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Silver Reef Ghost Town
Silver reef ghost town.
Address: 1903 Wells Fargo Rd. Leeds, UT 84746 Phone: 435-879-2254 Website: http://www.silverreefutah.org/
Silver reef was a mining town established after silver was found in sandstone which is extremely rare. Silver Reef flourished from 1876 to 1890 and now only some remains still survive. Located 18 miles north of St. George the ghost town of Silver Reef has a historic museum where displays and other artifacts can be seen. Guided tours are also available.
10:00 AM – 5 PM Monday, Thursday-Saturday Closed- Tuesday, wednesday, Sunday Guided tours also available at 10:30-1:00-3:00
$3 per person or $10 per family
Address: 1903 Wells Fargo Rd. Leeds, UT 84746
Distance from St George
Located 15 miles north of St. George. (24 minutes driving)
Get Directions . From St. George, head north on I-15 for about 13 miles. Take exit 22 to S Main St. Follow S Main and then turn left onto Silver Reef Rd. to Wells Fargo Road.
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Silver Reef: a ghost town that nearly disappeared
Silver Reef: the disappearing ghost town
For a brief time in the late 1800s, Southern Utah had its own little piece of the Wild West.
When Silver Reef boomed, it really boomed. Silver was first found in the White Reef in 1871 — an extremely rare discovery of silver in sandstone — and by 1875 a mining district was rapidly growing. By 1880, several major mining companies were represented in Silver Reef and it even had mile-long Main Street teaming with businesses.
But it wasn’t long before that boom turned to bust. As quickly as it began, the boomtown was on its way to becoming a ghost town. In 1881, a few of the mining companies lowered wages, which resulted in a strike by the workers, according to the Washington County Historical Society’s website at wchsutah.org . By the time the strike ended, half of the labor force had left.
Then ore values began to decrease, dropping sharply. One of the major mining companies sold off all its assets by 1883. Another major company shut down in 1887 and a third in 1889. By the turn of the century, the town was almost entirely abandoned.
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Ghost towns are common throughout the western states, especially with former mining towns where there was little reason to stick around as the central aspect of the economy disappeared. In many cases these ghost towns have retained their basic structure with numerous extant buildings still creating the illusion of community.
Not so with Silver Reef. Only one of the former mining town’s buildings still stands in its original location. That’s the historic Wells Fargo Express Station, which now houses the Silver Reef Museum.
On June 6, the town’s original jail was returned after more than a century on a farm in Washington City. However, the jail was not repatriated to its original spot. Rather, it was placed closer to the Silver Reef Museum for better tourist accessibility.
Two other buildings, the Cosmopolitan restaurant and the Rice Bank, have been rebuilt but neither of them are original structures. All that remains of any other buildings are stone ruins.
That’s why some visitors to Silver Reef ask where the ghost town is located. After all, there’s not as much to see in Silver Reef as there is in some of its fellow ghost towns — at least as far as original structures.
Since the 1970s, dozens of modern homes have been built throughout the former mining town, which is now basically a residential neighborhood within the town limits of Leeds. Some of these homes even share lots with the crumbling ruins of old stone structures.
But what happened to the original buildings of Silver Reef? How did they disappear?
“Back in those days they basically recycled everything,” says George Cannon, vice-president of the Washington County Historical Society.
In the desert landscape, lumber was an especially rare commodity, Cannon says. Wood was typically acquired through distant and difficult journeys into the mountains. After Silver Reef was abandoned, the empty buildings provided a ready source of building materials.
As a result, many of the Silver Reef buildings were disassembled and their materials were used for projects elsewhere in Southern Utah. Bobbi Wan-kier, executive director of the Silver Reef Museum, says the town’s boardwalks were reportedly even used to construct buildings in LaVerkin. And rock from the buildings can be found throughout Leeds, especially at the well-preserved Civilian Conservation Corps Camp.
“People were buying the buildings just for the wood,” says Eric Fleming, former director of the Silver Reef Museum.
Among those people was a man from Anderson Junction, just northeast of Silver Reef, who purchased a dance hall with plans to rebuild it near his home. Fleming says he supposedly found a large amount of money hidden under the floorboards, which was enough to motivate others to purchase Silver Reef buildings with the hopes of finding hidden treasure.
Other buildings were moved by their owners in the same manner they had arrived, Fleming says. When silver was discovered in the sandstone west of Leeds, businesses from a different mining town, Pioche, Nevada, began moving to Silver Reef.
“A lot of that town was built within three months,” Fleming says. “The story is that they had a hundred buildings up in those first three months.”
When the Silver Reef boom turned to bust, Fleming says many of the businesses probably moved again to a different town, taking as much of their physical presence as possible.
Among the buildings that were likely disassembled and relocated were the mills used in the mining operations. Flemings says they were too valuable to lose.
Other buildings were moved intact to various locations throughout Washington County, including a jail, a schoolhouse, a saloon and at least one residence.
Schoolhouse to Town Hall
The Silver Reef schoolhouse opened in January 1880 and was also used as a community center for dances and other gatherings, according to the Washington County Historical Society’s website at wchsutah.org.
As Silver Reef’s population declined, the building fell into disuse by the early 1900s. Some Leeds residents then salvaged the building, dividing it in two and moving it two miles to its present location at 218 N. Main St. in Leeds. It was moved by rolling the two sections on logs.
“That was quite the job,” says Glade Dalton, grandson of George Angell, who was among those who moved the schoolhouse. “It’s a big building.”
After the move, the building again served as a schoolhouse for more than five decades. Initially there were eight grades with two teachers. One was responsible for first through fourth grades and the other for fifth through seventh.
By the time Ray Beal started first grade at the school in the early 1940s there were only six grades, but all were taught by a single teacher.
“I had fond memories of it,” Beal says of the old schoolhouse. “I put a softball through the window. I had to pay for that.”
After the 1955-1956 school year, the school closed and all the students were bussed to St. George, according to the historical society. From that point, a local ward of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints began leasing the building for use as a recreation center. A stage and kitchen were installed to help it fulfill this role until a new LDS meetinghouse replaced it in 1975.
The building was then remodeled again to become the Leeds Town Hall. LoAnn Barnes, chairwoman of the Leeds Historical Preservation Committee, says the building is now primarily office space but it has been used for community gatherings and other events, including theatrical productions, in the past.
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As an historic building, it also helps tell the stories of other historic buildings in the town of Leeds , including the old CCC camp. Some of the memorabilia from that camp, that only extant CCC camp in the state of Utah, can be found inside the Town Hall.
“Of all the small towns in Washington County, Leeds is probably the most unique historically,” Barnes says, referencing Mormon pioneer roots, the Silver Reef mining days and the CCC era. “I don’t think people realize what a unique history Leeds has.”
Saloon to print shop
While the schoolhouse was a large building, it only had to be moved two miles to its present location in Leeds. But when one of Silver Reef’s saloons was moved in 1898 it had to make an 18-mile journey to its new location at 23 E. St. George Boulevard.
Following the move, the former saloon served as the office for Washington County News, a now defunct newspaper, until 1986. It went through multiple owners before Frank Mountford purchased it in 1958, says his grandson, Kelly Mountford.
Ownership was then passed down to Mountford’s father, James Mountford, but he eventually sold the newspaper in 1986 and continued to use the building for a commercial printing operation. Kelly Mountford now manages Classic Printing in the old saloon.
Aside from the front of the building itself, few remnants of its saloon history remain. However, there is still an old cupboard with the original wallpaper inside.
Because there is a plaque on the front of the building noting its historic nature, Mountford says its past as a Wild West saloon is well known. This has left some disappointed visitors who expect to see the iconic swinging wooden doors.
“A lot of people ask me if the front counter was the bar,” Mountford says. “No, it’s just the front counter that my grandfather built in the ‘50s.”
Miner’s cabin to family home
At least one other building from Silver Reef moved even farther than the saloon. Tucked back behind Frei’s Fruit Market at 2895 Santa Clara Drive in Santa Clara is an old home that likely served as a cabin for miners in Silver Reef.
“It’s about ready to fall down,” says Vicki Lasswell, who owns the dwelling. “We’re hoping to rebuild it but right now it’s looking in pretty bad shape.”
According to family accounts, Lasswell’s great-grandparents, John Henry and Barbara Staheli Graf (Graff) moved the structure to its present location on wagon wheels in the late 1800s. They eventually added a porch to the front and a kitchen to the back as well as a bathroom inside.
Her grandfather, also named John Henry Graf, was raised in the home along with his three siblings, including a sister named Mandy. When Lasswell was young she spent a lot of time in the home visiting her Great-Aunt Mandy, who never married and still lived there.
“We used to play cards and pull taffy,” Lasswell remembers.
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When her great-aunt died, Lasswell’s parents purchased the home and began renting it out, primarily to family members. Lasswell’s brother and her daughter both lived there at one point with their families. Eventually, though, it fell into disrepair and rentals ceased. About 20 years ago, Lasswell’s father gave the property to her.
“As far as I know, it’s probably one of the only mining homes still around,” Lasswell says. “I don’t know where it came from in Silver Reef. I’d like to find out if anybody ever knew.”
Return of the jail
Until last month , the old jail was among the Silver Reef buildings that had found a new home elsewhere.
Like some of the other buildings, the jail was likely moved to Leeds in the late 1800s. Leeds resident Eldon Stirling, who is now 94, remembers the jail on his family’s property when he a child. And his grandfather, William Stirling, was responsible for moving at least one other building from Silver Reef to Leeds in the late 1800s.
The day before the jail was returned to Silver Reef, Stirling told The Spectrum & Daily News that his family initially used it as an ice house. But at some point the building moved again, this time to Washington City, about 12 miles from its location in Leeds and 14 miles from its original spot.
It’s unclear when the building first arrived in Washington City, but Dennis Gibson remembers seeing it near the intersection of 100 West and 200 South when he was a child. He is now 60. Gibson’s father eventually purchased the jail and moved it to a pasture at approximately 300 W. 200 South, where it serve as a granary and storage building.
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Gibson eventually learned of the building’s history and his parents’ desire to see it returned to Silver Reef. Five Boy Scouts teamed up to coordinate the move for their individual Eagle Scout projects.
This time a modern crane and flatbed semi-trailer were used to load and transport the old jail back to its original home. From crane to crane, the entire move took less than three hours.
It is now located just northeast of the former Cosmopolitan Restaurant, near the Wells Fargo Building. Fleming, who has been working on mapping the original town of Silver Reef, says the jail’s former location was about one block to the east.
A significant piece of the jail also recently returned, says Ron Cundick, president of the Silver Reef Foundation. When a Leeds resident saw The Spectrum & Daily News article about the move , he saw a photo of the jail’s door on display in the museum and realized one the jail’s other door was sitting in a pile at his home. So it returned to Silver Reef as well and now both doors have been reattached to the jail.
According to the historical society, Eldon Stirling’s grandfather William Stirling was one of the first to realize the buildings from Silver Reef could be “mined” and used for other purposes. In 1895 he purchased and moved the vacant St. John’s Catholic Church to Leeds, where it was converted into a social hall. This building was later lost to a fire.
A number of people familiar with the history of Silver Reef also believe there is a structure somewhere in Hurricane that was once a Silver Reef dwelling, perhaps similar to Lasswell’s old miner’s cabin in Santa Clara. There is also a possibility that some outbuildings near the Post Office in Toquerville came from Silver Reef.
If anyone is familiar with these buildings or any other structures that might have come from Silver Reef, contact reporter Brian Passey at the email address or phone number listed below.
While entire buildings are no longer disappearing from Silver Reef, the ghost town continues to diminish little by little.
“It’s just a matter of people helping themselves,” says Silver Reef resident Nancy Harrison-Williams. “It’s hard to find anything that’s left.”
She has witnessed people taking rocks and other artifacts from various sites around the ghost town. Some of it might be blamed on sheer ignorance of the ghost town’s historical nature. Harrison-Williams even alleges that a Boy Scout’s Eagle project was responsible for removing stones from otherwise unmarked graves at one of the town’s cemeteries.
Harrison-Williams lives right next to the ruins of some historic Main Street businesses. When she first began visiting Silver Reef in 1971, she says there were many more ruins spread across the landscape.
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Noticing a high amount of looting and the destruction of historic buildings, she and other concerned residents formed the Wells Fargo Silver Reef Monument to try and protect the resources. Harrison-Williams served as first president of the organization.
“It’s a lost history that can never be replaced,” she says.
Email reporter Brian Passey at [email protected] or call him at 435-674-6296. Follow him on social media at Facebook.com/PasseyBrian or on Twitter and Instagram, @BrianPassey .
- Things To Do
- Culture & History
Ghost Towns in Utah
Every ghost town has a story to tell. They are often reminders of long forgotten dreams, hopes, struggles and gradual decline. Sometimes left behind are abandoned homes and buildings. Other times, there's just a hole in the ground and a few scattered boards. But every one of these dusty towns pays homage to the memories of those who lived and died there.
Many ghost towns require maneuvering backroads with unreliable cell service and terrain, so be sure to do your research and ask locals before setting out. Remember the lives who once lived here and visit with respect.
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Southern Utah Ghost Towns
Ghost towns like Old Irontown, Stateline and Sego existed in tough desert conditions. First timers should start with Grafton and Silver Creek.
The ghost town of Grafton , located south of Zion National Park , was originally settled by Mormon pioneers, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who answered the calling of their prophet and church president Brigham Young to establish towns throughout Utah. It’s unique because it was established for less than a decade before settlers were forced out due to tensions with Native Americans. Only the graveyard and a renovated schoolhouse remain.
While you can’t go into the schoolhouse, it’s one of the most pristine abandoned buildings left in all of Utah’s ghost towns and makes for a great photo opportunity. Some say that Grafton is the most photographed ghost town in the West. It was even one of the filming locations for parts of "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," among other Hollywood movies.
This fading ghost town is located north of St. George , close to Leeds. A mining town, Silver Reef was the first sandstone location to hold silver and was named for the lode of it that was discovered there. Dhuring the late 1870s and early 1880s, the height of the town’s silver boom, Silver Reef was the most populous place in southern Utah.
Today, little remains of the once-bustling mining town, but you can spot foundation remnants, the old Wells Fargo building and the graveyard (where many miners lay, purportedly the outcome of settling their disputes the Western way). A nearby building has some replicas and historical information about Silver Reef.
Grafton ghost town outside of Zion National Park.
Photo: Eric Erlenbusch
The cemetery at Grafton.
Photo: Rosie Serago
"Every ghost town has a story to tell. They are often reminders of long forgotten dreams, hopes, struggles and gradual decline."
Northern utah ghost towns.
Utah's northern ghost towns dot the upper half of the state, including across the Great Basin Desert west of Salt Lake City and along the Carbon Corridor between Price and Moab.
"Russian Settlement" is a placeholder for a town that didn't actually have a formal name. The village in northwestern Utah near the Park Valley area was an outlier, both in location and for the fact it wasn't a Mormon settlement. The founding residents were Russian Christians lured to the area by the promise of cheap land, which turned out to be uninhabitable. About 125 people called the place home after migrating east from Los Angeles in 1914.
The ambitious settlers managed to establish a town center, a school and a modest downtown area. Repeated crop failures led to the abandonment of the settlement in 1917 after three miserable years. A few home foundations, gravestones and a distinct white picket fence remain today.
Terrace's fate was tied to the formation of the Transcontinental Railroad. At its peak, Terrace reached nearly 1,000 residents, many of whom were likely Chinese, excluded from the census. The railroad town and its population attracted a chain store, imported trees, library, opera house, pleasure garden, a couple of hotels, a school, a public bath and even a justice of the peace who, according to the shot-up interpretive signage at the site, also ran the saloon.
Terrace all but vanished after the shorter line was completed across Great Salt Lake. Travel to this area requires remote navigating on the Transcontinental Railroad Backcountry Byway (Read: A View from The Past ).
Unlike many ghost towns in Utah, Thistle wasn't a mining hub nor was it abandoned due to its veins of ore being tapped out. It was designed as a railroad town in the late 1800s and served as a waypoint between Denver and points west. Thistle survived well into modern times until it was dealt its death blow in 1983 when a landslide triggered a massive flood that effectively washed away the entire town. To be fair, the town's population had peaked at 600 in 1917 and was reduced to less than 50 when the flood wiped out what was left — meaning it was well on its way to ghost town status even without the natural disaster.
Some structures still stand, imprisoned by silt. This includes water-ravaged homes and railroad archway entrances to buildings long since destroyed. There are even a few rusting cars within the remaining debris. Thistle is unique in that it is a town that fell into ruin in recent memory and was still functional — although barely — into the 80s.
Continue driving about an hour toward Helper and you can also find Latuda, a ghost town formed after the mine closed in 1967.
Frisco & Newhouse
About 15 miles west of the small town of Milford, Utah, exists the remnants of a once wild — and wildly profitable — mining town called Frisco , named for the nearby San Francisco Mountains. The site includes stone kilns and a cemetary.
Also neartby is the ghost town of Newhouse. Although this area was inhabited as early as 1870 the town never amounted to much until 1900 when Samuel Newhouse purchased the Cactus Mine. Newhouse had a dream to establish a model city for his miners and their families.
The small town consisted of stucco homes, a dancehall, restaurant and one bar located one mile out of town. In the center of town was a clubhouse. This clubhouse contained a well-stocked library and pool tables. Samuel Newhouse died before the completion of his dream, but his brother Matt Newhouse continued on and completed the town and keep it up and running until 1910, when the ore in the Cactus Mine ran dry.
Not much remains of the old colony that existed here for nearly 50 years. Mormon missionaries found eager converts in the Hawaiian Islands in the 1850s and 1860s, and church leaders decided to settle a community of about 100 converts in the desolate Skull Valley. A minor leprosy outbreak in 1896 gave Iosepa the distinction of having one of the few leper colonies on American soil.
You see the site of Iosepa a long time before reaching it, with the last remaining old shade trees clearly visible for several miles. The town site is a private ranch today, but you may still access the old cemetery, where there is an especially fine memorial and historical marker describing the settlement of the area. Drive about half a mile up the dirt road between two farmhouses (keep in mind you are on private property) and head toward the large pavilion visible from the road. Built by the Iosepa Historical Association, it is now the site of commemorative events every Memorial Day.
Aerial terrain maps of the region show a hand-drawn re-creation of the former Terrace town site.
Photo: Andrew Dash Gillman
A landslide in 1983 triggered a massive flood that effectively washed away the entire town of Thistle. Some structures still stand, imprisoned by silt.
Photo: Jenny Bauman, Flickr
A charcoal kiln at Frisco ghost town.
A momument and memorial at Iosepa Cemetery.
Frisco, a ghost town about 15 miles west of Milford, had been one of the wildest mining towns in the West.
Exploring Other Ghost Towns
Utah's extensive ghost towns make for excellent day adventures, especially for history buffs and photographers. The earliest ghosts towns date back to the mid-1800s. When you're ready to delve into the days of yore in the wild west, there is no shortage of ghost towns to explore. As for spotting actual ghosts — you'll have to see for yourself.
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Do your part by planning ahead
A Ghost Town Side Trip in Southwest Utah
By stephanie vermillion | aug 25, 2016.
Smack dab between Zion National Park and Red Cliffs National Conservation Area lies a small, abandoned town that was the place to be, be seen, and get rich in the late 1800s. Silver Reef, Utah , one of the Southwest’s most popular ghost towns, was a flourishing mining spot back in the day, filled with western saloons, old prospectors, and plenty of shoot-outs.
While Silver Reef is all ruins, no riches today, its crumbling rock walls hold an interesting history for visitors who take the time to stop by.
Silver Reef’s story starts in 1866, when the prospector John Kemple uncovered a vein of silver in the town’s sandstone—a first-of-its-kind discovery. Geologists spent years refuting his claims, until a group of bankers from Salt Lake City caught wind of the breakthrough and staked their mining claims in the Silver Reef region.
Silver Reef quickly evolved into a flourishing mining town, with 33 mines that produced more than 7 million ounces of silver. During 1879, its peak year, the town boasted a hotel, boarding houses, stores, saloons, restaurants, banks, a newspaper—the Silver Reef Miner —and a population of more than 1000 people.
And, like all good ghost (town) stories, Silver Reef was full of seedy characters who brought gambling, prostitution, shoot-outs, violence and all those The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly -isms to town. After a major fire and many miner strikes, Silver Reef went on the decline in the 1890s before turning into the abandoned roadside ghost town that it is today.
While it’s not a destination where you’d want to spend more than a couple hours, Silver Reef is an interesting stop-off for Southwest road trippers. Four key sights to add to your itinerary include:
1. The Silver Reef Museum is housed in the oldest Wells Fargo Express Station still in existence. Built in 1878, silver was guarded at and exported from the old station, which made it an integral part of Silver Reef’s prosperity. Today, the museum houses old bottles, guns, carpentry tools, and other historical items that help illustrate the mining life of yesteryear.
2. The Cosmopolitan Restaurant was owned by a Bavarian woman who is said to have made some of the best hash in the west. The original building was dismantled in 1895, at the tail-end of when locals were in a mass exodus from the imploding Silver Reef, but a replica of the Cosmopolitan still stands today.
3. Silver Reef’s Main Street
was filled with flourishing, bustling businesses, such as the Louder General Store, which was run by the town newspaper's editor. Today, it’s everything you’d expect from an abandoned old ghost town—tumbleweed, cactuses, crippled buildings, and an eerie desert silence.
4. The Elk Horn Saloon was once easily recognizable because of the giant elk horns mounted to its front sign (which are now on display at the town museum; the saloon is no longer standing, and is now marked by a large sign). For about 15 years, the bar was run by a successful German owner who gave out free food to get people drinking. According to Silver Reef historians , the saloon owner’s business luck nearly wore out when he ousted a man for eating—but not drinking—at his bar. The angry patron came back with a vengeance and a gun, and in typical old west fashion, initiated a shoot-out. Fortunately for the community, the man missed five times, so the staff kept working and the drinks kept a-comin’.
Silver Reef is located in Leeds, Utah, right off I-15. It’s 40 minutes west of Zion, 30 minutes northeast of Red Cliffs, and—ironically for a ghost town—is adjacent to an upscale neighborhood with satellite dishes and swimming pools. Someone’s gotta keep the tumbleweed in line, right?
A few of the original buildings remain intact, while others are crumbling at this 19th-century silver-mining ghost town. The restored Wells Fargo building houses an art gallery and museum with diagrams providing a more detailed look at Silver Reef. You do need them because it's hard to imagine, given the encroaching subdivision. It's 18 miles northeast of St George.
1903 Wells Fargo Rd. Leeds
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Silver Reef Museum
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Silver Reef Museum, Leeds
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Silver Reef Trail
Activities : Hiking
Trail Distance: 0.2 miles (one way) single-track
Trail Difficulty: Moderate
The Silver Reef Trail starts in the Red Cliffs Campground near campsite 7 and the restrooms. The Silver Reef Trail leads to a lookout of the Silver Reef geologic formation. Silver Reef was mined for its deposits of silver, the only know silver ore deposits in a sandstone formation in the world. This trail leads to the Red Cliffs Dinosaur Track Site which contains well-preserved Eubrontes, Kanyentapus, and Grallator tracks. The largest track site can be reached by hiking a short signed spur trail off the main trail. Other track locations are identified by markers with a three toed dinosaur footprint. At the end of the main trail there is a lookout that offers an outstanding view of the surrounding area.
Access note: To enter the Red Cliffs Recreation Area , vehicle and trailer height and width is restricted to 11 feet 9 inches to pass through two narrow underpasses beneath the I-15 freeway. Plan your travel according.
Northbound from Saint George: From I-15 northbound, take exit 22 for UT-228 north toward Leeds, then turn right onto Old Highway 91. Continue for 2 miles, then turn right onto West Red Cliffs Campground Road.
Southbound from Cedar City: From I-15 southbound, take exit 23 toward UT-228/Leeds, then turn left onto Silver Reef Road. Continue for 480 feet, then turn right onto Main Street. After 1.5 miles, continue southbound on Old Highway 91 for 2 miles. Turn right onto West Red Cliffs Campground Road.
Day Use Fee: $5 per vehicle. Cash or check only. The America the Beautiful Passes are accepted here and allow free day-use.
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Silver Reef Ghost Town
Leeds , Utah USA
- Credit Cards Accepted
“Only place in the US where silver was discovered in sandstone!”
Rich veins of silver were discovered in the hills north of what is now the town of Leeds, along I-15 about 15 miles NE of St George. A boom occurred in the 1870 and a town sprang up, rapidly becoming the largest community in southern Utah. At its zenith it boasted some 9 stores, 6 saloons, a bank, several restaurant, a hospital, 2 dance halls, 2 newspapers and 3 cemeteries. By 1891 the mines had produced about 25 million dollars worth of ore. But the veins played out quickly and the town went bust. The old Silver Reef Wells Fargo Express office is on the National Historical Register and is now houses a small museum. Foundations of a few other old buildings can be seen. Tailings from mines can be seen in the surrounding area. New mining efforts are undertaken now and again, and much of the area is closed to exploration. A few dangerous open shafts dot the countryside and so explorers need to use caution. Silver Reef has appeared in American films since the late 1960s. The area was scouted by corporate executives from Twentieth-Century Fox for use in the 1969 film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and served as a backdrop in the 1979 film The Electric Horseman. Silver Reef was featured in the 1998 documentary Treasure House: The Utah Mining Story.
Reviewed by Greenthriftymama
Cool ghost town (even though there are many new nice houses all around it) The museum is open Mon, thurs, fri, sat 10-5pm. Www.silverreef.org is the correct website. There is a map you can grab for a on your own walking tour of 10 places in this old town.
Reviewed by ajcadoo
Not really a ghost town. Nothing truly abandoned. The museum is nice though (pictured above). There is a cool dirt road behind the town if you want to do some off roading but I didn't see anything abandoned.
Reviewed by Kathi Dunham-Filson
Cool little ghost town! Was a little confused to see so many beautiful homes built around it, but they have done a great job trying to preserve the history! Nice self guided walking tour. Didn't make it in time for the museum, but has a rich history and fun facts about the past. Also has a QR code you can scan to watch videos. A definite must if your passing through.ll
Reviewed by SaraAndDanielRoadTrip
Was a nice little visit. Wasn’t very big or abandoned. The surrounding houses were beautiful and the view from the top was pretty.
Reviewed by megiasano
Not much of a ghost town, but the museum was great and volunteers were very knowledgeable! Great tour guide of the mini mine and great information given about the museum and everything inside and out!
Reviewed by Stephen Rees
- Road Warrior
- 273 Reviews
- 331 Helpful
As other people mentioned, Silver Reef isn't really an abandoned ghost town considering all the ritzy houses in the surrounding area. It is, however, a fine place to check out if you've got some time on your hands in between Zion and St. George. The museum is supposedly pretty cool, but unfortunately was closed when I drove by. It's free to walk around and explore the area, and $3/person (or $10/family) to take a guided tour.
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The Silver Reef Ghost Town is surrounded by development and most of the towns buildings and old mining equipment have be closed to public access. It's still worth visiting as you can see some of the old ruins right from the road. Sliver Reef is 1/2 miles northwest of Leeds Utah, and there is an exit right off of I-15 marked Silver Reef.
Silver Reef was said to be discovered in 1869 by a man of the name John Kemple. In 1876 Silver Reef became a bustling mining town with 2000 residents. There were hotels, restaurants, stores, saloons, hospital, and 3 cemeteries that grew in population almost as fast as the town did.
In 1891 the last mine shaft was closed down. Roughly 25 million dollars worth of oar was taken out of Silver Reef in its existence. There is said to be an old Wells Fargo building that is on the National Historical Register, I was unable to locate it.
Leeds Town Hall
218 N. Main Street
P.O. Box 460879
Leeds, UT 84746
Leeds Area History
Red Cliffs Recreation Area
Leeds CCC Camp
Quail Creek Reservoir State Park
Nearby Lodging (Affiliate Link):
Leeds Utah Hotels
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St george news archives.
- 57 61/ 42 Tue 53/ 39 Wed 47/ 35
Great Adventure Road Tour: Silver Reef Ghost Town
FEATURE — In this episode of “Nielson RV’s Great Adventure Road Tour,” Scott Nielson and St. George News reporter Hollie Reina adventure back in time to the Silver Reef Ghost Town in Leeds.
Silver Reef was a mining town in the late 1800s that boomed when a prospector found a strand of silver in the sandstone.
The Silver Reef Museum’s history webpage summarizes the story:
In 1866 a prospector discovered silver in the vicinity of the future town of Silver Reef, but he did not develop his find until 1870, at which time he and some friends formed the Harrisburg Mining District and began small-scale operations. In 1874, when prospectors staked out the Leeds claim on White Reef, a sandstone ledge, a small camp originated nearby that came to be known as Silver Reef because of the numerous silver strikes in the area. It reached its peak between 1877 and 1880, when stores and hotels, a bank, a church, and a Wells-Fargo office lined the busy street.
The once bustling town has a history that seems to be straight out of a Western novel or movie. According to the museum website, several labor disputes between mining laborers and mine owners erupted and shootouts, gambling and prostitution were commonplace.
A fire in 1979 destroyed many buildings, and though residents rebuilt it, the town began to decline shortly after.
Today, Silver Reef is a ghost town of decaying buildings and remnants of the once wild and thriving area.
Know before you go
The Silver Reef Museum in Silver Reef offers guided tours on the hour beginning at 10:30 a.m. during open days. Museum admission is $3 per person or $10 for a family.
Silver Reef Museum hours:
- Monday | 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
- Tuesday | Closed.
- Wednesday | Closed.
- Thursday | 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
- Friday | 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
- Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
- Sunday | Closed.
The museum also hosts monthly activities including art and history lectures, activities and reenactments. To see a listing of events by month click here .
The Silver Reef Museum is located at 1903 Wells Fargo Road in the Silver Reef area of Leeds. Guests can visit the museum and stroll around the grounds to see historic ruins and markers and enjoy stunning vistas of the Southwest desert.
Driving directions from St. George to Silver Reef
- From St. George Boulevard, take Interstate 15 northbound to Exit 22 to Leeds (approximately 13 miles).
- From Exit 22, turn left onto Main Street heading north (approximately 6 miles).
- Turn left onto Silver Reef Road (road passes under I-15).
- Take a slight right to stay on Silver Reef Road then turn left, still on Silver Reef Road following the signs to the Silver Reef Museum.
- Turn right onto Wells Fargo Road to reach the destination.
Camping in the area
There are several campgrounds near the Silver Reef area of Leeds. A few of them are as follows:
- Oak Grove Campground in the Dixie National Forest .
- Quail Creek State Park .
- Red Cliffs Campground in the Red Cliffs Recreation Area.
- St. George / Hurricane KOA in Harrisburg .
Written by HOLLIE REINA, St. George News.
• S P O N S O R E D C O N T E N T •
- Nielson RV | Website | Facebook | Telephone: 435-652-1111 in St. George or 435-635-5036 in Hurricane | Locations: 341 E. Sunland Drive, St. George, and 1210 W. State St., Hurricane.
Email: [email protected]
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Hollie Stark is a writer, outdoor enthusiast, mother, and Southern Utah gal.
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Visit Silver Reef Ghost Town!
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- Popular Location Sunbrook Golf Club 6 min drive
- Popular Location Thunder Junction All Abilities Park 6 min drive
- Popular Location Utah Tech University 12 min drive
- Airport St. George, UT (SGU) 22 min drive
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3 bedrooms (sleeps 6), 3 bathrooms, about this property, property manager, similar properties.
Comfortable 4 bd Home | Near Zion
2-Pools right across the street-Highly Rated-Personally Managed
5 Pools | Great Value | No Resort Fees | Las Palmas All Inclusive Resort | #1623
Large Family Friendly Home at Paradise Village resort at Zion private hot tub
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You'll be asked to pay the following charges at the property:
- A damage deposit of USD 100 will be collected before check-in.
We have included all charges provided to us by the property.
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We should mention, about the neighborhood, what's nearby.
- Sunbrook Golf Club - 6 min drive
- Thunder Junction All Abilities Park - 6 min drive
- Dixie Convention Center - 9 min drive
- St. George Utah Temple - 11 min drive
- Utah Tech University - 12 min drive
- St. George Regional Airport (SGU) - 23 min drive
- Chick-Fil-A - 8 min drive
- McDonald's - 7 min drive
- McDonald's - 9 min drive
- Cliffside Restaurant - 12 min drive
- Dutch Bros Coffee - 7 min drive
Frequently asked questions
Yes, this property has an outdoor pool.
No, pets are not allowed at this property.
Check-in begins at 4:00 PM.
Check-out is at 10:00 AM.
This family-friendly St. George resort is located in a rural location, within 3 mi (5 km) of Sunbrook Golf Club, Thunder Junction All Abilities Park and Southgate Golf Club. Sand Hollow Aquatic Center and Rosenbruch Wildlife Museum are also within 6 mi (10 km).
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Silver Reef Ghost Town
- 22nd February 2014
- utah , ghost towns
William Tecumseh Barbee was one of the earliest people to prospect for silver in southwest Utah and made one of the most significant discoveries. His initial claims in Silver Reef were staked in 1875, and with a large rush of prospectors and miners brought in, the mine and mill were in full operation by 1878.
At its height, Silver Reef had a population of 2,000. There were hotels, 9 stores, 6 saloons, a bank, several restaurants, a hospital, 2 dance halls, 2 news papers, a china town and 3 cemeteries.
As the price of silver dropped, mines gradually began to close. By 1884, most were closed and by 1901, most buildings had been demolished. The old Wells Fargo bank still stands today and now houses a small museum and gift shop of the once bustling mining town.
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