Some visitors to Hyrum Reservoir during this season's megadrought have been surprised to find a "graveyard" containing the corroded remains of several old cars exposed by low water levels.
The graveyard lies west-southwest of where 200 West ends in Hyrum. As photos of the hulks spread on social media, a few people theorized that they could have been placed there to stabilize the reservoir's banks.
The practice of shoring up the banks of a body of water — known colloquially as "Detroit riprap" — was indeed common in the '70s and '80s, but the fact that these cars aren't lining a bank but instead all tightly bunched and completely submerged when the reservoir is full leads officials to suspect a different explanation:
People just used to enjoy pushing old cars into the reservoir.
"There's a hill up there where people used to dump cars off of it, 50, 75 years ago, and when the water gets this low you can see them," said Kim Wells, director of communications for the Utah Dept. of Natural Resources, reporting on what she'd found after calling several people knowledgeable about the reservoir.
The graveyard's position straight downhill from the end of 200 West may support that theory.
The park rangers know the cars are there, State Parks PIO Devan Chavez said, but there are no current plans to remove them.
"When you remove large things like cars, there's the potential that you could cause greater damage to the reservoir and the environment there, moreso on the removal than by just leaving it," Chavez said. "There's a number of factors. So right now there's not any (plan to remove the cars), but I can't say for sure that it's out of the picture. It's for sure something that we'll be evaluating, just like everything else."
It's not entirely up to state parks, either. The Bureau of Reclamation owns the reservoir, and a number of different entities would have to be involved in that decision.
Hyrum's car graveyard is far from the only thing this year's low water levels could expose in reservoirs around the state.
"At Rockport State Park … you can see old schoolhouse steps," Chavez said. "Jordanelle, you can't see it yet, but underneath the water of Jordanelle there's some ruins of the old town that used to be there. It's not uncommon for it to happen."
While the cars in Hyrum Reservoir are clearly decades old, there have been more recent discoveries around the state, as well.
"At Pineview, they found a car that was stolen back, I think, in 2017," Wells said, "and then there's been some discovered at Lake Powell recently, as well, and boats maybe that have sunk. When those waters start to drop, who knows what you're going to uncover."
It should probably go without saying, but things have changed since people pushed their cars down the hill and into Hyrum Reservoir.
"You can't go dump cars in reservoirs," Chavez said. "It's illegal, you'll be cited and you'll get a nice removal bill."