An aerial view of Rockport Reservoir taken earlier this month. The low levels of the reservoir allow people to see the remains of the ghost town that once existed in the area. (Devon Dewey)
Editor’s Note: This article is part of a series on the history of Utah and the United States for the history section of KSL.com._
PEOA, Summit County – As reservoir levels in Utah have fallen this year, there have been some interesting finds in areas that have been covered with water.
Glen Canyon has reappeared following the drop in Lake Powell levels in southern Utah. In northern Utah, several old cars were discovered at the bottom of the Hyrum Reservoir.
But what about the remains of a ghost town?
That’s exactly what happened at Rockport Reservoir this summer, as its water levels have now fallen to just a quarter of its full capacity. As the water volume of the reservoir, built in the 1950s, has declined, pieces of an old town that once stood between Park City and Coalville are once again visible.
“It was really interesting to stand at a vantage point for the reservoir and see faint traces of old house foundations and a road all below where the water would normally be,” said Devon Dewey, an enthusiast of drones from Utah that recently captured footage of the ghost town.
“The whole area is pretty flat and even, so even though the foundations are old and mostly gone, you can still see them clearly if you know where to look,” he added. “Using a drone to get a higher perspective made it possible to see where structures were located over 70 years ago.”
The city of Rockport was first settled by European-American settlers in 1860, according to a history of the city compiled by Utah State Parks. The settlement had a few other names early on, most notably Crandall and Enoch City. But many settlers fled north to Wanship, a settlement north of what is now Rockport Reservoir, in 1866 as a result of the Black Hawk War.
Historians of the park have written that the settlers returned to the area in 1867 and built a large wall to prevent any future battle. At that time it was renamed Rock Fort – and when the war ended in the 1870s and the wall was demolished, they reused the materials from the wall for different structures and renamed it Rockport.
The city was never very large, with its population possibly reaching 200 over the following decades. Park historians have said there were around 27 families still living in the area when the federal government surrounded the area for its Wanship Dam project in the early 1950s.
The dam itself was approved in 1952 with improvements to the Pineview Reservoir, a new canal and aqueduct in northern Utah, the Davis County Clipper reported at the time. They called it “the first step in a major reclamation project in Utah” since the approval of the Deer Creek Reservoir in the 1930s.
After the federal government bought the land that year, some of the buildings were removed so that they could be saved for history. These include the Rockport Coop and the Rockport School House, which have been moved to Pioneer Village at Lagoon Amusement Park, according to state park historians. An Old Town Chapel has also been moved to the Rockport State Park campgrounds.
In 1957, everything else was submerged by the 156-foot-high, 2,010-foot-wide dam. Utah State Parks claim that the reservoir lake has a total capacity of 62,100 acre-feet with an area of 1,080 acres. The Bureau of Reclamation still owns the reservoir, but contracted Utah State Parks to manage it, which led to the creation of Rockport State Park in 1966.
All these years later, traces of this city reappeared in the wake of the Utah drought, which severely affected the Rockport Reservoir as well as other large reservoirs in the state.
The Utah Department of Natural Resources lists Rockport as currently at 26% capacity and park officials closed the main boat launch this summer due to low levels. Only small boats and personal watercraft are currently allowed to launch, although authorities advise people to do so “at your own risk”.
Even though the water levels have gone down, the ground can be muddy from years underwater, so it’s best to check for traces of an old ghost town from above. Park officials at Yuba State Park in central Utah last month reminded people of the dangers of walking or driving on dry reservoir areas after a truck got there stuck in the mud.