Green River, milepost 555.2 on the Green River Sub, is located half way between Salt Lake City and Grand Junction, Colorado.
The completion of the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railway in 1883 made Green River a shipping point for livestock and mining equipment and supplies. The railroad built an engine house, switching yards, and a three-story hotel called the Palmer House.
The influx of railroad workers gave the town 375 residents by 1890, in addition to a fluctuating population of cowboys, sheepherders, and prospectors from the Book Cliffs and the San Rafael Desert. The town's location on the "outlaw trail" between Robbers Roost and Browns Park also contributed to its "wild west" reputation during that period.
In the early 1890s, the railroad moved much of its divisional operations to Helper, cutting the Green River population by more than half. This boom-and-bust cycle was to be repeated several times in the twentieth century. An oil boom in 1901 brought a rush to locate claims and some drilling activity but no commercial production.
In 1906 a land developer named E.T. Merritt began promoting Green River as a fruit-growing area comparable to the Grand Valley of Colorado. Several hundred acres of peach trees were planted on both sides of the river, but problems with the irrigation system and harsh winter temperatures killed most of the trees before they could come into production.
The southeastern Utah uranium boom of the 1950s provided a temporary economic stimulus. More important was the establishment of the Utah Launch Complex of the White Sands Missile Base in 1964, which brought the town's population to a high point of almost 2,000 before the closing of the complex in the 1970s led to yet another economic downturn.
Green River today is used for a jumping off spot for river rafters and boaters.
Last Update 07/22/01
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