[Floodgap Roadgap presents the Summer of 6]

Floodgap Roadgap's Summer of 6 -- U.S. Highway 6, Part 9: US 6 in Utah (Price to Colorado State Line; Carbon County, Emery County, Grand County)

Go to: Part 8 | Main US 6 page | Part 10

From here it's out of the mountains and back into the blasted high desert plains of the Western Great Basin again. In this section, we leave the end of US 6 (as far as the Utah legislature is concerned) on Interstate 70 into Colorado which we will parallel or drive with all the way into Denver.

Interstate 70 is a major east-west highway starting at I-15 near Cove Fort, UT, and from there proceeding to Baltimore, MD via Denver, Kansas City, St. Louis, Indianapolis and Dayton. Historically, it is both the "first" and "last" piece of the original Eisenhower Interstate System, its runs in Kansas and Missouri dating to 1956 and the segment through the Colorado Glenwood Canyon (which we will travel) not completed until 1992. Against Utah's wishes, I-70 does not reach the Wasatch Front and the Salt Lake region proper -- instead of Utah's plan, which would have replaced most or all of US 6 with the Interstate up to Spanish Fork, military interests forced the routing closer to southern California; this was the major reason Utah moved US 50 south from its original routing with US 6 (see Part 5). Ironically, we rejoin US 50 in this Part, co-routed with I-70, having left it way back in Delta.

East of the Rockies, I-70 is the inheritor of US 40 and the old National Road, which we will discuss when we reach modern US 40 in Colorado. West of it, however, substantial portions were built on completely new alignment without any prior existing routing. The most famous of these is undoubtedly the portion through the San Rafael Swell, a roughly 3,000 square mile dome of sedimentary rock in south-central Utah eroded into fascinating canyons and mesas by aeons of water action. Believed approximately 60 million years old and dating to the Paleocene Era, it was reached only by the Old Spanish Trail and various dirt roads until Interstate 70 crossed through it in 1970. Its startling otherworldly beauty has made it a perennial candidate for national park status since at least 2002. Sadly, US 6 only skirts its eastern edge and we will not see nor enter it directly.

The 110-mile segment between Salina and Green River is the longest portion built over a completely new routing since the Alaska Highway, the longest piece of Interstate highway to open simultaneously, and the longest segment of Interstate highway with no motorist services -- at all. We will intersect I-70 at the far east extent of this famous strip of asphalt. For now, back to Price.

Distance signage leaving Price with Moab and Arches National Park listed for US 191, and Lake Powell listed for US 50/I-70.
Mile 245.
Entering Wellington.
Wellington could be considered a suburb of Price in a sense, being mostly a residential community for that city and the mines. Named for local jurist Justus Wellington Seeley, Jr., the city has 1,673 residents [2012].

East of us is a county road signed as Old Wellington Rd. It's not clear if this ever was a routing of US 6/50 or when it was realigned. We won't travel it here.

Mile 247 through Wellington.
EB US 6/[SB] US 191 leaving town.
A (geologically) recent area of upheaval leaves a starkly visible bas-relief of sedimentary rock on the left.
From here, there's almost nothing until I-70. Let's kick it.
Junction U-123. UT 123 serves the towns of Sunnyside and East Carbon at the base of the Book Cliffs, ending at a county road in Whitmore Canyon.
Distance signage leaving the UT 123 junction, with signage for Grand Junction.
Mile 259.
Emery county line.

Emery County, UT

Emery county is named for George W. Emery, Utah's territorial governor in 1875 (though the county was founded officially in 1880). Other than Green River, we won't see much of its populated areas, most of which lie well to the west. Mining coal is as important here as it is in Carbon county; it is the state's second highest producing county, displacing the livestock and midsize agriculture that was the county's economic base until around 1970, and leading to job concerns as depressed markets and increased automation have gradually entered the industry. Its county seat is Castle Dale; its population is 10,976 [2010].

EB US 6/SB US 191.
The Book Cliffs are again visible as we cross down into the vast Basin.
Distance signage to Green River and Moab.
Entering Woodside.
Named for the nearby cottonwood groves fed by its once prominent cold water geyser, Woodside is practically a ghost town now, and there wasn't much in 2006. First settled in 1881, the disadvantages of the flat ground and the inconsistent discharge of the Price River constantly put it at risk of flooding. Although briefly connected to the railroad, most of the operations moved north to Helper in the 1920s, leaving only the diminished local geyser as a tourist attraction and a large untapped reservoir of helium gas reserved by President Calvin Coolidge as US Helium Reserve No. 1. Abandoned by 1970, the picture here shows the town as it was when owned by rancher Roy Pogue, who bought the town for an undisclosed price and was at that time its only permanent resident.
Crossing the Price River for the last time.
Mile 284.
Curving over the high desert soil.
EB US 6/SB US 191.
Mile 296.
Advance signage for I-70 and, as far as the Utah legislature is concerned, the end of US 6.
Pick-A-Park.
Hanksville is a strange control city to use, but there's not much nearby west of here. (It has all of 219 people.)
JCT I-70/US 50. It is noteworthy that UDOT put a US 50 shield here because as far as they're concerned, US 50 ended in Salina and the portions co-signed over I-70 don't count.
Similarly, here, US 50 is not signed, and neither is US 6. Only US 191 is, because US 191 isn't done in Utah yet.
Mile 300, US 6's final solo milepoint in Utah.
The southernmost US 6 shield looking back as we curl onto the Interstate.

I-70/US 6/US 50/US 191

This section of Interstate 70 through the Colorado border is not US 6 to Utah anymore even though it appears to record the mileage for national accounting. Officially US 6 was moved onto this alignment when the pieces of I-70 were complete in 1983, though it had been already truncated in the 1977 renumbering. Steve Alpert collects some of Michael Summa's wonderful old exit signage on his I-70 in Utah page. It's well-worth the comparison.

US 6 joins at Exit 157. Shortly afterwards is advance signage for Exit 160, where old US 6 enters Green River.
Mile 159. Notice the I-70 shield doesn't cosign any of the US highways, even on a separate pole like I-15 and US 6 (Part 6).
Exit 160 to Business I-70 and U-19.

Fork 1: Business Loop 70/Former US/6/50/191 in Green River (U-19)

This business routing is now signed as UT 19/BL 70 and mostly follows the course of Main Street.

Mile 0 just after the exit.
First Business Loop 70 shield.
Looking back at the interchange, US 191 is well-signed because US 191 still has miles to go. Oddly, so is US 6 (using discordant shields), but not US 50.
If I got a traffic ticket in Utah, GOSH! would not be the four letter word I'd use, personally.
First UT 19 shield, with another BL 70.
Looking back the other way, however, the route is signed as TO I-70/US 50 and WB US 6/US 191 (and no Business Loop or state route shield). This may well be the furthest east US 6 is signed in Utah.
Distance signage looking westward one last time, with mileage for Price (US 6/191), Salina (I-70/US 50) and Salt Lake (either via US 6 to I-15 or I-70 to I-15).
Entering Green River.
The town of Green River takes its name from the river itself, which sits on its banks. It is the chief tributary of the Colorado River, formerly known as the Grand River (and the Grand in Grand county, which we will get to momentarily), flowing 730 miles from its headwaters in western Wyoming, across the Fontenelle Dam and over the Flaming Gorge Dam. Briefly meandering out and back into Utah, it picks up the Price River, passes our current location, and joins with the San Rafael River on its way to Canyonlands National Park where it finally exits into the Colorado. As deep as 50 feet and almost 1500 feet wide at its most extreme extent, it supported diverse native civilizations and settlers along its banks and today is a major source of irrigation and electric power. However, for political reasons it is considered the Colorado's tributary and not the other way around, as declared by Congressional resolution in 1921 despite the objections of Wyoming and Utah.

Exactly why the Spaniards named it rio verde isn't clear because it has just as much red silt in it as the Colorado it feeds. No single explanation for its naming has sufficient historical credence, and it remains a mystery today.

The city was originally a river crossing for the U.S. Mail, with ferry service starting in 1876. In 1883 the Utah line of the D&RGW moved in, with the west side becoming Green River proper and the east side becoming Elgin, named after an unknown railroad principal. (This old name still appears on some maps.) After the D&RGW consolidated operations in Helper, the town withered somewhat until nearby uranium mining and the USAF Green River Launch Complex restored its fortunes. Today it is the only major service area along I-70 between the San Rafael Swell and the Colorado state line. Occupying a curious "spit" from the irregular border of Emery county with Grand county, the modern city was incorporated in 1906 and has 949 residents [2012].

Through central Green River, with turnoff for the local airport.
Mile 2, curving back south towards the Interstate.
The Green River itself, somewhat low in that hot July.
Mile 3, with a "TO" I-70 and US 191 shield, but nothing else.

A Note on the Cisco Highway (Old US 6/50)

The pre-Interstate alignment of US 6 and US 50 comes off shortly after, known as the Cisco Highway for the ghost town it passes. This intersection is not marked and proceeds mostly north of the Interstate with two cross-over portions. It stays this way well over the Colorado state line; we'll pick up the end of it when we get to Mack in the next Part.

On the whole, the old Cisco Hwy alignment is not good travel for passenger cars and only some of it is even theoretically maintained to any standard; much of it isn't marked to boot. I will select a brief portion to use as an example, but for now, we will continue to the Interstate.

Mile 4.
Utah did use button copy at one time; here is one of those old signs. There's a few more in this area that had not yet been replaced.
Grand county line and junction I-70. This is the end of UT 19.
Grand County, UT

Grand county is our final county in Utah. It is named for the Grand River, the former designation of the Colorado at the time Utah achieved statehood. Founded in 1890, its county seat is Moab, served by US 191. It has 9,225 residents [2010].

More button copy at the interchange as we loop back for the second fork.

Fork 2: Interstate 70 (Modern US 6/50/191)

We rejoin the Interstate, which is already in progress.

Bypassing Green River to the south.
Eastern U-19 junction at Exit 164, merging our forks.
Distance signage leaving U-19, all Colorado destinations now.
Mile 172.
US 191 separates at Exit 182 towards the National Parks and the city of Moab. We continue as I-70/US 6/US 50. This weathered sign implies the age of this particular strip of Interstate; it was part of the 1970 original construction. However, this sign does not date from 1970 because as originally constructed, this was US 163 to Moab (which if you'll recall became US 191 in 1982).
Distance signage leaving the US 191 junction.
And if they play "Hotel California" one more time, I'm gonna hit 'em.
Exit 187 to Thompson Springs, the only "services" of any sort east of Green River. This is the junction with tiny U-94.

Detour: Old Cisco Hwy in Thompson Springs/U-94

The Cisco Highway proceeds north of the Interstate until exit 175 and intersects with it there. The Interstate obliterates it until the US 191 separation, when it again resumes north of the freeway. As a detour, we will travel the relatively well-preserved segment between Thompson Springs and U-128 near Cisco, the Highway's namesake.

Moar button copy!
First U-94 shield. UT 94 is a very small stub route of less than a mile constructed with I-70 in 1969 to give Thompson Springs a connector to the freeway (which was losing its role on the mainline).
And ... that's it, with an END UT 94 shield assembly, as we enter Thompson Springs.
Thompson Springs was named for settler E. W. Thompson, who lived near the original springs known to the Fremont and Ute tribes and operated a sawmill up in the Book Cliffs. It was also a station stop on the D&RGW Utah line, established in 1883 and operated for a full century until 1983; even after that, Amtrak served it until Green River's station made it no longer economically viable. Known, and still known, as Thompson to the Postal Service, it was established officially in 1890. A small population of 39 [2010] still lives here, the only settlement of note in this region.
UDOT gives UT 94 credit for the full mile, though, but also posts an END STATE MAINTENANCE sign to make the point. This is the old Cisco Highway junction through town. We turn right.
The old single-lane creek bridge, with curious struts you probably don't want to run into with the car.
Do tell.
This is what's left of the Cisco Hwy now, and is actually a relatively well preserved segment, with visible centreline striping.
Unnamed ranch road; this intersects I-70 at Exit 193. We continue straight ahead.
The road gets noticibly rougher here.
Curving around north of the Interstate at Exit 204, where the Old Cisco Hwy becomes a frontage road.
An END STATE MAINTENANCE sign is here too, but mostly to warn people about the end of the frontage.
Junction I-70, with U-128 straight ahead.

End Detour

From here, the Old Cisco Hwy continues with UT 128 for several miles to the ghost town of Cisco, its namesake. There isn't much to recommend this route except if you're on your way to the parks which UT 128 services and there's not much of Cisco left anymore. UT 128 splits off about a mile before Cisco, leaving the old alignment to pass through the abandoned townsite and return to I-70 at Exit 214. Another steam locomotive service stop, it was abandoned in the 1970s and most of the remnants have been victimized by vandals.

Between Exit 214 and Exit 221 the old highway is mostly buried or inconsistent frontage. At Exit 221 it comes off as the Harley Dome Old Highway, named for the Harley Dome, another anticline similar to the much larger San Rafael Swell. Other than access at Exit 227, this old alignment does not rejoin the Interstate again in Utah, becoming Old 6/50 over the state line until it rejoins modern US 6/50 in Mack. Again, this route is ill-maintained and not recommended to through traffic.

Dust storm speed limit.
Exit 193, the unmarked ranch-road.
Mile 200.
Exit 204 to U-128 (Cisco is shown as having "NO SERVICES"). A more appropriate control city would have been Moab, frankly.
EB I-70 (unsigned US 6/50).
Distance signage, again, all Colorado.
Mile 217.
Mile 227, the last direct access to the old US 6/50 roadbed before we enter Colorado.
EB I-70 (unsigned US 6/50).
Through the prairie.
Final milepoint in Utah (Mile 232) and Colorado state line.
Continue to Part 10
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