Spanish Fork River

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Spanish Fork
The river dammed by the 1983 Thistle landslide
Jordan River Basin.png
Map of the Jordan River watershed including the Spanish Fork
CountryUnited States
Physical characteristics
SourceConfluence of Soldier and Thistle Creeks
 - locationWasatch Range
 - coordinates39°59′41″N 111°29′55″W / 39.99472°N 111.49861°W / 39.99472; -111.49861[1]
MouthUtah Lake
 - location
Provo Bay
 - coordinates
40°10′03″N 111°44′42″W / 40.16750°N 111.74500°W / 40.16750; -111.74500Coordinates: 40°10′03″N 111°44′42″W / 40.16750°N 111.74500°W / 40.16750; -111.74500[1]
 - elevation
4,495 ft (1,370 m)
Length20 mi (32 km)
Basin size675 sq mi (1,750 km2)
 - locationCastilla, Utah[2]
 - average237 cu ft/s (6.7 m3/s)[3]
 - minimum20 cu ft/s (0.57 m3/s)
 - maximum5,000 cu ft/s (140 m3/s)
Basin features
 - leftThistle Creek
 - rightSoldier Creek, Diamond Fork

The Spanish Fork River or Spanish Fork is a river in the U.S. state of Utah. Formed by the confluence of Soldier Creek and Thistle Creek in the Wasatch Range, the river flows about 20 miles (32 km) northwest into Utah Lake, passing the towns of Spanish Fork and Palmyra.[4]

Located entirely in Utah County (though a small portion of its drainage basin extends into Carbon County), the Spanish Fork is heavily used for irrigation. The Spanish Fork valley has been intensively farmed since Mormons first settled the region in the 1860s, but as the amount of agricultural land grew the river was no longer able to provide sufficient water except in years of heavy runoff. In 1909, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation completed a tunnel to supplement the Spanish Fork's flow using water from the Strawberry River through the Strawberry Valley Project, part of the Central Utah Project.[5]

Landslide dam[edit]

In 1983, the river was catastrophically dammed by a landslide to a height of 220 feet (67 m). An 8-mile (13 km) long lake formed behind the barrier, drowning the town of Thistle and a section of U.S. Route 89. The lake lasted for five months before a bypass project was completed to drain the water through a tunnel. This landslide is considered one of the most costly ever to have occurred in the United States.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Spanish Fork". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey. 1979-12-31. Retrieved 2012-02-25.
  2. ^ "USGS Gage #10150500 on the Spanish Fork at Castilla, UT" (PDF). National Water Information System. U.S. Geological Survey. 1920–2010. Retrieved 2012-02-25.
  3. ^ "USGS Gage #10150500 on the Spanish Fork at Castilla, UT" (PDF). National Water Information System. U.S. Geological Survey. 1920–2010. Retrieved 2012-02-25.
  4. ^ USGS Topo Maps for United States (Map). Cartography by United States Geological Survey. ACME Mapper. Retrieved 2012-02-25.
  5. ^ "The Strawberry Valley Project". Spanish Fork River Drainage. Archived from the original on 2009-04-14. Retrieved 2012-02-25.
  6. ^ Milligan, Mark (May 2005). "Thistle Landslide Revisited, Utah County, Utah". Utah Geological Survey. Retrieved 2012-02-25.