Green River Star -

By Storm Adcock
Green River Historic Preservation Commission 

A river trip between Green River and Linwood, Utah


The history of Green River revolves around water. From the earliest days, the city “ebbed and flowed” because there was an adequate and dependable water supply. Between the 1860s and the 1870s Green River was nearly abandoned in favor of Bryan a now abandoned community located on the Black Fork River 13 miles west of present day Green River. Incidentally, Bryan was on land controlled by the Union Pacific Railroad. However, by 1872 drought forced the U.P. to move its operations to Green River because adequate and dependable water was available here.

Today in Green River, summer is a time when most residents look to the river or Flaming Gorge as a way to relax with friends and family. Our community’s festivals Flaming Gorge Days and the River Festival celebrate this tradition reminding residents that we may live in the “high desert” but water is the reason we are here. We enjoy the river and lake appreciating access for our recreation; we want to cool off and embrace the chance to forget how hard our winters can be. While attending Flaming Gorge Days, I ran into friends walking around the island. Making small talk I asked, “What are your plans for the Fourth of July?” This conversation reminded me of Green River’s connection to the river and the area around the Gorge.

Their reply sounded like a step back in time; 107 years ago, actually. They were going to canoe down the river to Buckboard or possibly Lucerne Marinas. This excursion should take seven or eight hours and their cargo would include bug spray, sun screen, snacks, camera and plenty to drink.

“The river is really up and that should make for a smooth trip.” Regardless, it would be good to spend time on the river, “relaxing?”

One hundred seven years ago a group of Green River entrepreneurs founded the Green River Navigation Company. The ventures purpose was to transport passengers and freight to Linwood, Utah. The town of Linwood sat on the borders of Wyoming and Utah. It was extremely isolated and access to the outside was hit or miss. At one point the Fort Thornburgh road had connected the community to Green River and beyond. But when the fort was decommissioned (abandoned) this road was also no longer maintained again isolating the region. However, with dependable access the communities of Green River and Linwood would both benefit economically.

Linwood was originally settled by a mix of hearty mountain men, rascals and ultimately ranchers with their families. It was approximately five miles north east of present day Manila, Utah. Linwood although inaccessible at times had a store, post office, dance hall and school. Local historians report that students would pick the side of the school’s classroom they would be disciplined on; Utah Statue did not allow corporal punishment, making that a popular place to be.

Following a feasibility study the Green River Navigation Company began construction at a dry dock on a boat that would connect the two communities. Steam engines from Chicago were installed and on July 4, 1908, the vessel named the Comet was christened. It was reported the residents of Green River came to witness the christening and celebrate Independence Day on the river’s edge. Wyoming’s only other commercial steam ship operated on Lake Yellowstone; its success was believed to be a good omen for Green River’s venture. Tickets were $5 and sold on the fourth for the Comet’s first trip to Linwood. The Comet set off July 7, 1908. This trip took eight hours and was deemed a success. But the return to Green River was anything but a success. The return trip took 33 hours bad luck prevailed with sand bars, strong currents, and lack of fuel being the major problems. This caused the passengers and crew to unload the Comet several times and manually pull the 60-foot stern wheeler past the obstructions. Ultimately, fuel had to be obtained from ranches to complete the trip to Green River.

Sadly, it was clear that the venture was impractical and the Comet was scuttled and sunk in the Green River. The hull of the vessel rested near highway 530 Bridge. The Comet’s bell was salvaged and used by the local Rotary Club. For years when the river was low portions of the Comet could be seen by residents.

Linwood, Utah went into decline partly due to its isolation and with fewer residents the school and post office eventually closed. By the 1950’s the town’s fate was sealed with the Corp. of Engineers plan to build Flaming Gorge Dam. Buildings from Linwood were moved to Manila others were torn down or burned. Resident relocated again many to Manila but some to Rock Springs. Today Linwood is at the bottom of Flaming Gorge at Linwood Bay. A plaque on the Lucerne Marina road commemorates the community. It shows pictures faded by the summer sun of the town that “drowned” beneath the waves of Flaming Gorge.

I talked to my friend again this week, to hear about their trip down the river. It was great, long and not one they will do again! They left from the island and did not exactly make it as far as they had hoped.

It took a lot longer than they had expected and both were exhausted. Even with the high water in the river they had problems with debris and the unexpected. Finally, they called their ride to come and pick them up. I couldn’t help but see some historic parallels. Their trip marked the anniversary of the Comet’s first and last voyage. (Their first and last voyage as well.)

Green River’s connection to the River and the Gorge is historic; in the summer we celebrate the Green River Festival and Flaming Gorge Days. Our community comes out and we reconnects with friends; probably not realizing that many of the things we do today have direct parallels in our history.


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