HOBACK BASIN – Around 1936 (when this was called the Fall River Basin), a group of homesteaders and ranchers got together in a community effort to confront and defeat a scourge of scabies while facing quarantine.
Used routinely from 1936 to 1938 during outbreaks of sarcoptic scabies, the strange structure has long protruded 15 feet into the skyline along Jack Creek Road, a reminder of the quarantines issued for cattle herds by the state veterinarian nearly a century ago, and the physical and financial hardships that followed.
Over the years the abandoned dipping vat began collapsing and Katherine Campbell Bond, granddaughter of homesteader-ranchers Lorenzo and Luretta “Rita” Campbell, wanted to preserve it. She contacted the Sublette County Historic Preservation Board CLG and Sublette County Historical Society for advice. Bond then researched state, county and newspaper archives to make her presentation during the Sept. 10 open house.
Fourteen local Bondurant cattle ranchers used the chutes, elevator-style cage and hoists within the structure to dip their cattle, one at a time, into the 100-degree mixture of sulfur and lime for a minimum of two minutes to ward off any skin infestation caused by mites. A team of workhorses led back and forth powered lift and lowered each cow. A hot water tank and wood-fired heater kept the dipping solution near 100 degrees Fahrenheit – even when it was well below zero outside.
To accomplish the dipping vat’s four-year restoration, the Sublette County Historic Preservation Board spearheaded the project with Bridger-Teton National Forest, Big Piney Ranger District and the Friends of the Bridger-Teton to bring everything back together.
With the dipping vat restored this year, more than 110 people toured the site, ate burgers and heard Bond’s presentation. They were neighbors, relatives of the 14 original ranch families, the curious public and four local veterinarians pleased at the scientific progress since then.
People can visit the historic Jack Creek Dipping Vat and a large new interpretative sign, on the Big Piney Ranger District in the Hoback Basin. To get there, find Highway 189/191’s 143.7 mile marker, turn east on Jack Creek Road (County Road 23-108) and drive 3.5 miles.