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Cisco - Crumbling in the
Baking in the relentless desert sun on
U.S. Highway 6, south of I-70 near the
border is the crusty railroad town of Cisco,
looking like something out of a scary movie, where a driver’s car
breaks down, and he or she disappears forever, this now quiet town was
not always so.
Cisco began as a much needed watering stop
for the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad 's steam engines in the
1880s. Slowly, a town grew up around the railroad station that
primarily supported the nearby cattle ranchers and sheep herders. With
the railroad, the settlement quickly became a provisioning and
shipping center for the livestock who ranged in the nearby Book
Cliffs. In fact, at the turn of the century over 100,000 head of sheep
were sheared here, before being shipped to market.
On the main railroad line
from Grand Junction,
Salt Lake City,
railroad not only maintained a water tank for the locomotives, but
also a depot, and several section buildings.
Cisco's tiny post office is long closed,
Kathy Weiser, April, 2008.
This image available for
photo prints & commercial
Though seasonal rains sometimes produced grassy fields, and filled dry
water tanks, the vast majority of the water for the area, first had to be
hauled in, and later piped in, from the nearby Colorado River.
In 1924, oil and natural gas were discovered in the region which gave a
boost to the town. At one time, Cisco was the largest producer of oil and
natural gas in the state. After World War II, when Americans began a love
affair with the automobile and began to travel as never before, Cisco was
a welcome respite for thirsty travelers headed through the arid desert.
Situated on the main highway through the region at the time (US 6/50), a
number of businesses sprouted up to serve those passing through, including
restaurants, gas stations, and saloons. In the 1940’s the town was called
home to about 200 people.
In the 1950’s, when the
railroad began to use diesel engines, replacing the coal powered steam
engines and the need for water stops, Cisco was became a candidate for a
However, the small town was saved by the discovery of uranium and vanadium
in the area that drew prospectors by the thousands. Cisco catered to the
desert prospectors for several years, until the mining "craze” fizzled and
the prospectors moved on.
Two decades later;
however, Cisco would not be so lucky when I-70 barreled through the
region, completely bypassing Cisco and its businesses. The economy
immediately declined and people moved away.
One of the last businesses to survive in Cisco
was a combination gas station and restaurant. However, when a
longhaired biker stopped
for gas and took off without paying, the owner shot him. Somehow, in
this crusty little town, we are not surprised to hear this tale. The gas
station owner was then jailed, leaving the business to be run by his wife.
The tale continues that the wife would only serve those whom she felt like
serving, with the door kept closed and customers having to knock to get
in. If she opened the door, a big dog would often bite the ankle of the
customer. If the potential customer kicked the dog, she would refuse to
serve them. However, if they stayed calm, they would be allowed to
purchase a meal.
Today, Cisco is a true
with numerous abandoned buildings and businesses, sitting amongst old
railroad and oilfield junk and dozens of rusting cars. Nearly everything
here is crumbling and vandalized except for a couple of new oil wells that
were drilled nearby in 2005.
Though the railroad
tracks continue to be used by the Union Pacific Railroad and the
California Zephyr still "flies” through, the train ceased to stop here
decades ago. Allegedly, there are still a few people who live in this
desolate town, but during Legends of America's visit in 2008 we saw nary a
soul, not even a roaming dog.
The Cisco Landing Store appears to have been the last operating store in
ghost town, Kathy Weiser, April, 2008.
This image available for
photo prints & commercial downloads
We weren’t wrong about the old town looking
like something out of a movie, as scenes from the 1971 film Vanishing
Point, Thelma and Louise in 1991 and Don't Come Knocking,
in 2005, were filmed here.
Cisco is 50 miles east of Green River, south
of I-70 at exit 204, when traveling eastbound, or exit 214, if traveling
of America, updated October, 2013.
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