If you’ve ever visited the north end of Lake Powell, you may have stopped by the Hite Marina for a public restroom or an RV hookup. Now a popular Utah attraction for adventurers and families, Hite and the surrounding area is actually a partially-drowned ghost town with a rich history.
The town of Hite was named after the area's first white settler, a gold prospector and explorer named Cass Hite who arrived in southern Utah around 1880. A gifted storyteller, Hite spun dramatic tales to the national press about Glen Canyon, the region eventually drowned by Lake Powell. These stories helped trigger a rush of miners to the area. Upon arrival, however, prospectors found that the ore was too small and dusty to extract. By the 1890s, the Salt Lake Herald described Cass Hite as the quote “genial old miner who has found more gold and made less money than any man” in southern Utah. Perhaps more important than finding gold, Hite helped establish a ferry on the Colorado River at the site of his discovery. Called “Dandy Crossing,” this ferry -- right between Lee’s Ferry to the south and Moab in the north -- provided the only way across the river for 280 miles. In this remote spot, Hite and his brothers opened a post office, built cabins, and brought people across the river by boat.
After Hite’s death in 1914, his namesake town was settled again during the World War II uranium boom and bust. This time, the town was even bigger, featuring a one-room schoolhouse and a uranium mill run by the federal Atomic Energy Commission. Hite’s ferry was upgraded by a new prospector, Arthur L. Chaffin, to accommodate the influx of automobiles that toured around Utah’s newly-established national parks.
Now long-lost under the blue waters of Lake Powell, the town of Hite once had a mythic reputation as a place that promised gold, uranium, and transportation in an isolated area. But today, if you’re on State Route 95 and cross Hite bridge, the area is unrecognizable from the crossroads it once was – save for a name, a bridge, and lone buoy in the water.
See James Knipmeyer, Cass Hite : The Life of an Old Prospector (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 2016); “Around The Hotels,” The Salt Lake Herald, December 26, 1894; Tom McCourt, King of the Colorado: The Story of Cass Hite - Utah’s Legendary Explorer, Prospector and Pioneer (Southpaw Publications, 2012); National Parks Service, “Hite,” Glen Canyon, accessed December 2021.