Flickr album link: Old Irontown Ruins
Touring the old ghost towns and historic sites of the west is a good way to open a window to the past and plenty can be learned during the venture. During the early years of westward expansion the pioneers relied solely on industrial knowledge and skills they carried with them, since the supply lines from back east did not exist as of yet. If iron or steel was needed for repairing wagons, prospecting equipment or even for making horseshoes, the raw materials had to be sourced locally and a foundry had to be established before a blacksmith could forge the wares. Some of the old original western iron foundry sites eventually evolved into major steel mills during the industrial revolution, while others faded into the past when steel products became readily available and feasibility turned into an issue.
A prime example of a small old foundry can be found a short drive west of Cedar City in the Dixie National Forest. Old Irontown is the spot on the map to look for and the travel route is smooth all the way to this Utah historic site, which is like a sigh of relief for those who do not drive a high ground clearance vehicle. The history of this pioneer settlement is interesting and it does get complicated, so it is best to only mention the highlights in order to save something to discover during the tour. Old Irontown was founded way back in the late 1860s as an iron foundry site after an initial iron extraction operation in Cedar City failed to pan out. The results were not much better in Old Irontown, so the feasibility of this foundry came into question sooner than later. Congressional acts and an ongoing economic depression were like a nail in the coffin, so by the late 1870s this mill site was doomed to fade into the past.
Old Irontown is very much alive in modern times and part of this is due to this region offering the means for sustainability. This community was never completely abandoned after the iron mill died and in modern times it has turned into an attractive place to be outside of Cedar City. The old ruins of the iron works have been preserved and there are several hiking trails that meander through the entire complex. All that remains are the concrete foundations, hearth chimneys and stone block charcoal kilns, but all it takes is a little imagination to picture how this place must have looked back in the old days. The walking tour is easy going and there are dozens of placards to read, so plenty can be learned during the experience. Old Irontown definitely is a lesser known destination, so be sure to keep it mind when doing a national parks tour around Cedar City!
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