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Ghost Town Trails: Visit easily accessible old mining town, Eureka, Utah

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Eureka, Utah, is the featured ghost town in this month’s installment of Ghost Town Trails. Last month we visited Greenhorn that has the unique designation of being the smallest and highest incorporated city in the state of Oregon.

While Eureka still has inhabitants, it is ghostly enough to warrant an entry in Ghost Town Trails. It is also extremely easy to visit as a paved state highway (Main Street) runs through the middle of town. Since the majority of businesses lining Main Street went out of existence decades ago, feel free to bring the RV along with you as street parking is plentiful.

Eureka, Utah main street
Shuttered businesses on main street

History

Silver was first discovered in 1869 in the area where Eureka, Utah, would be founded. Eureka was originally known as Ruby Hollow before it grew into a bustling mining town and financial center. Eureka incorporated as a city in 1892. By 1910, Eureka developed into the 9th largest city in Utah, with a population of approximately 3,900. Eureka was also said to be the second-largest silver-producing region in the world.

Eureka, Utah historical photo
Eureka in 1911 – Public Domain Photo

During the boom years, millions of dollars of ore poured out of the mines. The “Big Four” mines—Bullion Beck and Champion, Centennial Eureka, Eureka Hill, and Gemini—as well as the Chief Consolidated Mining Company later, were responsible for most of the wealth. As with most mining boom towns, the rush couldn’t last forever. As the mines went deeper, the ore began to play out and ground water became more of an issue, along with other difficulties, causing the mines to become unprofitable and close. By the late 1950s, all the major mines had closed. With no jobs, the town’s population slowly faded away, causing the merchants to shutter their businesses. Thankfully, in 1979, Eureka, Utah, was placed on the National Register of Historic Places to protect the town’s historical sites for future generations to experience.

Our visit to Eureka, Utah

My wife and I visited Eureka in the fall with our travel trailer in tow. Even though Eureka is located at 6,430 ft. elevation, summer months can be hot, so fall was a pleasant time to visit. I suspect spring would be equally as nice. As mentioned above, since Main Street has few operating businesses, we were able to easily parallel park our truck and trailer along the curb. We started our visit by walking Main Street, peering in the windows and thinking what life would have been like when these businesses were still in operation.

Eureka Jail
The jail at the back of city hall

As I studied the jail attached to the back of city hall, I came to believe that anyone who spent a winter night in the concrete jail was not likely to re-offend. With only bars for window covering and uninsulated walls, it had to be a very uncomfortable place.

The Tintic Mining Museum on Main Street proved to be a great resource for anyone, like myself, that wants to learn more about Eureka and the surrounding mining district.

mine in Eureka, Utah
Mining cages for lowering / raising miners deep into the mine. Note the grate covering the shaft and the chain link fence added by the EPA

During our visit, the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) was just completing remediation of the mines. Thankfully, they recognized the historical value of the mining structures and were in the process of protecting the structures, adding grates to vertical mine shafts, fencing off unstable structures and removing / covering tailing piles to prevent erosion of materials deemed toxic into nearby waterways. These safety features allowed us to get up close and explore the remaining mining structures. For an easy-to-get-to populated “ghost” town, it was an enjoyable visit.

Eureka, Utah mine
Headframe

Getting there:

Eureka, Utah, is located on U.S. Hwy 6 approximately 70 miles southwest of Salt Lake City. Navigating to 255 Main St., Eureka, UT 84628, will take you to the front doors of city hall.

Since you can easily visit Eureka with your RV (you don’t even need to unhitch your dinghy or tow vehicle), be sure to stop by for a visit next time you are traveling through the area. The ghosts will appreciate it.

Hoist inside the hoist house

Camping

There are no formal campgrounds in the immediate vicinity of Eureka.

Those that like to boondock will find several large tracts of BLM land along the north and west sides of Hwy 6 just west of town.

Mining exhibit

##RVT1075

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Bill Braniff
9 days ago

I used to do testing in the 80’s at a silver mine in Eureka. Interesting

wanderer
1 month ago

I was so excited til you said ‘removed/covered tailings piles’. Oh well, another place to rockhound ruined.

Dave
1 month ago
Reply to  wanderer

Wanderer,
I share your frustration. Stay tuned as I will visit other ghostly places where you can rockhound old tailing piles for days.

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