Ghost Town: Iosepa - Tooele County


Moderator & Supporting Member
Site: Iosepa
Years of Occupation: 1889-1917
Status of Site: Open
Remnants: Yes, a neat cemetery and memorial markers.
GPS Coordinate: 40.542° N,112.733° W

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Townsite marker (Photo by Ryan Davis)

If you haven't had the chance to wander into Utah's West Desert and visit Iosepa, do it.

In 1889, Hawaiian immigrants and converts to the LDS church had been asked to move from their Salt Lake Valley homes to a to-be built city in Skull Valley, an hour west of Salt Lake. Its name would be Iosepa, the Hawaiian form of the name Joseph, named in honor of Joseph Fielding Smith of the LDS Church. For nearly 30 years the towns stalwart residents (many of which suffered from leprosy) worked to build homes, capture water for irrigation, grow crops, raise livestock all while battling the hardships of the desert. The town's citizens did a remarkable job with the scant resources they had to work with, setting up settlement so remarkable it was awarded the Utah state prize in 1911 for being the "Best kept and most progressive city in the state".

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Checking out the memorial marker (Photo by Ryan Davis)

All that is left of this once prize city is the well adorned cemetery and a much newer pavilion used by the towns descendents for memorials and celebrations. Following the mass departure by the residents, the assets were sold off to a private ranching interest. In the follow years the towns streets and homes were slowly dismantled and eventually the town was plowed to flatten the fields for livestock.

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Iosepa time capsule (Photo by Ryan Davis)

Some of the best Iosepa information on the web comes from our very own forum member, Bonniville Mariner (Clint T). Clint has done a fantastic job documenting the small lake created by damning the local spring waters. Kanaka Lake as it was later called, was used by the settlers for recreation and fishing opportunities. Clint recently proved that carp still occupy the lake, whether or not they are remnants of the original stock hasn't quite been proven. Check out Clint's site here:

Additional Reading:,_Utah

To Get There:
Head west from Salt Lake City along Interstate 80 to exit 77, Skull Valley Rd. Head south on SR196 (Skull Valley Road) for approximately 14 miles. Watch for the Iosepa signs on the left (east) side of SR196 indicating the turnoff to the Iosepa cemetery. Follow the short gravel road to a small parking area adjacent to the cemetery. Alternatively you can reach the site from the south via Dugway or Rush Valley. Google Maps Link

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Iosepa Memorial (Photo by Ryan Davis)

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Hawaiian Figurine (Photo by Ryan Davis)

Historical Photos courtesy of the Utah State Historical Society






(See below for further historical photos)

Feel free to post up any Iosepa stories or pictures you might have.
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That was fun to stop by there Kurt, I'm glad we did. That neck of the woods can seem pretty nasty in the winter but I think it's beautiful country and honestly I could think of worse places to settle. It seems like you're 200 miles from civilization out there but in reality you're what, 30 minutes from about whatever you need. Cool stuff.


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