Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Utah's Mysteries and Urban Legends: Mountain 13

Mountain 13 in Tooele County
Thanks to Colee Rylant for the image!
Atop the mountain in Erda in Tooele County, at the end of Bates Canyon Road, you will notice a mysterious "13" carved into the mountain. This has been there for years, and some even say back to Pioneer days! What is this "13", who put it there, and for what purpose?

To see it: When you are on Village Blvd close to Hwy 36, peer up into the mountains to the East and you will be able to see it. You can also see it from Lakepoint, Erda, Stansbury Park, and many other locations in that area.

To start off with, let's talk about all of the theories and stories that have originated over the years as to what this mysterious "13" is, and where it came from:

THEORY #1: It's a navigational beacon used by airplanes to pinpoint their location.

  • This is what I was first told it was when I was first shown it, and a theory I was happy to believe until I started hearing different versions of what this 13 was. I called the Tooele Airport, and also the Tooele Skydiving Club, and they said that the 13 on the mountain has nothing to do with them or anything airplane related. 
THEORY #2: It's a warning from the Native Americans to the pioneers not to go up there and mess with their gold.
  • This is probably the most interesting theory I came across. There is an old pioneer legend that tells of a gold miner that found a gold mine in that area belonging to the Native Americans. They found out, and the gold miner was never heard from again. Instead, a mysterious "13" appeared on the mountain. Many say that this was the warning from the Native Americans for the pioneers to stay away and not go up there. Because there is no documentation to this story, we can only assume it to not be true. We have also heard that the 13 was there long before the pioneers settled the area, so that also disproves this theory. 

THEORY #3: It's an advertisement for Bar 13 that used to be across from where the Maverik is in Stansbury.
  • There used to be a Bar 13 in Stansbury Park, and it was located across the street from where the Maverik is now. It was called Bar 13 because of the 13 on the mountain, and the 13 was on the mountain before the bar existed, so that theory is disproved.

THEORY #4: It's not even a 13. It used to be a B from the pioneer days when the town of Erda used to be called Batesville.
  • This was the most promising theory I came across. Erda in fact was called Batesville back in the pioneer days. Batesville was located directly under where the "13" is, and is why Bates Canyon is named so. This theory took more research and looking into. The legend is told that after Batesville was settled, the pioneers burned a B onto the mountain to mark a location for their city, much like we do now for high schools and universities. After talking to the Tooele County Government, Tooele Chamber of Commerce, Utah State Historical Society, historians at the Benson Grist Mill, and also descendants of the Bates family that settled Batesville, there is no documentation that the pioneers ever burned a B into the mountain. Such an event would have been a grand celebration, and would most likely be documented, so until I hear of documented history that this was done, this theory is going to be known as incorrect.
  • After much research disproving all of the above theories, and talking with many historians in the area, I have come to the boring conclusion that the "13" on the mountain is just a natural formation where trees and other vegetation will not grow. I am quite bored with this conclusion, and would love to hear otherwise if you have additional information that will help me find a more interesting answer as to what the 13 on the mountain "really is". Even the theories as to what it might be are far more interesting than what it really is; a natural formation lurking over the northern part of Tooele County for us to gaze at and come up with fascinating stories of long ago.


  1. My grandfather used to own a bar below this called, "Scotty's Club 13.

  2. I lived in Lake Point for 20 years and that number 13 was always there unchanged from year to year. I believe if you were to hike up there, you would find that it rock talus, surrounded by oak brush. So it just happens to look like a 13 from the valley.


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