Leonids Adventure

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Ghost Towns

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Silver Reef Ghost Town

Part 3 of our Bryce Canyon Road Trip (View Part 1, Part 2, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6)

William Tecumseh Barbee was one of the earliest people to prospect for silver in southwest Utah and made one of the most significant discoveries. His initial claims in Silver Reef were staked in 1875, and with a large rush of prospectors and miners brought in, the mine and mill were in full operation by 1878.

At its height, Silver Reef had a population of 2,000. There were hotels, 9 stores, 6 saloons, a bank, several restaurants, a hospital, 2 dance halls, 2 news papers, a china town and 3 cemeteries.

As the price of silver dropped, mines gradually began to close. By 1884, most were closed and by 1901, most buildings had been demolished. The old Wells Fargo bank still stands today and now houses a small museum & gift shop of the once bustling mining town.

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Grafton Ghost Town

Part 2 of our Bryce Canyon Road Trip (View Part 1, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6)

Grafton was one of several settlements established along the Virgin River, in 1859, to grow cotton. This was part of Brigham Young’s plan for Mormon self-sufficiency. Crops were planted, irrigation ditches dug and homes built. 3 years later in 1962, a flood destroyed the young town but the town was quickly rebuilt. By 1864 the town had grown to a population of 168 but constant raids by Navajo raiders & the outbreak of the Black Hawk War forced the town’s residents to move to Rockville for protection. The Grafton farmers would return daily to tend to their homefields, and by 1868, Grafton was resettled and the residents back.

To escape years of bare subsistence on limited acreage and loss of fields from repeated floods, Grafton’s men helped build a canal to deliver water to a wide bench 20 miles downstream. When the Hurricane Canal was finished in 1906, many Grafton families packed everything, some even their houses, and moved to Hurricane.

The last resident left in 1945.

Grafton is said to be the most photographed ghost town in the West, it has been featured as a location in several films, including 1929’s In Old Arizona and the classic Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

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Clifton Cliffside Jail

In 1878, the town of Clifton built a jail by blasting out two cells from a solid granite cliff. The jail was cut out by Margarito Verala who upon completion, Verala celebrated by heading to the town’s saloon for a drink of whiskey… or six. He was so pleased with his work that after imbibing whiskey, he proceeded to pull out his gun and shoot up Hovey’s Dance Hall to attract attention. He wanted to let everyone know that the jail had been completed! Unfortunately, the saloon’s proprietor was also the town’s sheriff and he did not take kindly to his saloon being shot up. Verala was arrested and became the jail’s first guest.
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Ironton Ghost Town

Not far from the the Million Dollar Highway in Colorado lies the former glory of Ironton, a town that began in 1883, where workers from nearby mines would setup tents after a long day of mining silver and iron. Eventually, proper buildings were set up and the budding town received its post office in 1883, the railroad in 1889. At its peak, Ironton’s population reached 1,000. The Denver Depression of 1893 however caused the town to slowly deteriorate. In 1889, another boom occurred when gold was discovered, but the discovery came at a cost. The underground water contained such high levels of sulfuric acid that the miner’s equipment would corrode. This contaminated water could not be pumped economically so eventually the town slowly faded away. The town’s last two residents passed away in the 1960’s.
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Sneffels Ghost Town

We were bent on exploring as many ghost towns as possible on our 3rd day of our Telluride road trip. Armed with a book (Ghost Towns of Colorado by Philip Varney & John Drew) and GPS, we managed to explore plenty of abandoned buildings and drive through many questionable off road trails.

Our first ghost town of that day is the mining town of Sneffels, which I cannot think of without thinking of Mr. Snuffleupagus

Founded in 1875, this mining town peaked at a population of 2,000 between the 1880’s to early 1890’s. The town was named after Mount Sneffels, the mountain it lies on, which was named for the peak in Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth. The town of Sneffels, formerly called Porters, serviced the nearby Virginius Mine. This mine employed over 600 men and produced gold and silver worth $1 Billion today before it was closed. It was recently reopened by the Star Mining Company.
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Alta Ghost Town

Every Labor Day weekend (which coincides with our wedding anniversary weekend), tradition dictates we pile into our “adventure-mobile” and hit the road.¬†We had so much fun last year in Colorado, that we decided to go back, but this time to the Telluride area.

Our first stop upon arriving in Colorado: the Alta Ghost Town and the nearby Alta Lakes.

Back in 1878, a man by the name of Jack Mann discovered gold in this area. The Alta townsite came into existence shortly thereafter. Only a few hundred people lived here, and World War II saw a resurgence in activity but it closed for good in 1948 after a fire burned the mine’s mill.
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