones was the major motivating force behind the use of rock asphalt on the roads and streets of Utah.)

July 21, 1949
The quarry, mill and equipment of the Rock Asphalt Company of Utah, were leased to the Ute Rock Asphalt company, which also had operations near Winnemucca, Nevada. Production at Sunnyside had resumed in April 1949 after its seasonal shutdown. "The aerial tramway has been abandoned and trucks now haul the uncrushed asphalt from the quarry to the mill at Sunnyside." (Helper Journal, July 21, 1949)

April 27, 1950
The property and assets of the Rock Asphalt Company of Utah were to be sold at sheriff's auction "today" to satisfy creditors. Included are the quarry east of Sunnyside, and the crushing plant at Sunnyside. (Sun-Advocate, April 27, 1950)

(The successful bidder was the Ute Rock Asphalt Company, which was trying to develop a market for its products. -- Sun-Advocate, October 26, 1950)

The sheriff's sale included four patented mining claims, and "All of the company's right, title and interest under lease from Utah Fuel Company, dated January 3, 1944, to tract of land therein described and used for the purpose of operating and maintaining an asphalt crushing plant. Together with easements for construction, maintenance and operation of aerial tramway." (Sun-Advocate, April 6, 1950, legal notices April 6 to April 20)

After Utah Rock Asphalt Company

July 2, 1951
When limited shipments resumed from the quarry on July 2, 1951, the aerial tramway was not being used. Instead, trucks were used the entire distance from the quarry, down to the mill in Sunnyside. (Sun-Advocate, July 12, 1951)

(Research in online newspapers suggests that the Ute Rock Asphalt did not survive after the 1952 season. There are no references in 1952, and only one in 1953 and after. The reference in 1953 reported that one of the partners of Ute Rock Asphalt, a mining engineer with 30 years experience in hard rock mining, moved from Dragerton, the town where most workers in the Sunnyside area lived, to take a position with Combined Metal at Pioche, Nevada.)

April 25, 1968
"A rejuvenated asphalt industry is in the making in the East Carbon area. Already several men are employed in the milling plant of the Utah Rock Asphalt Co. at Sunnyside, making it ready for increased capacity that seems to be assured for the summer season. The tramway is to be abandoned and trucks used to haul the material down from the mine." (Sun-Advocate, April 25, 1968)

This later interest during the late 1960s and throughout the 1970s in the Sunnyside deposit came from several oil companies, including Gulf, Arco Phillips Petroleum, Pan American, Shell, Texaco, Mountain Fuel, and Signal Oil and Gas. The various projects were solely focused on the production of petroleum products from what was by then known as tar sands. Each of the companies drilled exploratory wells, and two attempted steam injection were attempted, and others attempted vertical and horizontal fracturing. All attempts to accurately determine the economically recoverable reserves were unsuccessful. Amoco attempted an additional 70 exploration core wells between 1979 and 1989. These were also inconclusive in their results.

The following comes from "Utah's Mining Industry," published in 1967 by the Utah Mining Association.

Bituminous Sands (Rock Asphalt): Extensive deposits are found near Sunnyside, estimated by one source to total 725 million barrels of contained petroleum. They were worked every year from 1930 to 1952, inclusive, as a source of asphalt. The last year of production saw an output of some 30,000 tons, valued at $6 per ton. The quarry was closed in 1952 because it was no longer economic to compete with manufactured petroleum asphalt.

In 1976, a report by the Eyering Research Institute in Provo, included the following.

In 1949, Utah Oil Refining Company at North Salt Lake began to produce road asphalt with their propane deasphalting unit and later, Phillips Petroleum Corporation at Woods Cross also began asphalt production by vacuum distillation. These asphalt producers may have caused the demise of the Sunnyside rock asphalt mining operation. These refiners began producing asphalt because the demand for black fuel oil decreased significantly after World War II ended.

As a side note about the oil refineries in Utah, the Chevron refinery on Salt Lake City's north city limits opened in 1948; the Western States (Beeline) refinery in North Salt Lake in Davis County opened in 1949; and Phillips purchased the former Wasatch refinery in Woods Cross (also in Davis County) in 1947. These new and modernized refineries meant that the supply of asphalt and bitumen as byproducts of the petroleum industry became more readily available in competition with the natural rock asphalt product from Sunnyside.

Additional Information

1947 Newspaper Article

The following comes from the October 9, 1947 issue of the Price Sun-Advocate newspaper.

Among the many natural resources Utah has within its borders is the deposit of rock asphalt found east of Sunnyside. This deposit is the largest and richest of natural rock asphalt in the United States and, perhaps, in the world. There are many deposits of rock asphalt within the United States and several plants are now processing large tonnage from those deposits for use in street and road construction.

The Utah deposit which is owned by the Rock Asphalt company of Utah is estimated to contain some 800 million tons. It is estimated that the deposit contains enough rock asphalt to build three 64 foot roads completely encircling the globe.

The Sunnyside quarry is probably one of the most interesting in the country. Located 9,040 feet above sea level, the mineral is scooped out of the side of the mountain by huge shovels and is transported to the crushers in the valley eight miles away by means of huge buckets suspended on cables. The mountain in which the deposit is located is 10,000 feet high thus placing the diggings almost to the top. A private road leads to the mine winding up the mountain side and from there continues to top where, incidentally, is a deer hunter's paradise.

To have transported all of the heavy machinery to the quarry on the narrow road is an engineering fete within itself and is a source of wonder to the visitor.

Approximately 200 tons of rock asphalt are produced each nine hour working day from the present opening which ranges in thickness from 40 to 70 feet.

To obtain the asphalt, holes are drilled in the face and powder is used to blast the mineral loose. It is then loaded into trucks for transportation to the dump where it is picked up by the buckets which carry it down the canyon. The cable carrying the buckets is approximately 14 miles in length, seven miles of carrying cable and seven miles of track cable. Sixty three buckets are in use with the loaded buckets pulling the empties back to the mine. Each bucket carries 1200 pounds of asphalt and the round trip for each bucket takes 1-1/2 hours. (This indicates that the aerial tramway was still in use as late as 1947.)

The mineral goes through a primary crusher before entering the buckets and is dumped into a storage bin at the bottom of the canyon. From here it is transported by trucks to the crusher at Sunnyside there it goes through two different sets of rolling mills before going through the final crushing process in a hammer mill. When the process has been completed the asphalt comes out of the mill in the form of powder as fine as flour. At this point it is loaded into railroad cars and trucks for distribution throughout the country. Each shipment is tested prior to distribution.

According to Eugene Pressett, superintendent of the Sunnyside operations, experiments are now being carried on by adding an oil emulsion to the crushed asphalt to develop a product that will withstand the lowest temperatures.

Rock asphalt, or bituminous sandstone as it is commercially known, is a mixture of asphalt and sand compressed by nature into hard rock which was formed by liquid oil, with an asphalt base, accumulating underground in some kind of geological trap. The sand which was originally laid down as a marine sand of fine and uniform texture was then covered in this manner by a pool of asphaltic base oil, which, due to extreme underground heat and pressure, allowed the volatile matter to escape leaving a residue of pure asphaltum permeating this stratum of marine sand. This was followed by additional natural formative pressure which caused the sand to be completely permeated by and coated with asphalt to an average of about 10 per cent asphaltum and 90 percent pure silica sand. These sand particles are not merely suspended in the asphalt but every void and pore of the sand is permeated with asphaltum so that a complete breakdown of one grain of sand would give an assay comparable to a larger or average piece of rock asphalt.

Rock asphalt roads have been in use for many years. In fact, the first paved roads built in the world were of rock asphalt. History reports Paris built its first paved road of this material in 1854.The first paved street in the United States was built in 1872 in Union Square, New York City, of rock asphalt brought from Switzerland. The first street paved in Utah was old Commercial street in Salt Lake City and this was built in 1891 with rock asphalt brought from Santa Cruz, California. This started the development of the Utah deposits and in 1892 Richard street in Salt Lake City was paved with Utah rock asphalt and has been in continuous use for 17 years. The history of rock asphalt shows that it is the oldest known paving material and has been in continuous use since 1854.

Production at the Sunnyside quarry is expected to close on November 1 and during the winter months work is continued on stripping the earth and rock off the top of the asphalt deposits to make ready for the next summer's production schedule. During the peak summer season 120 men are employed. At the present time only 35 men are on the job.

Some of the men employed at the workings travel back and forth each day from Price while the others live in quarters clinging to the mountain side amidst mountain scenery that is a spectacle to view.

Roadside Historical Marker

The following comes from an historical marker placed by the Matt Warner Chapter 1900, of the E. Clampus Vitus fraternal organization. The marker is located at the junction of U. S. Highway 6, and State Route 123 (the highway to Sunnyside).

Rock Asphalt was first mined at the top of Whitmore Canyon - 15 miles northeast of this location - in the early 1890s. The mine closed in 1898 and was re-opened in 1903. It operated erratically until 1915 when it was forced to close due to the development of sheet asphalt. In 1927 another company tried to develop a rock asphalt industry. They spent over 1/2 million dollars on equipment including a 3-1/2 mile gravity powered aerial tramway. To promote the use of rock asphalt for paving, it was sold for $8.00 per ton. This company went bankrupt in 1931 and the Rock Asphalt Company of Utah took over in 1932. The mine operated only about two months out of the year and eventually closed. Interest was rekindled in the 1970s but nothing ever developed. Dedicated July 10, 1993. Matt Warner Chapter 1900, E. Clampus Vitus.