If cultural or historical sites pique your interest while visiting the Zion National Park area, then there’s a gem tucked away just 8 miles and a mere 20 minutes from the south and main entrance to the park worth exploring. Grafton is an iconic feature of the American West, on par with the classic tumbling tumbleweed, a genuine historical ghost town.
Located near the current town of Rockville, and on the opposite southern side of the Virgin River. Grafton is an easily accessible yet seldom visited site in comparison to neighboring natural and historical attractions.
Accessed by turning south onto Bridge Road in Rockville, 8.1 miles Southwest on Highway 9 from the National Park gates, and 19 miles west from the town of Hurricane. As its name suggests, you will soon cross a steel 1-way bridge spanning the Virgin River before continuing to your right on 250 S becoming 230 S (also known as West Grafton Road) for 3.3 miles westward. The road hugs steep red rock cliffs on your left affording a fantastic view of the river bottom to the right, evidence of what first drew settlers to this location as well as the natural forces which drove them out. The parking areas for exploring the site are well marked at the end of the road. 37.167420, -113.082179.
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Grafton was initially founded in 1859 as part of the Mormon Prophet Brigham Young’s southern cotton growing project and originally named Wheeler. The young town was all but decimated not 3 years later with the Great Flood of 1862. Resettled again in 1864 the townsite continued to battle persistent flooding of the Virgin River, isolation (being the only white settlement in the area on the south side of the river), and encounters with tribes of native-American’s who long called this region their home. The end of Grafton is often associated with the official dissolution of the local Mormon (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saint) congregation there in 1921.
Much more in depth history and individual stories of the families which established and lived in Grafton can be found in detail across the site. Restoration has been undertaken to preserve a number of the original structures at the site including the meeting hall and the chapel. Allot yourself 1-2 hours’ time here in order to sufficiently wander the grounds and photograph the site as well as learn from the various placards and historical markers.
As far as the “Ghosts” in Ghost Town, I can’t personally attest to any supernatural or otherworldly activity during my handful of visits to the site. Do be advised that the site is under 24-hour video surveillance and officially closed at sundown if you are entertaining the thought of going on a paranormal activity investigation after dark. From my experiences though, one can feel the spiritual presence of this place and those who invested their lives and energies here in the hopes of building up a prosperous religious community.