Utah ghost town is for sale in Emery County

Published: Saturday, July 28 2012 3:19 p.m. MDT

Two "free-range" llamas are the sole remaining inhabitants of Woodside, Utah, a ghost town in Emery County. The family that owns the 700-acre townsite has put it up for sale. They are seeking $3.9 million. The llamas are part of the package.

Geoff Liesik, Deseret News

WOODSIDE, Emery County – In his 15 years as a broker, Mike Metzger has never handled a real estate listing like this one.

"It's not something that comes across your desk every day, that's for sure," he said. "This is the first time I've ever offered a town for sale."

Actually, what his clients are selling is the more than 700 acres on either side of state Route 6 in Emery County that is home to one of Utah's railroad ghost towns. Their asking price? Nearly $4 million.

"It includes the service station, the geyser, some of the old buildings from the town and about 650 acres that is straddled alongside the Price River," said Metzger, who works for Bridge Realty in Price.

The sale also includes water rights and partial mineral rights for the property, as well as ownership of the "free-range llamas" which are currently the town's only inhabitants.

"The owner brought in a herd and it dwindled a little bit, but there's still several (llamas) running around," Metzger said.

Woodside got its start in 1881. It was called Lower Crossing then and was used by the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad as a water stop.

The town grew to include several stores, a blacksmith shop and even a school. The population peaked around 1920, when about 300 people called Woodside home.

Then the railroad consolidated its operations, moving 45 miles northwest to Helper in Carbon County.

"When the railroad had no more use for (Woodside), it was just kind of doomed to a slow death," said Edward Geary, a retired BYU professor and the author of "A History of Emery County."

The town got a brief reprieve in the late 1930s when the highway was built and a cold water geyser — created decades earlier by railroad workers seeking fresh water for their steam engines — became a minor sensation with tourists.

"They had signs up and down the highway and they built up a board fence so you couldn't see it without paying admission and going inside," Geary said, noting that at one time the so-called "Roadside Geyser" was blasting a column of water about 75 feet in the air every 40 minutes.

"As I recall, it was just about the time they invested money in it, that it petered out," he said. "I think probably by 1970, there were no full time residents at all in Woodside."

The geyser is still nowhere near its former glory, said Metzger, who blamed its lack of explosiveness and regularity on vandals who filed the geyser's cone with rocks. And many of the buildings on the property have either been destroyed or have the appearance of being unsafe to occupy.

But like any good salesman, the real estate broker has high hopes for Woodside's prospects.

"It'll take a little bit of fixing up, as you look around," Metzger said. "It hasn't been in service for a few years, but it's a classic piece of Americana that isn't available anywhere else that I'm aware of.

"You would need to reinstate the charter, to make it an official town, but that's all that is required," he said.

The land is owned by the Pogue family and sits midway between Price and Green River on the way to Moab, so it could become a viable stop for travelers. Metzger also noted that if the nuclear power plant goes in near Green River, that could increase the properties development potential.

Geary conceded that some ghost towns — and even towns facing the threat of extinction — have made impressive comebacks.

"You have to remember, Park City was never a ghost town, but it was close," he said. "It was only a shadow of what you see there now, but they (developed) recreation and then it became just a wonderful place to live.

"But if you don't have that," Geary warned. "I think ghost towns pretty much stay dead."

E-mail: gliesik@desnews.com

Twitter: GeoffLiesik

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