It is with much sadness that I report that one of our Castle Valley River Ranchos pioneer residents died last week. Bill Riggs passed away Friday, July 13 in Salt Lake City after a nine-month battle will esophageal cancer. He was at the home of his mother and with family at his side at the time of his passing.
Bill and Linda, his wife of 47 years, have been fixtures in Castle Valley since the late 1970s when Bill began construction on his lovely log home on Rimrock Lane. He built his home completely off the grid, without the use of electricity to power construction tools. He hauled in rocks and mortared them together for the foundation then hauled logs off of the mountain for the walls, flooring, beams and joists and proudly constructed the home with only the use of hand tools.
Bill was also the driving force behind our annual tradition of fireworks exactly at midnight every Dec. 31. He and Rick Fullam, with the help of others, worked all day on New Year’s Eve to provide an amazing and professional fireworks display from his property. That tradition, which lasted nearly 20 years, began simply, years earlier when Bill fired off a single round into the Castle Valley night sky in remembrance of his Army buddy who was killed next to him during the Tet Offensive, one of the largest military campaigns of the Vietnam War.
Bill worked for Peter Lawson at the Professor Valley Ranch for many years until he became ill. He told me once that when he was there working with Ken Drogin on an irrigation project years ago, he so enjoyed the beauty of the ranch and the surroundings that he decided that he was going to work there. All he had to do was convince Lawson, which he apparently did and he enjoyed many years working on the ranch in that beautiful valley.
Bill was born Feb. 12, 1948 at Grants Pass, Oregon and passed away July 13, 2018 in Salt Lake City, Utah. He stayed with his mother much of the time during the later weeks because of the close proximity to the Huntsman Cancer Center where he was receiving treatment. There will be no formal funeral services except maybe a private family gathering in the future. He leaves behind his wife Linda and daughter Chelsea and her family of Colorado. Linda said Bill’s passing was a blessing because of the pain he was suffering during the nine months since his diagnosis. She asks for privacy for a period of time during her grieving. * * *
It is a little late but here is our June weather report from our official weather observer, Bob Russell. He said that it won’t be a surprise to anyone but “hot and dry about sums it up.” He recorded a zero for precipitation in June, “which didn’t help at all with five low months earlier this year. For the year I have a total of 3.49 inches, which is almost two inches below average for the valley. Our high temp averaged 93.3 degrees with four days of 100 or more, about five degrees above our average for June … but don’t despair,” he says, “The national weather service says that the July monsoons will be heavier than usual! I will believe it when we are sloshing.”
Well so far that monsoon weather hit hard around the southern end of the state but it left Castle Valley and Moab area high and dry except for the humidity. That nice little rain Monday afternoon left only a paltry 0.70 inches of moisture in my rain gauge.
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It was 25 years ago this week that the Grand County Council accepted Castle Valley Drive into their Class B road system. The county road department began spreading gravel in preparation for chip sealing later that summer. Around the middle of August the first coat of thick, gooey tar was applied to the road and it had to be in place for at least 24 hours before the regular chip seal process could begin. Residents were advised to drive slowly while that first coat was on the road to avoid damage to vehicle paint and other parts. About four days later we had the first paved road in Castle Valley up to Pope Lane. The following year, the road was paved up to Keogh Lane and the rest of the road received another layer of chip seal.
Around the same time, the town council voted to remove the center section and top piece of the wooden arch that spanned Castle Valley Drive at the entrance to the valley. I think there was some kind of a legal issue about the center section but it made a nice entrance to Castle Valley. The top rail had “Castle Valley River Ranchos” written on it, but someone had previously painted over the sign to preserve anonymity, I guess.
ByBy Ron Drake