When visiting the ghost towns of Spring Canyon UT, bring water, sunblock, and your imagination.
Utah ghost towns. The words resonate in the mind, conjuring mystery if not magic. How does a town become a “ghost”? Who were the people who once lived there, and what stories did they leave behind? Ghost towns live as much in the imagination as they do in their physical sites, which often consist of little more than crumbling foundations, rusty machinery and empty doorways. A field trip to one depends on what you bring to the experience.
The road into Spring Canyon, four miles west of Helper is narrow and bumpy. Sagebrush and scrub oak obscure the rusted narrow gauge railroad bed. The wind blows both dust and the spirits of the dead.
But it was not always so forsaken. Roger Metzger, a local historian and retired machinist, is a gatekeeper to the past. According to Metzger, coal, not tourism, was king in Central Utah. Up until the Depression, some 3,000 people lived, worked and died in Spring Canyon mining camps.
As we drive up the canyon, the asphalt gives way to the dirt of wagon tracks. Roger points out the remains of a small sandstone building high above the ruins of the once thriving town of Peerless. “Probably a powder house” he says. “Powder houses were far away from the mine and the town to protect from accidental explosions.”
Still accidents happened. The headstones in the windswept cemetery of Castle Gate bear Greek, Italian, Slovenian and Swedish names. The stories they tell are violent and tragic: a father and son buried in the same grave, three brothers in another, all killed in the same explosion on March 8, 1924. On that day, 172 men lost their lives.
Many died, but not all have departed. What better way to leave a ghost town than with a ghost story? “The White Lady” of Latuda killed her only child and herself after being evicted from a company-owned house when her husband died in a mining accident. She can still be seen when the hours grow late and the moon rises, keeping watch over all those whose laughter, sadness and lives have passed through the lost towns of Spring Canyon. §