Legend has it that the enormous 9-foot, 11-inch grizzly that weighed nearly 1,100 pounds with three toes on one foot was Utah's last grizzly.
Frank Clark, the sheepherder who killed the legendary Old Ephraim on Aug. 22, 1923, in Logan Canyon, did not agree. He claimed to have seen a grizzly eating a lamb in 1936 and grizzly tracks as late as 1941.
Old Ephraim, rumored to be able to bite apart a 6-inch-wide aspen log with one clean bite, was named after a P.T. Barnum story about a California grizzly.
A grave marks the spot where Old Ephraim was buried. A poem, written by Nephi Bott, is engraved on the monument. It reads:
"Old Ephraim, Old Ephraim
Your deeds were so wrong
Yet we built you this marker
And sing you this song
To the King of the forest
So mighty and tall
We salute you Old Ephraim
The King of them all."
The hike to the area was described by The Salt Lake Tribune's Nate Carlisle recently as a scenic but difficult 11.8-mile trek in a post in The Tribune's hiking blog.
Michele Bills, who works at the U.S. Forest Service's Logan Ranger District, said a handful of people a year ask about Ephraim's story. One even inquired about where the big bear's skull might be seen.
According to the Cache Valley Tourist Council, the huge skull is on display at the Utah State University Merrill Library Special Collections Reading Room on loan from the Smithsonian Institution.
As the tourist organization reported, the skull was dug up by Logan Scoutmaster George Hill and his scouts a few months after the kill and sent to the Smithsonian, where it was confirmed the head was indeed that of a grizzly.
It remained in Washington, D.C., until 1978, when it was returned to Utah to be displayed.
"It stunk like mad," said Hill of the skull, which boys in the troop carried out on the end of a long pole.
The best account of the bear's death came from a written story by Clark himself, who died a bachelor in 1960. The old herder came to regret killing the old bear.
"Old Ephraim was not the greedy killer that some bears seem to be," wrote Clark. "He would usually kill one sheep, pick it up and carry it into the more remote sections of the mountain and devour it. ... Ephraim never seemed to pick on the same herd twice."
Clark wrote that he arrived in the area on July 13, 1911. He said bears were plentiful at the time and, in his first season of work, killed 154 adult sheep.
"By July of 1912, I was pretty well acquainted with Old Eph and his range because of a deformed foot," wrote Clark, who said he respected the old grizzly because he ate most of what he killed. "He only had three toes on one foot, evidently having been born that way. He was a killer … but he generally killed a sheep or other animal and carried it off to eat at his leisure. I had the pleasure of making him drop a full grown sheep once as he was making off with it. I shot at him several times but was unable to hit him as he was going straight up the side of a mountain."
Clark decided to try to trap the old bear starting in 1914 by setting a trap in its wallow. But the bear removed the trap.
The herder described being awakened on a beautiful, starlit night years later by a roar and a groan. Clark thought a horse had gone down. When he went to investigate, he was shocked to find the mighty bear.
He fired at a small patch of hide. Old Ephraim, with a 14-foot-long chain wound around his right forelimb and a 23-pound bear trap on his front paw, was not happy.
"I saw the most magnificent sight that any man could ever see," Clark wrote. "I was paralyzed with fear and could not raise my gun. He was coming, still on his hind legs, holding that cussed trap above his head. I was rooted to the earth and let him come within six feet of me before I stuck the gun out and pulled the trigger. He fell back, but came again and received five of the remaining six bullets. . . . I only had one cartridge left in the gun and that bear would not go down. ... I could see that he was badly hurt, as at each breath, the blood would spurt from his nostrils, so I gave him the last bullet in the brain."
The story goes that Old Ephraim was buried where he fell in the spot marked by the grave.
So, are there still bears in the area to this day?
Bills said that while grizzlies no longer roam the forests near Logan, black bears do and visitors see them occasionally.
Still, the legend of Old Ephraim lives on through the bear's grave and through stories that make great campfire tales. Listeners should consider the last words of Clark's written account:
"Now these are facts and not fiction."
Remembering Old Ephraim
To reach Old Ephraim's gravesite, take U.S. Highway 89 east from Logan for about nine miles. Turn right at the sign for Lodges Campground. Follow the road for about 1.6 miles, and follow the sign to Right Hand Fork Canyon. Follow that road about one-half mile to its dead end next to a pit toilet. The trailhead is there next to the creek.