Geoff Liesik/The Deseret News
Geoff Liesik/The Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY – The real estate listing reads like a Wild West exhibit: An old gold mine, a geyser, and a supposed hideout of famed outlaws.
It’s all in a middle-of-nowhere ghost town for sale three hours southeast of Salt Lake City. Listing price? $3.9 million.
Woodside once bustled with about 300 residents in the early 1900s when it was a water stop for steam engines. Now the town sits empty – of people, that is. Two free-range llamas come with the deal.
There’s a geyser, too, but it no longer shoots high after being jammed by vandals. Once, the cold-water spout shot up 75 feet and was a popular tourist attraction known as the Roadside Geyser. No entry fee required.
Even though the town has seen better days, real estate agent Mike Getzer said the property is full of potential for someone with an entrepreneurial, Wild West spirit.
“You can be the sheriff, the judge and executioner of your own town,” he joked. “You can be mayor. You can be whatever you wanted. It would be amazing.”
A service station also still stands on the property with a Post Office inside.
“You can be your own postmaster, too,” Metzger chuckled.
Woodside sits along Route 6 in Emery County, surrounded by the Book Cliffs – desert mountains given their name because of the area topography that looks like book shelves. The town itself is flat, surrounded by brush and bisected by the Price River.
It’s also a place with a legendary past.
Historians believe Butch Cassidy and his gang once used the remote canyon country of the San Rafael Swell near Woodside as a hideout.
“And nobody’s ever found it – at least that they’re admitting,” Metzger said.
The town’s owner, Roy Pogue, 63, is selling it, in part, because he can’t take care of the land anymore and said his wife “likes people and we didn’t have neighbors out there.”
Pogue bought the property in 1990 from a doctor in Provo. He planned to farm and ranch on the land with the water rights that come with it. Instead, he found himself more often helping travelers whose vehicles broke down, so he refurbished the old service station and opened it for business. Because of its proximity to the tourist hub of Moab, about 80 miles south, he had plenty of people stopping by.
“Just being at that little station, for the years that I had it opened ... there’s no country in the whole world I never met people from,” Pogue said.
There were also treasure seekers.
The first resident of Woodside is believed to have been Henry H. Hutchinson, a prospector who arrived in 1881 and, local legend has it, found a Spanish gold mine near the town. Pogue said over the years visitors would come with treasure maps and books trying to find the old mine.
“Nobody ever knew where it was,” he said.
Western ghost towns are the stuff of American folklore, and it’s not uncommon lately to see one up for sale.
In remote, southern Wyoming, Buford – population 1 – was sold at auction this year for $900,000. The place was advertised as the smallest town in America.
But the sales don’t always attract a buyer willing to invest in a forgotten hamlet.
The 5-acre town of Pray in southwestern Montana was put up for sale but bidding ended last month after offers fell short of the initial $1.4 million asking price.
Metzger hopes Woodside, 706 acres in all, will fetch a buyer.
“The potential gain,” he noted, is to own a “piece of historical Americana that I don’t think is available anywhere else – to own your own Wild West town.”
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