Uncle Jim Trail and Uncle Jim Point

A Story For The Ages

This is quite a story. I mean honestly, how does one get a “Point” named after them? Let alone a trail (Uncle Jim Trail.) The late 1800s and the early 1900s have an awful lot of stories to tell, and this is one for the ages. Today, one can ride this trail on a well-trained mule. The most sure-footed animal on the planet, designed to take a person on an experience of a lifetime. But first the story of Uncle Jim.

James T. Owens was known as Uncle Jim

James T. Owens (Uncle Jim) was born in 1849 in San Antonio, Texas. In his early years prior to becoming a Forest Ranger during the 19th century, Jim worked with cattle, and he hunted buffalo. Later, he would become a famed  Game Warden for killing 500+ mountain lions (he claimed 600), an accomplishment that he was greatly rewarded for by his peers and the President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt. Again, this makes us cringe today but at the time, seemed appropriate, believing that he (Jim) was doing the right thing. Later in life Jim, himself, would wince at the prospect, but in the late 1800s and early 1900s he and everyone else thought he was doing great justice to the area and other species of wildlife. As you will see, Jim’s experiences and life would lead to necessary changes in the way we deal and view naturally occurring ecosystems. Because of Jim, we realized nature manages itself without interference from man and the vital role that predators play in the preservation of the very species upon which they prey.

The Grand Canyon & Mountain Lions

1906 gave birth to the Grand Canyon Game Preserve. The consensus at the time was that animals of prey were terrible for the whole of conservation. Not only did they seek to eliminate mountain lions, but they also eradicated wolves and eagles. Jim Owens was a marksman and very congenial. Everone enjoyed the company of Uncle Jim. He was the perfect fit for the job. Whereas early in life he was an “Indian fighter” he was now friends with the Paiutes and specifically a “Paiute Lad” that rode for the Bar 2 Cattle Company. And it didn’t hurt that Theodore Roosevelt liked his disposition and his company.

President Roosevelt

Uncle Jim took the President on a lion hunt with hounds on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Upon treeing a lion, the president remarked, “the destroyer of deer, the lord of the stealthy murder facing his doom with a heart both craven and cruel.” We must keep in mind that “…during that era, wildlife managers believed that predators were bad and needed to be removed to benefit good game species.”

A 100,000 Deer

As you may have deduced, the deer herds multiplied and decimated the plants and fauna. This area of the Grand Canyon called The Kaibab Plateau was teeming with mule deer, in fact, overrun. Some estimates put the deer population at over 100,000. The deer meat was practically inedible. There was disease amongst the herds. At this time the average weight of the deer was 130 pounds. Contrast this ten years later, in the 1940s after they had stopped the systematic extermination of the mountain lion and other predators the deer had a mean weight of 180 pounds. Another point of interest and comparison, the Division of Wildlife estimates that “before 1905, the deer on the Kaibab Plateau were estimated to number about 4000. The average carrying capacity of the range was then estimated to be about 30,000 deer.”

600 Lions & a Silk Tent

Uncle Jim served as Game Warden from 1906 to about 1919. Jim was about 57 years old when he became the Game Warden at the Grand Canyon and retired from his post-February 26, 1919 when the Grand Canyon became a national park, Jim would have been about 70 years old at this time. He loved his hounds. His favorite hound was “Pot.” After Pot’s long career of treeing mountain lions, Jim had a unique silver collar made for the hound with the inscription: “I have been at the death of more than 600 cougars.” One of Jim’s friends remarked, “Owens gave his dogs first consideration, his horses second, and himself third.” President Roosevelt sent Jim a silk tent as a gift after their lion hunt. Dan Judd from Fredonia, AZ said that during a heavy rainstorm “I came to Owen’s camp and found him asleep under a tarp under a pine tree. The five hounds were snuggly quartered in the silk tent.”

Uncle Jim Died in 1936

Uncle Jim died on May 11, 1936, in Las Cruces, New Mexico. He was 86 or 87 years old when he passed away. His exact birth date was not verifiable. If any of our readers can verify his birth month and day, please send us an email, and we will make the proper change to this article and provide a courtesy credit.  The only other thing we found about his birth is from Annie Dyer Nunn, who stated that Jim was born on April 11, 1849. She was well acquainted with Jim Owens. She was a Texas Panhandle pioneer and rancher, born in 1849.

Humility & Change

Before Uncle Jim died, the once avid buffalo hunter “fought to preserve bison and wild game.” A 180 degree turn around from his early jobs and livelihood.  The life of James T. Owens demonstrates the ability of man to change. The end of Jim’s life articulates, in a small measure, that we are never too old to learn once we have better information. There is a thread of humility woven into the tapestry of his life.  Once he discovered that there were better means to obtain the same results he fought to preserve the very animals he was hired to eradicate.

Uncle Jim Trail & Uncle Jim Point

Take in the Grand Canyon on a mule using the Uncle Jim Trail. Uncle Jim Trail comes highly recommended by the author. The trail is a 4.7-mile round trip hike. Add .3-mile to see Uncle Jim Point. Saying roundtrip gives it context, but the path is a continuous loop. The trail begins and ends at the corral with the mules. Riding the mules is an exceptional way to see the landscape. The mules are well-fed and taken care of by professional caretakers and guides. Mules are designed to pack and carry. Mules need to be respected. They have great memories, extraordinary long-distance sight, and “can hear the call of another donkey, in a desert environment, 60 miles away.”

Traveling by Mule, Reservations, and more Information

Mules are sure-footed and are bred to take people and gear over terrain and trails. Riding the mules allows you to take in the whole experience. Uncle Jim Trail and Point are the definitions of the Old West. The firs are white, the spruces are blue, the pines are powerful, or as they say in Latin, Ponderosa! Fallen leaves from shrub oak and pine needles cling to the trail doing their job year after year as they replenish the desert sod allowing deer grass and ferns to grow healthy and vibrant as they feed wildlife and do their part in the endless cycle of life. The sedimentary rock has been varnished by the sun for millions of years. The desert breeze makes one feel wild and free. Wisdom comes naturally as the timeless desert leaves its mark upon your soul. The strength of the mule and the knowledge of the guide turn the excursion from good to great as you take in the desert and her beauty. Reservations for the Grand Canyon mule experience are necessary, for pricing and more information you can click here.

Subject: The late afternoon view from the Uncle Jim Point at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.