Series 25229

Department of Transportation. Office of Community Relations Official photographs: Thistle disaster documentation, 1983-1984.

4.00 cubic feet

These records are housed in the Utah State Archives' permanent storage room.

Historical Note

See history of the records' creator.

Summary of Records

Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) Community Relations personnel documented the Thistle Disaster of 1983-1984. Thistle, originally the name of a town, became a term used to describe a massive mud slide which created a natural dam across the Spanish Fork River and destroyed the town of Thistle.

Scope and Content

Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) Community Relations personnel documented the Thistle Disaster of 1983-1984. Thistle, originally the name of a town, became a term used to describe a massive mud slide which created a natural dam across the Spanish Fork River and destroyed the town of Thistle. UDOT Photographic Services Director, Gerald E. Peterson, took hundreds of photographs of the Thistle area from April 1983 to May 1984. This collection not only documents the disaster and subsequent reconstruction, but also includes photographs of Thistle before the disaster.
Documentation of the disaster began in April 1983 after heavy precipitation caused instability in the earth. UDOT crews initially responded to reports that shifting earth had left huge cracks in U.S. Highway 6. Shortly the giant slide, moving at 6-18 inches an hour, dumped more than one million cubic yards of earth over the highway and destroyed the Denver and Rio Grande Western railroad tracks. Highway crews wereunable to save either the road or the tracks as the mud mountain continued to slide from early April into May. The massive slide created a natural dam across the Spanish Fork River, and the dam in turn created Thistle Lake which completely submerged and destroyed the town of Thistle. The U.S. Corp of Engineers, the Utah National Guard and construction workers from many companies joined UDOT workers in response to the Thistle slide. Both Governor Scott Matheson and President Ronald Reagan declared the slide a disaster area. Efforts to control the slide turned to reconstruction of rail and roadways, and to the construction of a drainage tunnel which would control drainage of Thistle Lake. Throughout the reclamation and reconstruction process workers were concerned about the questionable stability of the natural dam, with subsequent slides, and the general instability of the earth in the area.

Arrangement

Chronological by date.

Additional Forms

This series is available online as part of the
.
This series is available online as part of the Utah State Archives Digital Archives.

Access Restrictions

This series is classified as Public.

Use Restrictions

These records are available for reproduction and use.

Preferred Citation

Cite the Utah State Archives and Records Service, the creating agency name, the series title, and the series number.

Custody History

Thistle disaster documentation collection was transferred from UDOT to Utah State Archives in 2003.

Acquisition Information

These records were acquired from the creating agency through established retention schedules.

Processing Information

This series was processed by Rosemary Cundiff in November and December 2003.

Related Material

Official photographs from the Department of Transportation. Office of Community Relations, Series 24289, contain duplicate copies of most prints in this collection as well as negatives for these prints, many enlargements, slides, and additional prints relating to the Thistle disaster.
Official photographs index from the Department of Transportation. Office of Community Relations, Series 25122, provides descriptive information about the photographs in this collection.

Container List

BoxFolderDescription
11Thistle slide related business cards and miscellaneous documents
12-383-034, dam and lake in Spanish Fork Canyon - 18 Apr 1983
14-683-035, dam and lake in Spanish Fork Canyon - 19 Apr 1983
17-983-037, Spanish Fork mud slide - 21 Apr 1983
11083-040, night shots Spanish Fork, Thistle Junction - 23 Apr 1983
11183-042, aerials mud slide and lake at Thistle Junction - 18 Apr 1983
11283-044, aerials mud slide and lake at Thistle Junction - 19 Apr 1983
11383-047, mud slide in Spanish Fork Canyon - 27 Apr 1983
11483-052, Spanish Fork mud slide (drilling) - 1 May 1983
11583-053, aerials Spanish Fork mud slide - 28 Apr 1983
116-2083-056, Spanish Fork mud slide, Billies Mountain - 4 May 1983
12183-057, aerials Spanish Fork mud slide - 5 May 1983
122-2583-058, Spanish Fork mud slide RR tunnel construction - 8 May 1983
126-2783-059, Spanish Fork mud slide RR tunnel construction - 9 May 1983
128-3183-062, Spanish Fork mud slide Thistle Junction - 12 May 1983
132-3483-063, Spanish Fork mud slide Thistle Junction - 13 May 1983
135-3683-064, Spanish Fork mud slide 3 pumps to be cut - 15-16 May 1983
13783-070, aerials Spanish Fork Dam & Thistle Lake - 17 May 1983
13883-073, overflow tunnel at Spanish Fork Dam - 18 May 1983
139-4183-074, Spanish Fork & Thistle water going through pipes - 18 May 1983
14283-076, Spanish Fork Dam runoff has begun - 24 May 1983
14383-077, George Anderson's photo Thistle Jct. in 1900 - 25 May 1983
14483-078, Vern Jeffers' photo Springville on 9 Apr 1983 - 25 May 1983
14583-084, Rio Grande RR House Thistle courtesy G. Anderson - 12 Jun 1983
14683-085, old school at Thistle courtesy Rell Francis - 6 Jun 1983 old school at Thistle in 1985 -21 Jun 1985
147old school at Thistle in 1985 -21 Jun 1985
148-4983-089, Jeffers' photos of old Thistle - 20 Jun 1983
15083-087, explosions old covered bridge - 15 Jun 1983
15183-083, Utah Co. sheriff's office slides 15 Apr 1983 - 12 Jun 1983
15283-082, Thistle ground shots 16 Apr 1983 - 28 May 1983
15383-086, Thistle shots 14 Apr 1983 courtesy Mike Kenyon - 15 Jun 1983
15483-193, Billies Mountain, Thistle photo 1958 - copied 1983
15583-194, Gerald Peterson in Spanish Fork Canyon 1960 - copied 1983
15683-082, Thistle ground shots 16 Apr 1983 - 28 May 1983
15783-094, Bob Pace's home going under water - 10 Aug 1983
15883-100, Spanish Fork Canyon water at 5192 mark - 25 May 1983
159-6083-101, aerials Spanish Fork Canyon/Thistle - 26 May 1983
16183-109, erosion on dam - 28 May 1983
162-6383-110, Spanish Fork dam water above 5200 mark - 29 May 1983
16483-119, Spanish Fork canyon blasting - 31 May 1983
165-6883-121, Spanish Fork dam and slide - 1 Jun 1983
16983-122, Spanish Fork Dam and Thistle Lake - 2 Jun
170-7183-125, aerials Spanish Fork Dam and Thistle Lake - 3 Jun 1983
172-7383-131, new highway construction at Spanish Fork Canyon - 9 Jun 1983
21-383-136 mud slide on new railroad Spanish Fork Canyon - 15 Jun 1983
24-883-139, new Spanish Fork slide area - 18 Jun 1983
2983-143, general shots around flood Thistle Dam - 21 Jun 1983
21083-146, RR tracks damage from Richfield to Thistle - 24 Jun 1983
21183-147, RR tunnel and track east of Thistle Tunnel - 6 Jul 1983
212-1683-148, Thistle Lake and Dam railroad tracks and tunnel - 5 Jul 1983
21783-163, Spanish Fork mud slide and Thistle Lake - 3 Aug 1983
218-2483-165, S.F. flood victims, boats, fish ladders, trains - 10 Aug 1983
22583-168, Stewart Canyon Road, Lake Thistle and damaged U.S. 89 South - 13 Aug 1983
226-2783-171, Thistle Lake aerials - 25 Aug 1983
228-2983-172, Thistle Lake covering over structures - 25 Aug 1983
230-3483-175, new highway construction - 25 Aug 1983
235-3783-177, drain tunnel and Thistle highway construction - 6 Sep 1983
23883-201, Thistle, rains and flash flooding of highway and dam - 9 Sep 1983
239-4283-203, Thistle construction project documentation - 20 Sep 1983
243-4583-207, second drill hole on dam, final blast before draining - 28 Sep 1983
246-4783-208, drain control gates in drain tunnel - 29 Sep 1983
24883-209, Autumn shots on Stewart Road - 30 Sep 1983
249-5283-210, opening drain control gates - 1 Oct 1983
253-5483-212, Thistle project, Stewart Road, big cut - 5 Oct 1983
255-5683-217, aerials of Thistle Lake - 3 Oct 1983
257-5883-219, Thistle project, blasting drain hole - 19 Oct 1983
25983-233, Thistle Lake from Stewart Road - 5 Nov 1983
260-6383-234, Thistle (50 ft. left in big cut) - 9 Nov 1983
264-6883-235, Thistle highway construction thru Billies Mountain - 10 Nov 1983
269-7083-236, Thistle asphalt lay-down east of Billies Mountain - 11 Nov 1983
27183-237, Thistle U.S. 89 south of Thistle and big cut - 12 Nov 1983
272-7683-238, aerials big slide in big cut - 15 Nov 198
31-683-239, Thistle ground shots - 16 Nov 1983
3783-240, Thistle ground shots - 17 Nov 1983
38-983-247, asphalt lay-down west of Billies Mountain - 23 Nov 1983
31083-248, snows, big cut at night - 27 Nov 1983
311-1983-249, blasting on U.S. 89 side of Billies Mountain - 29 Nov 1983
320-2383-250, Thistle drain tunnel shaft & shelf, snow on Billies - 30 Nov 1983
32483-251 Thistle construction - 3 Dec 1983
325-2783-252, Thistle aerials - 5 Dec 1983
32883-255, morning shots on south side of big cut in Billies - 6 Dec 1983
329-3083-256, Thistle and U.S. 89 - 10 Dec 1983
331-3883-257, Thistle, 2 new slides East of Billies and big cut - 13 Dec 1983
339-4583-263, Thistle, slide on north side of Billies - 16 Dec 1983
346-4783-266, Thistle, last minute preparations opening new U.S.6 - 30 Dec 1983
348-5983-267, official opening of U.S. 6 through Billies Mountain - 31 Dec 1983
360-6484-001, Thistle, shots of drained lake from top of dam - 12 Jan 1984
365-6884-004 Thistle, preparing to blow the controls - 18 Jan 1984
36984-005, Thistle, Bullies cut - 19 Jan 1984
37084-012, Thistle, drain tunnel without control - 22 Jan 1984
37184-073, Thistle, temporary opening of U.S.89 in flood plain - 26 May 1984