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Sego Canyon in Utah: A Small Canyon With A Lot of History

sego canyon rock art

I recently had a surprisingly delightful visit to a very strange place in Utah: Sego Canyon.

Nestled in the east side of Utah, Sego Canyon is a hidden gem that offers visitors a glimpse into the area’s rich cultural and geological history. With ancient rock art and an abandoned ghost town, Sego Canyon is a worthwhile detour for travelers driving along I-70 through Utah.

Getting to Sego Canyon

Map showing Sego Canyon from I-70

Sego Canyon is approximately 30 miles west of Green River, Utah. You can take I-70 to the Thompson Springs exit (exit 187), drive through Thompson Springs, and then follow the dirt road for approximately 4 miles to the canyon.

The road is generally passable for most vehicles, although you should always think twice before going if it has been raining. A high-clearance vehicle is recommended for those who want to explore the more remote areas of the canyon.

Thompson Springs

Town of Thompson Springs in Sego Canyon

Thompson Springs was founded in the late 1800s as a stopover for trains traveling through the area. The town quickly grew into a hub for ranching, mining, and other industries, and at its peak had a population of several hundred residents. However, like many other small towns in the area, Thompson Springs began to decline in the mid-1900s as industry shifted elsewhere. Today, the town is home to only a handful of residents.

Thompson Springs is a very run-down town with abandoned and collapsed buildings. You might think it’s a ghost town, but it’s not! The ghost town is located deeper into the canyon.

One-room schoolhouse in Thompson Springs in sego canyon
The one-room schoolhouse in Thompson Springs

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The Role of the Railroad in Sego Canyon and Thompson Springs

In Sego Canyon, the railroad played a crucial role in the establishment of the town and its coal mining industry. The Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad (D&RGW) built a line through the canyon in the early 1900s, connecting Sego to other towns in the region and providing a way to transport coal out of the area. The railroad also brought supplies and equipment to the town, and many of the abandoned buildings and mining equipment in Sego Canyon are remnants of this era.

But alas, when the mines died out, Sego Canyon died out. When I-70 was built, Thompson Springs nearly died out.

Historic marker Thompson Springs in sego canyon

The Rock Art of Sego Canyon

The main draw of Sego Canyon is its impressive collection of rock art. The canyon contains thousands of petroglyphs and pictographs that were created by Native Americans. These images depict a range of subjects, from human figures and animals to abstract symbols and shapes. The rock art in Sego Canyon is particularly well-preserved.

Native American rock art in sego canyon
Native American rock art in sego canyon

It’s worth walking around and exploring the various panels scattered throughout the area. Spotting rock art isn’t always that easy. Look closer to find images you missed at first glance.

Please do not touch the rock art; let’s preserve these drawings that are 1,000+ years old for future generations.

Sego Graveyard

From the rock art, you can continue to drive into the canyon. The road gets more difficult, and this is where a high-clearance vehicle would be nice. As you drive, you’ll notice the railroad tracks and buildings.

The road forks; take your first right and you’ll notice a graveyard, one of the more interesting and poignant sites in Sego Canyon. The graveyard contains the graves of several former residents of the town, providing a window into the past and a glimpse into the lives of those who once called Sego home.

Grave markers in sego canyon cemetery
sego canyon Graveyard

The Sego Graveyard is a small, fenced-in area that contains several headstones and markers. Many of the graves are unmarked or have only rudimentary markers, and it is believed that there are several more graves in the area that have been lost to time.

While little is known about the individuals buried in the Sego Graveyard, their graves offer a poignant reminder of the challenges and hardships faced by early settlers in the American West. Many of those buried in the graveyard were coal miners.

The Ghost Town of Sego Canyon

brick building in sego canyon ghost town
brick building in sego canyon ghost town

In the late 1800s, the town of Sego was established in the canyon as a hub for coal mining. The town thrived for several decades, but eventually declined and was abandoned in the mid-1900s.

Today, the remains of the town have almost all crumbled. If I remember correctly, only one brick building is still standing. The other wooden buildings have all collapsed.

Unfortunately, this makes the ghost town of little interest to visitors who aren’t hardcore ghost town hunters.

Things To Do Nearby

There are a few things to know about nearby.

Papa Joe’s Gas & Go

Papa Joe's Gas & Go Green River

Papa Joe’s Gas & Go is a gas station-turned-tourist trap located at the next freeway exit west of Thompson Springs.

It’s a bizarre spot with aliens, cars painted like Lightning McQueen or the Scooby Doo van, and a lot of tongue-in-cheek humor.

Green River

J.W. Powell River History Museum sign

Green River is home to the John Wesley Powell Museum, a great place to learn about Canyonlands and early exploration of the West.

Moab

Moab Route 128 hittle bottom

Moab, Utah, is home to endless adventures. Please see our Moab Trip Planner and our Moab Itinerary for more.

Cisco Ghost Town

Moab Route 128 cisco

Cisco is another run-down ghost town located nearby on Scenic Byway 128.

Is Visiting Sego Canyon Worth It?

It really depends on how much you’re into rock art and ghost towns. The rock art is great; the ghost town is not. I thought it was worth the short detour from I-70 to explore this little canyon due to the rock art. I only wish I would have seen the ghost town 10-15 years ago when most of the buildings were still standing.

What Else Do You Need to Know?

There is so much to do in Moab, Arches, and Canyonlands. How do you know what you should see and do? You need help! Don’t miss out on the best things.

Most travelers want to visit the most popular sites and still avoid crowds. We have a detailed itinerary that gives you a step-by-step game plan so you can get to the best places at the right times!

MORE INFORMATION FOR YOUR TRIP TO
MOAB, ARCHES, & CANYONLANDS

ARCHES & CANYONLANDS TRIP PLANNER: To read or watch all of our content about Arches National Park & Canyonlands National Park, check out our Arches Homepage and our Canyonlands Homepage

ARCHES: Don’t miss all that Arches has to offer including hiking to Delicate Arch, and visiting Devil’s Garden, Fiery Furnace, & the Windows

CANYONLANDS: Visit the different areas of Canyonlands with our easy guide including the Island in the Sky District, the Needles District, and Horseshoe Canyon. Check out some amazing viewpoints, as well as, Mesa Arch, ancient ruins, and Native American rock art

MOAB: Explore the adventurous Moab area including Corona Arch, Gemini Bridges, and Dead Horse Point State Park.  Consider taking a jeep ride, a horseback ride, rafting down the Colorado River, or taking a scenic drive and exploring Potash Road

WHERE TO EAT: Don’t miss the best places to eat in Moab, Arches, & Canyonlands

WHERE TO STAY: Learn all about where to stay when visiting Moab, Arches, & Canyonlands

WATCH: Enjoy videos of gorgeous Arches National Park & Canyonlands National Park while learning our best tips for visiting by watching our Moab, Arches, & Canyonlands YouTube Playlist

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