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Photo license: © All rights reserved
The year was 1983. In a small valley in Spanish Fork canyon, Utah, lived the little town of Thistle. In fall of the previous year it received record-breaking amounts of precipitation. Winter arrived soon after, and delivered its usual abundance of snow on top of the already saturated soil.
April brought unseasonably warm temperatures, which caused the snow to melt rapidly. Because the soil could hold no more water, small landslides started down the mountain, resting at the top of an ancient landslide. By mid-April, the mass had succumbed to the pressure, and was surging toward the canyon bottom, where the Spanish Fork River ran through. Maintenance crews worked round the clock to keep the channel open. At times, the mud flowed at a rate of 3.5 feet per hour. As it crept onto the river, it began to create a dam, which eventually rose to 220 feet high, causing the water to back up into the valley upstream. Within 5 days, the slide had created a lake over a mile long and 160 feet deep, drowning the small town of Thistle, and everything in it. Friends and family worked together to evacuate everyone safely, and they left their dreams behind.
What remains of Thistle today, is not much more than a derelict schoolhouse, a few automobiles, one house set high on a hill, and another, which is still buried in water that glows an ethereal green.
Also by Rachel Mckinnie
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