Cisco, Utah (Ghost Town)   7 comments

Melanie and I had planned our 30th wedding anniversary trip months ago — a trip to Utah / Arizona to visit five national parks and several national monuments and BLM areas over the first two weeks of October.  Congress forced us to change our plans, and one of the pleasant surprises while adapting to the silliness of closing those areas was a photo session at a mostly abandoned town in Utah called Cisco.  Most of the photos were taken with a fairly scary thunderstorm bearing down on us.  Truth be told, this added an aura of spookiness that would not have been possible under typical Utah sunshine and blue skies.

Below is Melanie’s writeup about Cisco and several of my photos.  The photos are heavily processed HDR images to accentuate the threatening clouds and dilapidated buildings.

In its heyday in the late 1800’s, Cisco was a “watering stop” for steam locomotives on the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad. It also became a livestock hub for cattle and sheep ranchers from the Book Cliffs, north of town. According to an online history of Cisco by Nancy Hazelet, at the turn of the last century, over 100,000 sheep were brought to Cisco for shearing before being shipped to market. Oil and natural gas were discovered in Cisco in 1924, and it became a drilling and mining center. But as steam locomotives began to be replaced by diesel and electric early in the 20thcentury, Cisco was no longer necessary as a watering stop, though the trains still ran through the town. 

Cisco also used to sit right along US Route 50 and US Route 6, major east-west highways that ran from California to Colorado and beyond. But between 1957-1970, Interstate 70 was built along a new route that bypassed Cisco (along with many other small “hub” towns), and Cisco began to slide into oblivion, though it was assigned its own zipcode when the new postal zipcode system came into effect in the 1960’s. The faded paint on the façade of the town’s abandoned post office is only faintly readable “Cisco, Utah – 84515” A small freestanding unit of modern locked mailboxes stands right outside the post office building, and it looks like there must be a few people who still get mail sent here.

In the early 1990’s, parts of the film “Thelma and Louise” were filmed in and around Cisco.

Despite the desolation of the town itself, there are miles and miles of brand new pipeline being laid here. Cisco has one of the oldest oilfields in Utah. Pacific Energy and Mining Corporation, an oil and gas company headquartered in Reno, Nevada, operates the drilling fields here, including 5 oil and natural gas wells that the company started in 2005..

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Posted October 20, 2013 by ~ Bruce in America in Decline, Architecture, Travel Photography

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7 responses to “Cisco, Utah (Ghost Town)

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  1. DId you just happen upon this place? What a find! The story sounds like the movie “Cars,” but the photos tell quite a different tale. I especially like the old vehicles.

  2. Bruce, I just looked Cisco up on the map.  We stayed in Grand Junction once when Sheila was living in Ogden.  1978, I think.  It was tiny, but had a beautiful, big motel for the cattlemen who visited the area.   Great photos!

      Shawn Eckman Sipe

    “Never trust anyone who has not brought a book with them.” — Lemony Snicket (Horseradish: Bitter Truths You Can’t Avoid)

    • Thank you, Shawn. I came across Cisco when Melanie and I had to make contingency plans for the federal park closures. I talked to someone at the Moab visitors center who told me that Cisco was relatively safe to photograph as long as I stayed away from the structures occupied by the squatters. If I wasn’t sure whether a building was occupied, I stayed away. In the end, the biggest risk was the lightning storm. We got out of there in a hurry when it arrived.

  3. Eerie, desolate, barren are just some of the words that come to mind as I looked at the pictures. There must be many ghost towns out west, made obsolete by new modes of transportation and new ways of travel. Weather can really make an impact on the visual experience. Reminds me of your photos taken at Bryce with the thunderstorms way out in the distance. A rainbow would have added an element of hope, but alas, no rainbows in Cisco! Do you think the squatters care much about the ACA?

    • Not sure about those squatters, Rob. I had visions of a shotgun pointing out of a window and a voice telling us to go away. The reality, however, is probably that the squatters are simply young pipeline workers who make a decent wage doing drilling or laying pipe, and who take advantage of a little free rent in an abandoned house. One shabby looking place even had a satellite dish on the outside wall!

      The lightning probably presented a more real danger. We got out of there in a hurry when the storm got too close.

  4. What type of camera and film do you use to get these images? They are wonderful.

    • Hi Meg, Thanks for the kind words! They are digital images from my Canon 50D. I did some pretty heavy post-processing on the clouds in Adobe Lightroom and Topaz Adjust pluggin. Although I accentuated the clouds the incoming storm itself was pretty scary and chased us all the way back to Moab before the downpour hit.

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