Scenic Byway 12: John Atlantic Burr

Scenic Byway 12: John Atlantic Burr

Shaka Guide

John Atlantic Burr began his life of adventure early. Really, really early! He was born aboard a sailing ship in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean in 1846. Talk about a sign of things to come. The Burr family sailed around the continent from New York to California, looking for a new home in the west. Far from a pleasure cruise, their journey was a long and dangerous one. Sadly, many of the passengers, including John’s one-year-old brother, didn’t survive the trip. But baby John made it, and earned the middle name Atlantic, just like the ocean he was born on! After arriving in California, he and his family went on to settle alongside fellow Mormons in Utah. 

John grew up to be a family man, homesteader, and stockman. In the late 19th century, he set out to establish himself in Grass Valley, an area which would later be known as Burrville. It’s a small town about 50 miles northwest of here. Unfortunately, this area high up on Boulder Mountain had a short growing season, and John needed to move his cattle south for the winter. Miles of rugged backcountry separated him from those greener pastures, but John wasn’t afraid to put in some hard work to bring his ranching dreams to life. What he needed was a shortcut. And so, John set out to make a faster route through the desert.

I don’t know ‘bout you, but I wouldn’t even know how, or where, to begin building such a long road, or any road for that matter! But not our man John. He set out with some oxen, a plan, and plenty of chutzpah. He was determined to carve out  a cattle trail connecting Boulder to Bullfrog, some 75 miles apart. Along the way, he’d pass through miles of twisting canyons, desolate badlands, and jagged sandstone reefs. After months of scouting, grading, and clearing, he and a few friends built what is now known as the Burr Trail, the very road we’re on. Little did he know, his simple cattle trail would one day be sought out by off-roaders from all over as one of the most scenic adventure drives in Utah.

While we’re driving, if you get tired of all of the bumps and dings along the trail, just think: could any of us do a better job building this road than John Burr? Well, I know I couldn’t. So thanks, John Burr.

Want to hear more stories like this? Check out our Scenic Byway 12, A Journey Through Time Tour.

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