Ghost Town: Watson


Critter Whisperer
Site: Watson
County, State: Uintah county, Utah
Years of Occupation: 1905 - 1939
Status of Site: Open
Classification: 1.5
Type: Mining/Railroad
Remnants: Ruins, rubble, foundations, stock pens
GPS Coordinate: 39.8815 109.1577
Date of Last Visit: March, 2017
More Reading:

Watson, along with the nearby ghost towns of Dragon and Rainbow is another of Uintah county’s Gilsonite mining towns of the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.

Gilsonite is an almost pure form of hydrocarbon. Most people have never heard of Gilsonite. But most people encounter it’s use or benefit from its use on an almost daily basis, even today. Most newspapers in the USA and Europe use Gilsonite in the ink they are printed with. It’s used to insulate pipe in extreme outdoor environments. It’s used in the manufacture of steel. It’s used in road building. And the only place on the planet that it is found, is in the Uintah basin.

And of course, the history of Watson and nearby towns is closely linked to Gilsonite, but their histories are just as intertwined with the famous Uintah Railway. In 1905 a small settlement was established, but Watson wasn’t officially opened until 1911 when the railroad reached it.

Watson was named after Uintah Railway civil engineer, Wallace G. Watson, who designed the railway extension from Dragon to Watson along Evacuation creek. For most of Watson’s life, it’s residents, along with those of Vernal, would continue to speculate and hope that the railway would be continued on to Vernal and also be made a standard gauge. But alas, that was not ever to be… Watson would be the closest a freight and passenger railway would ever get to Vernal.

The town was settled on the broad floor of a canyon and was bounded on each side by towering cliffs. A spur line went up the canyon from Watson to Rainbow, another mining town.

Watson replaced Dragon as the principle Uinta Basin terminus for the freight and passengers. Most of the towns business was conducted near the railroad tracks. An enormous warehouse sheltered freight and wool to be shipped. One long siding was lined with Gilsonite loading docks upon which sacks of ore were piled high. The ore awaiting shipment was mostly from American Asphalt Associations’ Bandana and Little Bonanza Mines and was shipped directly to Mack, Colorado. Other structures in Watson besides the rail depot and warehouse were a post office, a school, telephone office and a general store. There was a hotel for weary rail travelers and a busy mechanics shop for those plying the area roads in early automobiles.

From 1916 to 1925, it appeared that Watson was on the verge of a vast industrial development. Several oil companies made arrangements with the federal government for the use of large beds of oil shale near Watson. Several companies developed construction plans for extraction of oil from these beds of oil shale, but in 1926, the federal government put an abrupt end to all plans for the reduction of oil shale by means of an Executive Order from President Coolidge. Watson, Dragon, Rainbow and the Uintah Railway all died with the Rainbow Mine, leaving almost total inactivity in the Gilsonite mines south of the White River after 1938.







Directions to Get There:

Coming from the north, while heading east from Jensen, at about 11 miles after crossing the river take a right and turn south for about 23 miles to Bonanza.

From Bonanza, stay on the same road heading generally south. Cross the White River about 4 miles out of Bonanza. Stay on this road, heading generally southeast for about another 7 miles, stay right at the intersection – going left takes you to Dragon. Staying right, in bout 6 miles you’ll come to the site of Watson.


Thanks Dave, I've been trying to get out there for a couple years, this just loaded another cylinder. I need to pull the trigger before it gets to hot.