Drought Reveals Foundations Of Old Pioneer Structures In Summit County

Jul 17, 2021, 6:47 PM | Updated: 11:13 pm

ROCKPORT, Utah — Dire drought conditions have revealed a rare piece of Utah history in the small town of Rockport.

Low water levels have forced state leaders to take drastic measures — pulling water from our emergency storage and shutting down boat ramps across the state.

Gunnison Reservoir in Sanpete County has completely dried up. Nine others are below 30 percent capacity and 26 are below 55 percent.

That includes Rockport Reservoir in Summit County where parts of pioneer-era buildings have started to resurface.

The reservoir was put in over the old town.

Typically, in a bad year, you might see water levels like this in October, but of course, it’s still July. Because of those low levels, you can now see the foundation of one old building that usually stays underwater.

Just beyond the cracked debris of the old highway, you get this outline of an old building.

“The first building you can see usually is exposed every year,” said Rockport State Park Manager Eric Bradshaw. “It’s sitting at about 60 percent.”

You can usually count on seeing that one, but further down that road, Bradshaw said “the other foundations you don’t see nearly as often.” 

As Bradshaw showed from a photo album of the area over the years, you can see the two buildings just off the current highway. The picture of what appears to be the second one looks like an old school house.

Picture of both old buildings.

Picture of the second old building, which looks like a schoolhouse.

“It is kind of cool because it is still history,” said Bradshaw. “This used to be a town. It was a fort before it was a town. It was called Rock Fort.” 

That fort dates back to the mid-1800’s.

“European settlers came in, established a little community there,” said Jon Parry, assistant general manager of the Weber Basin Water Conservancy District. “They were having some conflicts with the natives, so they ended up building kind of a rock wall around their settlement.”

Parry said that’s where Rock Fort got its name, but towards the end of the 19th century, the rock wall came down. 

“They used the materials that were used for that rock fort to construct some other facilities and buildings,” he said.

At one a time, a settlement of around 100 was in the area. That dwindled to about 27 families by the 1950’s. 

The first old structure. (KSL-TV) Rockport State Park Manager Eric Bradshaw. (KSL-TV) The old highway. (KSL-TV) Jon Parry, assistant general manager of the Weber Basin Water Conservancy District. (KSL-TV)

“And so, at that point, the federal government came in and bought the land, relocated several of those historic buildings,” said Parry.

That’s when Rockport, along with several other reservoirs, were created in the Weber Basin.

Parry said it’s not all that unusual to have them over old settlements, but a bit more rare to have that history show up again.

“To be this low, it’s very eye-opening, hopefully for people,” said Bradshaw.

Bradshaw also said with the water this low, it’s especially important to watch out for the buoys, since rocks and sandbars that aren’t usually exposed are starting to show up, too.

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Drought Reveals Foundations Of Old Pioneer Structures In Summit County