Most People Forget About This Abandoned Place in Utah State


Thistle, in Utah County, was once a thriving railroad and farming village before tragedy struck in 1983. A gigantic landslide buried the town and turned it into a drowned wasteland. The accident resulted in astronomical expenditures, topping $200 million in damages and relocation charges, making Thistle the most costly ghost town in Utah.

A History of Thistle

Thistle was founded in the late 1800s along the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad, and its name comes from the abundance of thistle plants in the region. Thistle, which served as a vital railroad junction with a roundhouse, depot, and hotel, developed as a farming hub, with inhabitants cultivating crops and raising cattle in the rich valley. By the early 1900s, it had a population of 600 and a thriving economy, replete with schools, churches, businesses, and social events.

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However, the town’s fortunes dipped in the 1920s with the growth of vehicle and truck transportation, resulting in the closure of several enterprises and a decrease in population. By the 1980s, Thistle had become a ghost town, with just a few dozen people.

The Tragedy of Thistle

In April 1983, a disastrous mix of snowmelt and rainfall caused a massive landslide that blocked the Spanish Fork River and railroad rails. This natural calamity created a dam and buried Thistle beneath a quickly growing lake with water levels of up to 200 feet and encompassing 65 acres. Flooding prompted the evacuation of the surviving population and hampered transportation and communication networks, resulting in severe damage and environmental risks.

Declaring a federal emergency, the government and train company proceeded on an expensive project, investing more than $200 million to strengthen the dam, replace infrastructure, and pay and move inhabitants. Despite efforts to ameliorate the disaster’s effects, Thistle was eventually abandoned.

The aftermath of Thistle

Today, Thistle is forgotten, owned by the state of Utah, and closed to the public for safety reasons. Trespassing is banned. Despite its dangerous state, Thistle is a heartbreaking reminder of the town’s history and the power of nature. While inaccessible to tourists, it is a tribute to Utah’s past and should be remembered and respected. Thistle is a melancholy yet captivating place, keeping echoes of its previous existence within the serene scenery.


In conclusion, Thistle, once a thriving railroad and farming hamlet, came to a terrible end in 1983 when a large landslide drowned it beneath a lake. The tragedy forced the town’s abandonment, resulting in nearly $200 million in losses and relocation costs. Thistle is now inaccessible, yet it serves as a heartbreaking reminder of nature’s strength and the transience of human achievements, repeating its history in the tranquil environment of Utah County.

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