Grafton was first settled in 1859 by Mormon settlers. The townsite offered amazing views of what would become Zion National Park and easy access to water from the Virgin River. Unfortunately, in 1862, the Virgin River flooded and destroyed the town. The town was rebuilt at its current location, about a mile upriver from its initial location.
The new location grew and flourished briefly, though the challenges seem daunting including floods, the risk of attacks by Native Americans, and water so full of silt that irrigation ditches had to be frequently dug out. By 1890, only 4 families were still sticking it out. Others had left the region entirely or moved across the river where Rockville, Springdale, and Virgin were established. The final residents left in 1944.
With its fascinating history and interesting old buildings, Grafton is a highly recommended side trip when visiting Zion. The town is less than 30 minutes from the east entrance to Zion and accessible to all vehicles when dry.
To get to Grafton, turn south on Bridge Road in Rockville. This is on the east side of Rockville, which is about 4 miles west of Springdale on UT-9.
Bridge Road crosses an iconic old bridge, then the road divides at 0.3 miles. Go right here. At 1.3 miles another junction is reached, go right again and 2.9 miles from the old bridge, Grafton is reached.
Once at Grafton, be sure to visit the buildings. They are generally open so you can poke your head it. The cemetery is also fascinating and worth stopping at on your way out. It is sad to note the number of residents that died at young ages.
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