Alta was embroiled in speculation almost from its birth. Its first settlers neglected to obtain claims for the land upon which they built their businesses and homes. It was soon learned that Walker Brothers and Company had applied for and received claims for the Alta townsite; the company offered the land to the settlers at $50 to $250 a lot. Most of the "squatters" eventually settled accounts although some simply moved.
The Alta townsite was finally platted and recorded with the Salt Lake County Recorder on 23 July 1873. The townsite plat consisted of thirty rectangular blocks, each containing twenty-five lots measuring 75 by 25 feet.
By 1873, Alta's decline had begun with decline in the value of silver through demonetization as well as widespread severe economic problems which were compounded by the local problems of inaccessible ore, expensive smelting processes, and extensive water in the mines. By 1880, the population of the town had fallen to only 300, and production fell from a peak of $13.5 million in the 1870s to 1.3 million.