A cowboy on his horse in front of the post office, with three donkeys. The mules have packs. The post office building behind them is wooden and small, with four windows on its front and an open door. There is a small sign on the building that says "Post Office"
The Castleton Post Office in the late 1800s or early 1900s. Credit: Moab Museum Collection

Nestled by the foot of the La Sal Mountains near Castle Valley, the traces of a ghost town are slowly fading into the landscape. Castleton, Utah was a settlement once populated in the late 1800s; its rise and fall were both closely tied to mining in the mountains above it.

First settled around 1880, Castleton was the hub for regional ranching activity. In the late 1880s, as a local short-lived gold rush began in high in the La Sals, Castleton became a crucial supply town supporting the mining operations of Miner’s Basin. Boasting a school, general store, hotel, post office, and saloons, Castleton even had more residents than Moab at its peak in 1895, and it was once a viable candidate for becoming the county seat.

Four people are in a grassy field nestled among canyon walls; three of them are atop horses and mules. The fourth is a child, posing with a baby donkey. None of them look particularly enthusiastic.
While Castleton’s rise and fall were closely linked to the rise and fall of mining in the La Sal Mountains, the town also served as a hub for ranching in the area. Pictured, settlers ride on mules nearby Castle Valley. Credit: Moab Museum Collection

However, as mining waned in the La Sals, Castleton’s population and industry dried up as well. By 1910, the businesses had all gone, and only fifty people remained in the remote settlement. A few people lingered for the following decades, but in 1967 the Grand County Commission officially designated Castleton an unoccupied town. 

Stories and photographs from Castleton’s heyday paint it as a vibrant, vital community, once bustling with activity and big plans. But its story is not uncommon: many remote mining settlements have risen and faded on the landscape over the years.

The Moab Museum is dedicated to sharing stories of the natural and human history of the Moab area. To explore more of Moab’s stories and artifacts, find out about upcoming programs, and become a Member, visit www.moabmuseum.org.