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Cisco’s Story: The Rise, Fall, and Rise of a Small Town Utah | Go out and go

Cisco, Utah, is a former railway town and a breeding center. While Cisco isn’t a ghost town – the 2020 U.S. Census recorded four residents – Cisco has seen busier days.

The town of Cisco arose because of the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad (D&RG), which was built through Grand County in the 1880s. The railroad company operated a depot and water treatment plant to pump l Colorado River water to replenish its steam locomotives. Drinking water for Cisco’s businesses and homes was transported by train and transported by hand in buckets to cisterns. Thanks to the railroad, which made it easy to export livestock and livestock products, the multiple livestock operations around Cisco provided another facet of the industry to the remote community.

By 1944 Cisco had a post office, general store, one-room school, several houses, and a ranch owned by the Pace Cattle Company. However, Interstate Highway 70 was built five miles north of downtown Cisco, and the D&RG was converted to diesel locomotives, so the Cisco station was no longer needed. The city’s population dried up soon after, and Cisco was largely unoccupied for years. Many buildings have fallen into disrepair, but many have survived and retain a character that takes visitors almost a century back to a more bustling Desert City era.

The city of Cisco is now accessible between Utah 128 and the Danish Flat exit of I-70. Visitors to Cisco should be aware that the city is home to residents and is not on public land, and should be aware of the property lines. The community has gained attention in recent years with the Home of the Brave Artist Residency Program created by Cisco resident Eileen Muza. Additionally, Buzzard’s Belly General Store reopened in 2019, serving passers-by and boaters accessing the nearby Cisco boat launch, the terminus for Westwater Canyon boat tours on the Colorado River. As Cisco’s story continues to be written by residents, its trajectory is emblematic of the ebbs and flows seen in many communities across Grand County in response to an ever-changing economy and culture.

The Moab Museum is dedicated to sharing stories of the natural and human history of the Moab region. To explore more of Moab’s stories and artifacts, find out about upcoming programs, and become a member, visit www.moabmuseum.org.

Mary Cashion

The author Mary Cashion