Most People Have Forgotten About This Abandoned Place in Utah

Thistle, located in Utah County, was once a vibrant railroad and farming community until tragedy struck in 1983. A massive landslide engulfed the town, transforming it into a submerged wasteland. The disaster incurred staggering costs, exceeding $200 million in damages and relocation expenses, making Thistle the most expensive ghost town in Utah.

The History of Thistle

Established in the late 1800s along the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad, Thistle derived its name from the abundant thistle plants in the area. Serving as a crucial railroad junction with a roundhouse, depot, and hotel, Thistle thrived as a farming hub, where settlers cultivated crops and raised livestock in the fertile valley. By the early 1900s, it boasted a population of 600 and a bustling economy, complete with schools, churches, stores, and social venues.

However, the town’s fortunes waned in the 1920s with the rise of automobile and truck transportation, leading to the closure of many facilities and a decline in population. By the 1980s, only a few dozen residents remained, marking Thistle as a ghost town.

The Tragedy of Thistle

In April 1983, a catastrophic combination of snowmelt and rainfall triggered a monumental landslide, obstructing the Spanish Fork River and railroad tracks. This natural disaster formed a dam, submerging Thistle beneath a rapidly rising lake, with water depths reaching up to 200 feet and covering 65 acres. The flooding forced the evacuation of remaining residents and disrupted transportation and communication systems, causing widespread damage and environmental hazards.

Declared a federal emergency, the government and railroad company embarked on a costly endeavor, investing over $200 million to stabilize the dam, rebuild infrastructure, and compensate and relocate residents. Despite efforts to mitigate the disaster’s impact, Thistle was ultimately abandoned.

The Aftermath of Thistle

Today, Thistle lies forgotten, owned by the state of Utah and off-limits to the public due to safety concerns. Access is restricted, and trespassing is strictly prohibited. Despite its perilous state, Thistle remains a poignant reminder of the town’s past and the forces of nature. While inaccessible for tourism, it stands as a testament to Utah’s history and warrants remembrance and respect. Thistle serves as a solemn yet compelling destination, preserving the echoes of its former existence amid the tranquil landscape.

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