The Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad built a resort in 1886 on the shores of the Great Salt Lake known as Lake Park. However, as the years passed, the lake level receded, forcing its closure in 1895. Vice President of Lake Park, Simon Bamberger, who was also building a railroad line from Salt Lake City to Ogden, bought most of the old Lake Park buildings and moved them to a spot near Farmington. He wanted to increase passenger traffic along his line and thought this would give people a reason to ride the “Bamberger.”
The new resort was named Lagoon because of the small body of water on the original 40 acres. It had been used to harvest ice in the winter and Bamberger enlarged it to 9 acres after clearing some swampland. On July 12, 1896, Lagoon opened in Farmington with “bowling, an elegant dancing pavilion, fine music, a shady bowery and good restaurants.”
Shoot-the-Chutes was the first thrill ride added in 1899. Guests of the park started swimming and rowing boats in Lagoon Lake. Rides such as the Cagney 12-inch-gauge Miniature Railroad and authentic Herschell-Spillman Carousel were added as time went on.
Built in 1893 and purchased by Lagoon in 1906, the hand-carved carousel consists of 47 animals. When the “White” Roller Coaster caught fire in 1953, owner Robert Freed rushed down to spray the merry-go-round with water and protect the hand-carved figures.
Still one of the most popular rides at Lagoon, the wooden roller coaster was made in 1921. Its highest height is 57 feet with 2,500 feet of track, the coaster train reaching speeds up to 45 mph. Locals call it the “White Roller Coaster” because of the white wash paint.
Touted as a swimming pool with “water fit to drink,” a 1.5 million gallon pool was built north of Lagoon Lake in 1927. A clean alternative to the Great Salt Lake, it was one of the first filtered swimming pools in the West.
During the 1920s and 1930s betting and horse racing took place at Lagoon but the Utah State Legislature soon stopped the practice.
Lagoon closed for three seasons during World War II and by 1946 had fallen into disrepair. Although the Bamberger family was considering razing the park, Ranch S. Kimball and Robert E. Freed talked them into leasing it to their newly-formed Utah Amusement Corporation. The Freed Family’s Lagoon Corporation bought the resort outright in 1983.
A fire destroyed much of the park in November 1953, including the front of the roller coaster, but everything was quickly rebuilt before the next season. Improvements continued over the years, creating what the park is today.
Now, most thrill seekers have come to expect a new ride almost every season, and with this year’s opening of Bombora, it looks like Lagoon may last another 100 years.