Friday, October 4, 2013

Thompson Springs, a Mostly Ghost Town.

Thompson Springs, originally known as simply Thompson, is located off of Interstate 70; only 37 miles from Moab in Grand County, Utah. The last available census information for this "town" was 39 residents as of 2010, but as you drive through the deserted streets and abandoned buildings, not a living soul is in sight. Like the ghost town of Cisco, Thompson Springs was a major stop on the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad; besides mining in the area, there was a sawmill which needed this railway connection.  Ranchers used the surrounding Book Cliffs for the keeping of cattle; the railroad also providing transportation as the cattle were bought and sold.   However, once the railroad stopped running and Interstate 70 was built, Thompson Springs became obsolete; the mines and sawmill closed down, the majority of people moved away and a once vibrant community became basically extinct. Now there are three reasons to stop at Thompson Springs, (1) Fill up your gas tank at the Shell Station (the only business at the beginning of the town), (2) See a Ghost Town, (3)See the Petroglyphs located in Sego Canyon.

The majority of buildings in Thompson Springs are abandoned; most door and window less husks.  There is very little left inside to give any visitor a sense of a story; what was this building for, who lived in it.  We visited on a cloudy day which enhanced, not only the desolation of the town, but the eerie "ghostliness".

Even the Thompson Motel sits quietly, its windows starring off into the Book Cliffs beyond.

The roads through Thompson Springs are graded dirt and gravel; cars can travel through, even into the Sego Canyon petroglyph areas, but there will come a point where it becomes rockier, with dips in the road that will dictate the need for a 4-wheel drive vehicle.  As you drive into the canyon area, surrounded by the Book Cliffs, take time to stop and look around at the beauty of it all.


The petroglyphs are located in two sections of the canyon; one has a man-made parking area with wooden fencing along a path.  Below you can see a "dried" riverbed that can be walked and who knows, you may find a fossil or the imprint of a fossilized plant.  Walk the riverbed long enough, eventually you'll come to the remnants of a wooden gate, probably used to create water holes for the cattle that was once corralled in the canyon.  This riverbed, however, will become active during a rainstorm; so if it begins raining, get out onto higher ground quickly. 

The petroglyphs...get back to the petroglyphs, you're probably saying at this moment.  The details on the humanoid and animals figures are amazing; looking at a couple of the humanoid figures, I swear they even look "alien" as in not of this world.  The petroglyphs of Sego Canyon are attributed to several Native American cultures; Fremonts from A.D. 600 to 1250, Anasazi culture, the Archaic period dating from 7000 B.C., the Barrier Canyon period from around 2000 B.C., and the Ute tribe dating from A.D. 1300.

The second section is further into the canyon, there is a small area cleaned out for parking, and if you're not looking for it, you can easily drive past it.  The humanoid figures are larger in this section and you'll notice a name and date nearby, "Smith Vinger, Aug 14, 1881".  Of course others who have visited the area in the 20th and 21st centuries thought that their signatures belonged on this wall too...NOT!  Putting your initials or names on walls of "rock art" is similar to going to a museum and signing your name next to Van Gogh's or Picasso' is simply desecration and disrespect, so DON'T do it!

Once again, besides the awe inspiring ancient petroglyphs, take the time to enjoy the beauty of the area; bring a picnic meal with you to enjoy there and don't forget to take your mess out with you when you leave.

Whether you make it a day trip, or just spend half the day, don't miss out on visiting the mostly ghostly town of Thompson Springs, and the mysteries of Sego Canyon.

Mary Cokenour


  1. I thoroughly enjoyed your writing. I live in Moab and I still love to see this. I think it's great how you describe things so thank you very much!!

  2. I am definitely enjoying your website. You definitely have some great insight and great stories. bizarre news stories

  3. I wanted to thank you for this great read!! I definitely enjoying every little bit of it I have you bookmarked to check out new stuff you post. supernatural

    1. Thank you Jim! I see you're into the paranormal, so hope you read my post on Dodge Point ( ), as there have been Bigfoot sightings there, since the pioneers came in the 1800s.