History of Thistle, Utah
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Thistle (Utah) was a small community on US-6/89 at the junction of Thistle Creek and Soldier Creek, 16.9 miles (27.20 km) southeast of Springville and ca. 64.8 miles (104.29 km) southeast of Salt Lake City. The settlement was established in 1883 when the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad pushed its line through from Denver. Many thistles growing in the area are the impetus for the name. One-hundred years after the establishment of Thistle, Utah experienced it's first and most costly ($200 million) Presidentially-declared disaster.

1982 saw record-breaking precipitation in this area. In the spring of 1983 more hot days followed causing a rapid snow melt. The saturated soil could no longer support the additional moisture and began to slide. Mud began moving down the hillside onto the Rio Grande railroad tracks. Cracks in the pavement also became evident to motorists traveling on nearby U.S. 6/89.

Earth moving equipment was unable to keep up with the 3.5 feet per hour movement of the earth and within five days the slide had created a 900 acre lake 2.5 miles long and 200 feet deep. It was deemed that the natural earth dam was unstable and an upper spillway tunnel was constructed, water was pumped out and by December 1983 a lower tunnel was constructed to finish the removal of all water behind the dam.

The residents of Thistle were all displaced by the waters of the Spanish Fork River. The two railroad tracks and U. S. Highways 6 and 89 have since been successfully re-routed.

See: U.S. Forest Service Plaque; Utah Place Names 1997, John W. Van Cott.

G. William Wiersdorf

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