Zion National Park, Utah, USA.

Zion National Park, Utah, USA.

Zion National Park is an American national park located in southwestern Utah near the town of Springdale. Located at the junction of the Colorado Plateau, Great Basin, and Mojave Desert regions, the park has a unique geography and a variety of life zones that allow for unusual plant and animal diversity. Numerous plant species as well as 289 species of birds, 75 mammals (including 19 species of bat), and 32 reptiles inhabit the park’s four life zones: desert, riparian, woodland, and coniferous forest. Zion National Park includes mountains, canyons, buttes, mesas, monoliths, rivers, slot canyons, and natural arches. The lowest point in the park is 3,666 ft (1,117 m) at Coalpits Wash and the highest peak is 8,726 ft (2,660 m) at Horse Ranch Mountain. A prominent feature of the 229-square-mile (590 km2) park is Zion Canyon, which is 15 miles (24 km) long and up to 2,640 ft (800 m) deep. The canyon walls are reddish and tan-colored Navajo Sandstone eroded by the North Fork of the Virgin River.

Human habitation of the area started about 8,000 years ago with small family groups of Native Americans, one of which was the semi-nomadic Basketmaker Ancestral Puebloans (who used to be called Anasazi by early non-indigenous archeologists)(c. 300 CE). Subsequently, what has been called the Virgin Anasazi culture (c. 500) and the Parowan Fremont group developed as the Basketmakers settled in permanent communities. Both groups moved away by 1300 and were replaced by the Parrusits and several other Southern Paiute subtribes. Mormons came into the area in 1858 and settled there in the early 1860s.

In 1909, President William Howard Taft named the area Mukuntuweap National Monument in order to protect the canyon. In 1918, the acting director of the newly created National Park Service, Horace Albright, drafted a proposal to enlarge the existing monument and change the park’s name to Zion National Monument, Zion being a term used by the Mormons. According to historian Hal Rothman: "The name change played to a prevalent bias of the time. Many believed that Spanish and Indian names would deter visitors who, if they could not pronounce the name of a place, might not bother to visit it. The new name, Zion, had greater appeal to an ethnocentric audience." On November 19, 1919, Congress redesignated the monument as Zion National Park, and the act was signed by President Woodrow Wilson. The Kolob section was proclaimed a separate Zion National Monument in 1937, but was incorporated into the national park in 1956. Congress designated 85% of the park a wilderness area in 2009.

The geology of the Zion and Kolob canyons area includes nine formations that together represent 150 million years of mostly Mesozoic-aged sedimentation. At various periods in that time warm, shallow seas, streams, ponds and lakes, vast deserts, and dry near-shore environments covered the area. Uplift associated with the creation of the Colorado Plateau lifted the region 10,000 feet (3,000 m) starting 13 million years ago.

As stated in the foundation document:

The purpose of Zion National Park is to preserve the dramatic geology including Zion Canyon and a labyrinth of deep and brilliantly colored Navajo sandstone canyons formed by extraordinary processes of erosion at the margin of the Colorado Plateau; to safeguard the park’s wilderness character and its wild and scenic river values; to protect evidence of human history; and to provide for scientific research and the enjoyment and enlightenment of the public.

The park is located in southwestern Utah in Washington, Iron and Kane counties. Geomorphically, it is located on the Markagunt and Kolob plateaus, at the intersection of three North American geographic provinces: the Colorado Plateau, the Great Basin, and the Mojave Desert. The northern part of the park is known as the Kolob Canyons section and is accessible from Interstate 15, exit 40.

The 8,726-foot (2,660 m) summit of Horse Ranch Mountain is the highest point in the park; the lowest point is the 3,666-foot (1,117 m) elevation of Coal Pits Wash, creating a relief of about 5,100 feet (1,600 m).

Streams in the area take rectangular paths because they follow jointing planes in the rocks. The stream gradient of the Virgin River, whose North Fork flows through Zion Canyon in the park, ranges from 50 to 80 feet per mile (9.5 to 15.2 m/km) (0.9–1.5%)—one of the steepest stream gradients in North America.

The road into Zion Canyon is 6 miles (9.7 km) long, ending at the Temple of Sinawava, which is named for the coyote god of the Paiute Indians. The canyon becomes more narrow near the Temple and a hiking trail continues to the mouth of The Narrows, a gorge only 20 feet (6 m) wide and up to 2,000 feet (610 m) tall. The Zion Canyon road is served by a free shuttle bus from early April to late October and by private vehicles the other months of the year. Other roads in Zion are open to private vehicles year-round.

The east side of the park is served by Zion-Mount Carmel Highway (SR-9), which passes through the Zion–Mount Carmel Tunnel and ends at US 89 at Mount Carmel Junction. Park features on the east side of the park include Checkerboard Mesa and The East Temple.

The Kolob Terrace area, northwest of Zion Canyon, features a slot canyon called The Subway, and a panoramic view of the entire area from Lava Point. The Kolob Canyons section, further to the northwest near Cedar City, features Tucupit Point and one of the world’s longest natural arches, Kolob Arch.

Other notable geographic features of Zion Canyon include Angels Landing, The Great White Throne, the Court of the Patriarchs, The Sentinel, The West Temple, Towers of the Virgin, the Altar of Sacrifice, The Watchman, Weeping Rock, and the Emerald Pools.

Spring weather is unpredictable, with stormy, wet days being common, mixed with occasional warm, sunny weather. Precipitation is normally heaviest in March. Spring wildflowers bloom from April through June, peaking in May. Fall days are usually clear and mild; nights are often cool. Summer days are hot (95 to 110 °F; 35 to 43 °C), but overnight lows are usually comfortable (65 to 70 °F; 18 to 21 °C). Afternoon thunderstorms are common from mid-July through mid-September. Storms may produce waterfalls as well as flash floods. Autumn tree-color displays begin in September in the high country; in Zion Canyon, autumn colors usually peak in late October. Winter in Zion Canyon is fairly mild. Winter storms bring rain or light snow to Zion Canyon and heavier snow to the higher elevations. Clear days may become quite warm, reaching 60 °F (16 °C); nights are often 20 to 40 °F (−7 to 4 °C). Winter storms can last several days and make roads icy. Zion roads are plowed, except the Kolob Terrace Road which is closed when covered with snow. Winter driving conditions last from November through March.

Archaeologists have divided the long span of Zion’s human history into three cultural periods: the Archaic, Protohistoric and Historic periods. Each period is characterized by distinctive technological and social adaptations.

Archaic period
The first human presence in the region dates to 8,000 years ago when family groups camped where they could hunt or collect plants and seeds. About 2,000 years ago, some groups began growing corn and other crops, leading to an increasingly sedentary lifestyle. Later groups in this period built permanent villages called pueblos. Archaeologists call this the Archaic period and it lasted until c. 500. Baskets, cordage nets, and yucca fiber sandals have been found and dated to this period. The Archaic toolkits included flaked stone knives, drills, and stemmed dart points. The dart points were attached to wooden shafts and propelled by throwing devices called atlatls.

By c. 300, some of the archaic groups developed into an early branch of seminomadic Anasazi, the Basketmakers. Basketmaker sites have grass- or stone-lined storage cists and shallow, partially underground dwellings called pithouses. They were hunters and gatherers who supplemented their diet with limited agriculture. Locally collected pine nuts were important for food and trade.

Both the Virgin Anasazi and the Parowan Fremont disappeared from the archaeological record of southwestern Utah by c. 1300. Extended droughts in the 11th and 12th centuries, interspersed with catastrophic flooding, may have made horticulture impossible in this arid region.

Tradition and archaeological evidence hold that their replacements were Numic-speaking cousins of the Virgin Anasazi, such as the Southern Paiute and Ute. The newcomers migrated on a seasonal basis up and down valleys in search of wild seeds and game animals. Some, particularly the Southern Paiute, also planted fields of corn, sunflowers, and squash to supplement their diet. These more sedentary groups made brownware vessels that were used for storage and cooking.

The Historic period begins in the late 18th century with the exploration of southern Utah by padre Silvestre Vélez de Escalante and padre Francisco Atanasio Domínguez. The padres passed near what is now the Kolob Canyons Visitor Center on October 13, 1776, becoming the first people of European descent known to visit the area. In 1825, trapper and trader Jedediah Smith explored some of the downstream areas while under contract with the American Fur Company.

In 1847, Mormon farmers from the Salt Lake area became the first people of European descent to settle the Virgin River region. In 1851, the Parowan and Cedar City areas were settled by Mormons who used the Kolob Canyons area for timber, and for grazing cattle, sheep, and horses. They prospected for mineral deposits, and diverted Kolob water to irrigate crops in the valley below. Mormon settlers named the area Kolob which in Mormon scripture is the heavenly place nearest the residence of God.

Settlements had expanded 30 miles (48 km) south to the lower Virgin River by 1858. That year, a Southern Paiute guide led young Mormon missionary and interpreter Nephi Johnson into the upper Virgin River area and Zion Canyon.[28] Johnson wrote a favorable report about the agricultural potential of the upper Virgin River basin, and returned later that year to found the town of Virgin. In 1861 or 1862, Joseph Black made the arduous journey to Zion Canyon and was very impressed by its beauty.

The floor of Zion Canyon was settled in 1863 by Isaac Behunin, who farmed corn, tobacco, and fruit trees. The Behunin family lived in Zion Canyon near the site of today’s Zion Lodge during the summer, and wintered in Springdale. Behunin is credited with naming Zion, a reference to the place of peace mentioned in the Bible. Two more families settled Zion Canyon in the next couple of years, bringing with them cattle and other domesticated animals. The canyon floor was farmed until Zion became a Monument in 1909.

The Powell Geographic Expedition of 1869 entered the area after their first trip through the Grand Canyon. John Wesley Powell visited Zion Canyon in 1872 and named it Mukuntuweap, under the impression that that was the Paiute name. Powell Survey photographers John K. Hillers and James Fennemore first visited the Zion Canyon and Kolob Plateau region in the spring of 1872. Hillers returned in April 1873 to add more photographs to the "Virgin River Series" of photographs and stereographs. Hillers described wading the canyon for four days and nearly freezing to death to take his photographs.

Paintings of the canyon by Frederick S. Dellenbaugh were exhibited at the Saint Louis World’s Fair in 1904, followed by a favorable article in Scribner’s Magazine the next year. The article and paintings, along with previously created photographs, paintings, and reports, led to President William Howard Taft’s proclamation on July 31, 1909, that created Mukuntuweap National Monument. In 1917, the acting director of the newly created National Park Service visited the canyon and proposed changing its name from the locally unpopular Mukuntuweap to Zion, a name used by the local Mormon community. The United States Congress added more land and established Zion National Park on November 19, 1919. A separate Zion National Monument, the Kolob Canyons area, was proclaimed on January 22, 1937, and was incorporated into the park on July 11, 1956.

Travel to the area before it was a national park was rare due to its remote location, lack of accommodations, and the absence of real roads in southern Utah. Old wagon roads were upgraded to the first automobile roads starting about 1910, and the road into Zion Canyon was built in 1917 leading to the Grotto, short of the present road that now ends at the Temple of Sinawava.

Touring cars could reach Zion Canyon by the summer of 1917. The first visitor lodging in Zion Canyon, called Wylie Camp, was established that same year as a tent camp. The Utah Parks Company, a subsidiary of the Union Pacific Railroad, acquired Wylie Camp in 1923, and offered ten-day rail/bus tours to Zion, nearby Bryce Canyon, the Kaibab Plateau, and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. The Zion Lodge complex was built in 1925 at the site of the Wylie tent camp. Architect Gilbert Stanley Underwood designed the Zion Lodge in a rustic architectural style, while the Utah Parks Company funded the construction.

Work on the Zion Mount Carmel Highway started in 1927 to enable reliable access between Springdale and the east side of the park. The road opened in 1930 and park visit and travel in the area greatly increased. The most famous feature of the Zion – Mount Carmel Highway is its 1.1-mile (1.8 km) tunnel, which has six large windows cut through the massive sandstone cliff.

In 1896, local rancher John Winder improved the Native American footpath up Echo Canyon, which later became the East Rim Trail. Entrepreneur David Flanigan used this trail in 1900 to build cableworks that lowered lumber into Zion Canyon from Cable Mountain. More than 200,000 board feet (470 m3) of lumber were lowered by 1906. The auto road was extended to the Temple of Sinawava, and a trail built from there 1 mile (1.6 km) to the start of the Narrows. Angel’s Landing Trail was constructed in 1926 and two suspension bridges were built over the Virgin River. Other trails were constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the 1930s.

Zion National Park has been featured in numerous films, including The Deadwood Coach (1924), Arizona Bound (1927), Nevada (1927), Ramrod (1947) and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969).

Zion Canyon Scenic Drive provides access to Zion Canyon. Traffic congestion in the narrow canyon was recognized as a major problem in the 1990s and a public transportation system using propane-powered shuttle buses was instituted in the year 2000. As part of its shuttle fleet, Zion has two electric trams each holding up to 36 passengers. Usually from early April through late October, the scenic drive in Zion Canyon is closed to private vehicles and visitors ride the shuttle buses. The National Park Service has contracted the management of the shuttle bus system to transit operator RATP Dev.

On April 12, 1995, heavy rains triggered a landslide that blocked the Virgin River in Zion Canyon. Over a period of two hours, the river carved away part of the only exit road from the canyon, trapping 450 guests and employees at the Zion Lodge. A one-lane, temporary road was constructed within 24 hours to allow evacuation of the Lodge. A more stable albeit temporary road was completed on May 25, 1995, to allow summer visitors to access the canyon. This road was replaced with a permanent road during the first half of 1996.

The Zion–Mount Carmel Highway can be travelled year-round. Access for oversized vehicles requires a special permit, and is limited to daytime hours, as traffic through the tunnel must be one way to accommodate large vehicles. The 5-mile (8.0 km)-long Kolob Canyons Road was built to provide access to the Kolob Canyons section of the park. This road often closes in the winter.

In March 2009, President Barack Obama signed into law the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009, which designated and further protected 124,406 acres (50,345 ha) of park land, about 85% of the park, as the Zion Wilderness.

In September 2015, flooding trapped a party of seven in Keyhole Canyon, a slot canyon in the park. The flash flood killed all seven members of the group, whose remains were located after a search lasting several days.

In 2017, some scenes from the TV series Extinct were shot in the park.

The nine known exposed geologic formations in Zion National Park are part of a super-sequence of rock units called the Grand Staircase. Together, these formations represent about 150 million years of mostly Mesozoic-aged sedimentation in that part of North America. The formations exposed in the Zion area were deposited as sediment in very different environments:

The warm, shallow (sometimes advancing or retreating) sea of the Kaibab and Moenkopi formations
Streams, ponds, and lakes of the Chinle, Moenave, and Kayenta formations
The vast desert of the Navajo and Temple Cap formations
The dry near-shore environment of the Carmel Formation

Uplift affected the entire region, known as the Colorado Plateaus, by slowly raising these formations more than 10,000 feet (3,000 m) higher than where they were deposited. This steepened the stream gradient of the ancestral Virgin and other rivers on the plateau.

The faster-moving streams took advantage of uplift-created joints in the rocks. Eventually, all Cenozoic-aged formations were removed and gorges were cut into the plateaus. Zion Canyon was cut by the North Fork of the Virgin River in this way. During the later part of this process, lava flows and cinder cones covered parts of the area.

High water volume in wet seasons does most of the downcutting in the main canyon. These flood events are responsible for transporting most of the 3 million short tons (2.7 million metric tons) of rock and sediment that the Virgin River transports yearly. The Virgin cuts away its canyon faster than its tributaries can cut away their own streambeds, so tributaries end in waterfalls from hanging valleys where they meet the Virgin. The valley between the peaks of the Twin Brothers is a notable example of a hanging valley in the canyon.

The Great Basin, Mojave Desert, and Colorado Plateau converge at Zion and the Kolob canyons. This, along with the varied topography of canyon–mesa country, differing soil types, and uneven water availability, provides diverse habitat for the equally diverse mix of plants and animals that live in the area. The park is home to 289 bird, 79 mammals, 28 reptiles, 7 fish, and 6 amphibian species. These organisms make their homes in one or more of four life zones found in the park: desert, riparian, woodland, and coniferous forest.

Desert conditions persist on canyon bottoms and rocky ledges away from perennial streams. Sagebrush, prickly pear cactus, and rabbitbrush, along with sacred datura and Indian paintbrush, are common. Utah penstemon and golden aster can also be found. Milkvetch and prince’s plume are found in pockets of selenium-rich soils.

Common daytime animals include mule deer, rock squirrels, pinyon jays, and whiptail and collared lizards. Desert cottontails, jackrabbits, and Merriam’s kangaroo rats come out at night. Cougars, bobcats, coyotes, badgers, gray foxes, and ring-tail cats are the top predators.

Cooler conditions persist at mid-elevation slopes, from 3,900 to 5,500 feet (1,200 to 1,700 m). Stunted forests of pinyon pine and juniper coexist here with manzanita shrubs, cliffrose, serviceberry, scrub oak, and yucca. Stands of ponderosa pine, Gambel oak, manzanita and aspen populate the mesas and cliffs above 6,000 feet (1,800 m).

Golden eagles, red-tailed hawks, peregrine falcons, and white-throated swifts can be seen in the area. Desert bighorn sheep were reintroduced in the park in 1973. California condors were reintroduced in the Arizona Strip and in 2014 the first successful breeding of condors in the park was confirmed. Nineteen species of bat also live in the area.

Boxelder, Fremont cottonwood, maple, and willow dominate riparian plant communities. Animals such as bank beavers, flannel-mouth suckers, gnatcatchers, dippers, canyon wrens, the virgin spinedace, and water striders all make their homes in the riparian zones.

Rangers at the visitor centers in Zion Canyon and Kolob Canyons can help visitors plan their stay. Guided horseback riding trips, nature walks, and evening programs are available from late March to early November. The Junior Ranger Program for children ages 4 and up is active year-round at the Nature Center, Human History Museum, and the visitor centers.[65] A bookstore attached to the Zion Canyon visitor center offers books, maps, and souvenirs. The Grotto in Zion Canyon, the visitor center, and the viewpoint at the end of Kolob Canyons Road have the only designated picnic sites.

Seven trails with round-trip times of half an hour (Weeping Rock) to 4 hours (Angels Landing) are found in Zion Canyon. Two popular trails, Taylor Creek (4 hours round trip) and Kolob Arch (8 hours round trip), are in the Kolob Canyons section of the park, near Cedar City. Hiking up into The Narrows from the Temple of Sinawava is popular in summer, but hiking beyond Big Springs requires a permit. The entire Narrows from Chamberlain’s Ranch is a 16-mile one way trip that typically takes 12 hours of strenuous hiking. A shorter alternative is to enter the Narrows via Orderville Canyon. Both Orderville and the full Narrows require a back country permit. Entrance to the Parunuweap Canyon section of the park downstream of Labyrinth Falls is prohibited. Other often-used backcountry trails include the West Rim and LaVerkin Creek. The more primitive sections of Zion include the Kolob Terrace and the Kolob Canyons. A network of trails totaling 50 miles in distance connect Zion’s northwest corner of the park (Lee Pass Trailhead) to its southeast section (East Rim Trailhead). Popularly known as the Zion Traverse, the route offers backpackers a diverse experience of the park.

Zion is a center for rock climbing, with short walls like Spaceshot, Moonlight Buttress, Prodigal Son, Ashtar Command, and Touchstone being the most popular, highly rated routes.

Lodging in the park is available at Zion Lodge, located halfway through Zion Canyon. Just outside the park more lodging is available in Springdale.

Zion has three campgrounds: South and Watchman at the far southern side of the park, and a primitive site at Lava Point in the middle of the park off Kolob Terrace Road. Overnight camping in the backcountry requires permits.

Utah is a landlocked state in the Mountain West subregion of the Western United States. It borders Colorado to its east, Wyoming to its northeast, Idaho to its north, Arizona to its south, and Nevada to its west. Utah also touches a corner of New Mexico in the southeast. Of the fifty U.S. states, Utah is the 13th-largest by area; with a population over three million, it is the 30th-most-populous and 11th-least-densely populated. Urban development is mostly concentrated in two areas: the Wasatch Front in the north-central part of the state, which is home to roughly two-thirds of the population and includes the capital city, Salt Lake City; and Washington County in the southwest, with more than 180,000 residents. Most of the western half of Utah lies in the Great Basin.

Utah has been inhabited for thousands of years by various indigenous groups such as the ancient Puebloans, Navajo, and Ute. The Spanish were the first Europeans to arrive in the mid-16th century, though the region’s difficult geography and harsh climate made it a peripheral part of New Spain and later Mexico. Even while it was Mexican territory, many of Utah’s earliest settlers were American, particularly Mormons fleeing marginalization and persecution from the United States via the Mormon Trail. Following the Mexican–American War in 1848, the region was annexed by the U.S., becoming part of the Utah Territory, which included what is now Colorado and Nevada. Disputes between the dominant Mormon community and the federal government delayed Utah’s admission as a state; only after the outlawing of polygamy was it admitted in 1896 as the 45th.

People from Utah are known as Utahns. Slightly over half of all Utahns are Mormons, the vast majority of whom are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), which has its world headquarters in Salt Lake City; Utah is the only state where a majority of the population belongs to a single church. A 2023 paper challenged this perception (claiming only 42% of Utahns are Mormons) however most statistics still show a majority of Utah residents belong to the LDS church; estimates from the LDS church suggests 60.68% of Utah’s population belongs to the church whilst some sources put the number as high as 68%. The paper replied that membership count done by the LDS Church is too high for several reasons. The LDS Church greatly influences Utahn culture, politics, and daily life, though since the 1990s the state has become more religiously diverse as well as secular.

Utah has a highly diversified economy, with major sectors including transportation, education, information technology and research, government services, mining, multi-level marketing, and tourism. Utah has been one of the fastest growing states since 2000, with the 2020 U.S. census confirming the fastest population growth in the nation since 2010. St. George was the fastest-growing metropolitan area in the United States from 2000 to 2005. Utah ranks among the overall best states in metrics such as healthcare, governance, education, and infrastructure. It has the 12th-highest median average income and the least income inequality of any U.S. state. Over time and influenced by climate change, droughts in Utah have been increasing in frequency and severity, putting a further strain on Utah’s water security and impacting the state’s economy.

The History of Utah is an examination of the human history and social activity within the state of Utah located in the western United States.

Archaeological evidence dates the earliest habitation of humans in Utah to about 10,000 to 12,000 years ago. Paleolithic people lived near the Great Basin’s swamps and marshes, which had an abundance of fish, birds, and small game animals. Big game, including bison, mammoths and ground sloths, also were attracted to these water sources. Over the centuries, the mega-fauna died, this population was replaced by the Desert Archaic people, who sheltered in caves near the Great Salt Lake. Relying more on gathering than the previous Utah residents, their diet was mainly composed of cattails and other salt tolerant plants such as pickleweed, burro weed and sedge. Red meat appears to have been more of a luxury, although these people used nets and the atlatl to hunt water fowl, ducks, small animals and antelope. Artifacts include nets woven with plant fibers and rabbit skin, woven sandals, gaming sticks, and animal figures made from split-twigs. About 3,500 years ago, lake levels rose and the population of Desert Archaic people appears to have dramatically decreased. The Great Basin may have been almost unoccupied for 1,000 years.

The Fremont culture, named from sites near the Fremont River in Utah, lived in what is now north and western Utah and parts of Nevada, Idaho and Colorado from approximately 600 to 1300 AD. These people lived in areas close to water sources that had been previously occupied by the Desert Archaic people, and may have had some relationship with them. However, their use of new technologies define them as a distinct people. Fremont technologies include:

use of the bow and arrow while hunting,
building pithouse shelters,
growing maize and probably beans and squash,
building above ground granaries of adobe or stone,
creating and decorating low-fired pottery ware,
producing art, including jewelry and rock art such as petroglyphs and pictographs.

The ancient Puebloan culture, also known as the Anasazi, occupied territory adjacent to the Fremont. The ancestral Puebloan culture centered on the present-day Four Corners area of the Southwest United States, including the San Juan River region of Utah. Archaeologists debate when this distinct culture emerged, but cultural development seems to date from about the common era, about 500 years before the Fremont appeared. It is generally accepted that the cultural peak of these people was around the 1200 CE. Ancient Puebloan culture is known for well constructed pithouses and more elaborate adobe and masonry dwellings. They were excellent craftsmen, producing turquoise jewelry and fine pottery. The Puebloan culture was based on agriculture, and the people created and cultivated fields of maize, beans, and squash and domesticated turkeys. They designed and produced elaborate field terracing and irrigation systems. They also built structures, some known as kivas, apparently designed solely for cultural and religious rituals.

These two later cultures were roughly contemporaneous, and appear to have established trading relationships. They also shared enough cultural traits that archaeologists believe the cultures may have common roots in the early American Southwest. However, each remained culturally distinct throughout most of their existence. These two well established cultures appear to have been severely impacted by climatic change and perhaps by the incursion of new people in about 1200 CE. Over the next two centuries, the Fremont and ancient Pueblo people may have moved into the American southwest, finding new homes and farmlands in the river drainages of Arizona, New Mexico and northern Mexico.

In about 1200, Shoshonean speaking peoples entered Utah territory from the west. They may have originated in southern California and moved into the desert environment due to population pressure along the coast. They were an upland people with a hunting and gathering lifestyle utilizing roots and seeds, including the pinyon nut. They were also skillful fishermen, created pottery and raised some crops. When they first arrived in Utah, they lived as small family groups with little tribal organization. Four main Shoshonean peoples inhabited Utah country. The Shoshone in the north and northeast, the Gosiutes in the northwest, the Utes in the central and eastern parts of the region and the Southern Paiutes in the southwest. Initially, there seems to have been very little conflict between these groups.

In the early 16th century, the San Juan River basin in Utah’s southeast also saw a new people, the Díne or Navajo, part of a greater group of plains Athabaskan speakers moved into the Southwest from the Great Plains. In addition to the Navajo, this language group contained people that were later known as Apaches, including the Lipan, Jicarilla, and Mescalero Apaches.

Athabaskans were a hunting people who initially followed the bison, and were identified in 16th-century Spanish accounts as "dog nomads". The Athabaskans expanded their range throughout the 17th century, occupying areas the Pueblo peoples had abandoned during prior centuries. The Spanish first specifically mention the "Apachu de Nabajo" (Navaho) in the 1620s, referring to the people in the Chama valley region east of the San Juan River, and north west of Santa Fe. By the 1640s, the term Navaho was applied to these same people. Although the Navajo newcomers established a generally peaceful trading and cultural exchange with the some modern Pueblo peoples to the south, they experienced intermittent warfare with the Shoshonean peoples, particularly the Utes in eastern Utah and western Colorado.

At the time of European expansion, beginning with Spanish explorers traveling from Mexico, five distinct native peoples occupied territory within the Utah area: the Northern Shoshone, the Goshute, the Ute, the Paiute and the Navajo.

The Spanish explorer Francisco Vázquez de Coronado may have crossed into what is now southern Utah in 1540, when he was seeking the legendary Cíbola.

A group led by two Spanish Catholic priests—sometimes called the Domínguez–Escalante expedition—left Santa Fe in 1776, hoping to find a route to the California coast. The expedition traveled as far north as Utah Lake and encountered the native residents. All of what is now Utah was claimed by the Spanish Empire from the 1500s to 1821 as part of New Spain (later as the province Alta California); and subsequently claimed by Mexico from 1821 to 1848. However, Spain and Mexico had little permanent presence in, or control of, the region.

Fur trappers (also known as mountain men) including Jim Bridger, explored some regions of Utah in the early 19th century. The city of Provo was named for one such man, Étienne Provost, who visited the area in 1825. The city of Ogden, Utah is named for a brigade leader of the Hudson’s Bay Company, Peter Skene Ogden who trapped in the Weber Valley. In 1846, a year before the arrival of members from the Church of Jesus Christ of latter-day Saints, the ill-fated Donner Party crossed through the Salt Lake valley late in the season, deciding not to stay the winter there but to continue forward to California, and beyond.

Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, commonly known as Mormon pioneers, first came to the Salt Lake Valley on July 24, 1847. At the time, the U.S. had already captured the Mexican territories of Alta California and New Mexico in the Mexican–American War and planned to keep them, but those territories, including the future state of Utah, officially became United States territory upon the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, February 2, 1848. The treaty was ratified by the United States Senate on March 10, 1848.

Upon arrival in the Salt Lake Valley, the Mormon pioneers found no permanent settlement of Indians. Other areas along the Wasatch Range were occupied at the time of settlement by the Northwestern Shoshone and adjacent areas by other bands of Shoshone such as the Gosiute. The Northwestern Shoshone lived in the valleys on the eastern shore of Great Salt Lake and in adjacent mountain valleys. Some years after arriving in the Salt Lake Valley Mormons, who went on to colonize many other areas of what is now Utah, were petitioned by Indians for recompense for land taken. The response of Heber C. Kimball, first counselor to Brigham Young, was that the land belonged to "our Father in Heaven and we expect to plow and plant it." A 1945 Supreme Court decision found that the land had been treated by the United States as public domain; no aboriginal title by the Northwestern Shoshone had been recognized by the United States or extinguished by treaty with the United States.

Upon arriving in the Salt Lake Valley, the Mormons had to make a place to live. They created irrigation systems, laid out farms, built houses, churches, and schools. Access to water was crucially important. Almost immediately, Brigham Young set out to identify and claim additional community sites. While it was difficult to find large areas in the Great Basin where water sources were dependable and growing seasons long enough to raise vitally important subsistence crops, satellite communities began to be formed.

Shortly after the first company arrived in the Salt Lake Valley in 1847, the community of Bountiful was settled to the north. In 1848, settlers moved into lands purchased from trapper Miles Goodyear in present-day Ogden. In 1849, Tooele and Provo were founded. Also that year, at the invitation of Ute chief Wakara, settlers moved into the Sanpete Valley in central Utah to establish the community of Manti. Fillmore, Utah, intended to be the capital of the new territory, was established in 1851. In 1855, missionary efforts aimed at western native cultures led to outposts in Fort Lemhi, Idaho, Las Vegas, Nevada and Elk Mountain in east-central Utah.

The experiences of returning members of the Mormon Battalion were also important in establishing new communities. On their journey west, the Mormon soldiers had identified dependable rivers and fertile river valleys in Colorado, Arizona and southern California. In addition, as the men traveled to rejoin their families in the Salt Lake Valley, they moved through southern Nevada and the eastern segments of southern Utah. Jefferson Hunt, a senior Mormon officer of the Battalion, actively searched for settlement sites, minerals, and other resources. His report encouraged 1851 settlement efforts in Iron County, near present-day Cedar City. These southern explorations eventually led to Mormon settlements in St. George, Utah, Las Vegas and San Bernardino, California, as well as communities in southern Arizona.

Prior to establishment of the Oregon and California trails and Mormon settlement, Indians native to the Salt Lake Valley and adjacent areas lived by hunting buffalo and other game, but also gathered grass seed from the bountiful grass of the area as well as roots such as those of the Indian Camas. By the time of settlement, indeed before 1840, the buffalo were gone from the valley, but hunting by settlers and grazing of cattle severely impacted the Indians in the area, and as settlement expanded into nearby river valleys and oases, indigenous tribes experienced increasing difficulty in gathering sufficient food. Brigham Young’s counsel was to feed the hungry tribes, and that was done, but it was often not enough. These tensions formed the background to the Bear River massacre committed by California Militia stationed in Salt Lake City during the Civil War. The site of the massacre is just inside Preston, Idaho, but was generally thought to be within Utah at the time.

Statehood was petitioned for in 1849-50 using the name Deseret. The proposed State of Deseret would have been quite large, encompassing all of what is now Utah, and portions of Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, Wyoming, Arizona, Oregon, New Mexico and California. The name of Deseret was favored by the LDS leader Brigham Young as a symbol of industry and was derived from a reference in the Book of Mormon. The petition was rejected by Congress and Utah did not become a state until 1896, following the Utah Constitutional Convention of 1895.

In 1850, the Utah Territory was created with the Compromise of 1850, and Fillmore (named after President Fillmore) was designated the capital. In 1856, Salt Lake City replaced Fillmore as the territorial capital.

The first group of pioneers brought African slaves with them, making Utah the only place in the western United States to have African slavery. Three slaves, Green Flake, Hark Lay, and Oscar Crosby, came west with this first group in 1847. The settlers also began to purchase Indian slaves in the well-established Indian slave trade, as well as enslaving Indian prisoners of war. In 1850, 26 slaves were counted in Salt Lake County. Slavery didn’t become officially recognized until 1852, when the Act in Relation to Service and the Act for the relief of Indian Slaves and Prisoners were passed. Slavery was repealed on June 19, 1862, when Congress prohibited slavery in all US territories.

Disputes between the Mormon inhabitants and the federal government intensified after the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ practice of polygamy became known. The polygamous practices of the Mormons, which were made public in 1854, would be one of the major reasons Utah was denied statehood until almost 50 years after the Mormons had entered the area.

After news of their polygamous practices spread, the members of the LDS Church were quickly viewed by some as un-American and rebellious. In 1857, after news of a possible rebellion spread, President James Buchanan sent troops on the Utah expedition to quell the growing unrest and to replace Brigham Young as territorial governor with Alfred Cumming. The expedition was also known as the Utah War.

As fear of invasion grew, Mormon settlers had convinced some Paiute Indians to aid in a Mormon-led attack on 120 immigrants from Arkansas under the guise of Indian aggression. The murder of these settlers became known as the Mountain Meadows massacre. The Mormon leadership had adopted a defensive posture that led to a ban on the selling of grain to outsiders in preparation for an impending war. This chafed pioneers traveling through the region, who were unable to purchase badly needed supplies. A disagreement between some of the Arkansas pioneers and the Mormons in Cedar City led to the secret planning of the massacre by a few Mormon leaders in the area. Some scholars debate the involvement of Brigham Young. Only one man, John D. Lee, was ever convicted of the murders, and he was executed at the massacre site.

Express riders had brought the news 1,000 miles from the Missouri River settlements to Salt Lake City within about two weeks of the army’s beginning to march west. Fearing the worst as 2,500 troops (roughly 1/3rd of the army then) led by General Albert Sidney Johnston started west, Brigham Young ordered all residents of Salt Lake City and neighboring communities to prepare their homes for burning and evacuate southward to Utah Valley and southern Utah. Young also sent out a few units of the Nauvoo Legion (numbering roughly 8,000–10,000), to delay the army’s advance. The majority he sent into the mountains to prepare defenses or south to prepare for a scorched earth retreat. Although some army wagon supply trains were captured and burned and herds of army horses and cattle run off no serious fighting occurred. Starting late and short on supplies, the United States Army camped during the bitter winter of 1857–58 near a burned out Fort Bridger in Wyoming. Through the negotiations between emissary Thomas L. Kane, Young, Cumming and Johnston, control of Utah territory was peacefully transferred to Cumming, who entered an eerily vacant Salt Lake City in the spring of 1858. By agreement with Young, Johnston established the army at Fort Floyd 40 miles away from Salt Lake City, to the southwest.

Salt Lake City was the last link of the First Transcontinental Telegraph, between Carson City, Nevada and Omaha, Nebraska completed in October 1861. Brigham Young, who had helped expedite construction, was among the first to send a message, along with Abraham Lincoln and other officials. Soon after the telegraph line was completed, the Deseret Telegraph Company built the Deseret line connecting the settlements in the territory with Salt Lake City and, by extension, the rest of the United States.

Because of the American Civil War, federal troops were pulled out of Utah Territory (and their fort auctioned off), leaving the territorial government in federal hands without army backing until General Patrick E. Connor arrived with the 3rd Regiment of California Volunteers in 1862. While in Utah, Connor and his troops soon became discontent with this assignment wanting to head to Virginia where the "real" fighting and glory was occurring. Connor established Fort Douglas just three miles (5 km) east of Salt Lake City and encouraged his bored and often idle soldiers to go out and explore for mineral deposits to bring more non-Mormons into the state. Minerals were discovered in Tooele County, and some miners began to come to the territory. Conner also solved the Shoshone Indian problem in Cache Valley Utah by luring the Shoshone into a midwinter confrontation on January 29, 1863. The armed conflict quickly turned into a rout, discipline among the soldiers broke down, and the Battle of Bear River is today usually referred to by historians as the Bear River Massacre. Between 200 and 400 Shoshone men, women and children were killed, as were 27 soldiers, with over 50 more soldiers wounded or suffering from frostbite.

Beginning in 1865, Utah’s Black Hawk War developed into the deadliest conflict in the territory’s history. Chief Antonga Black Hawk died in 1870, but fights continued to break out until additional federal troops were sent in to suppress the Ghost Dance of 1872. The war is unique among Indian Wars because it was a three-way conflict, with mounted Timpanogos Utes led by Antonga Black Hawk fighting federal and Utah local militia.

On May 10, 1869, the First transcontinental railroad was completed at Promontory Summit, north of the Great Salt Lake. The railroad brought increasing numbers of people into the state, and several influential businessmen made fortunes in the territory.

Main article: Latter Day Saint polygamy in the late-19th century
During the 1870s and 1880s, federal laws were passed and federal marshals assigned to enforce the laws against polygamy. In the 1890 Manifesto, the LDS Church leadership dropped its approval of polygamy citing divine revelation. When Utah applied for statehood again in 1895, it was accepted. Statehood was officially granted on January 4, 1896.

The Mormon issue made the situation for women the topic of nationwide controversy. In 1870 the Utah Territory, controlled by Mormons, gave women the right to vote. However, in 1887, Congress disenfranchised Utah women with the Edmunds–Tucker Act. In 1867–96, eastern activists promoted women’s suffrage in Utah as an experiment, and as a way to eliminate polygamy. They were Presbyterians and other Protestants convinced that Mormonism was a non-Christian cult that grossly mistreated women. The Mormons promoted woman suffrage to counter the negative image of downtrodden Mormon women. With the 1890 Manifesto clearing the way for statehood, in 1895 Utah adopted a constitution restoring the right of women’s suffrage. Congress admitted Utah as a state with that constitution in 1896.

Though less numerous than other intermountain states at the time, several lynching murders for alleged misdeeds occurred in Utah territory at the hand of vigilantes. Those documented include the following, with their ethnicity or national origin noted in parentheses if it was provided in the source:

William Torrington in Carson City (then a part of Utah territory), 1859
Thomas Coleman (Black man) in Salt Lake City, 1866
3 unidentified men at Wahsatch, winter of 1868
A Black man in Uintah, 1869
Charles A. Benson in Logan, 1873
Ah Sing (Chinese man) in Corinne, 1874
Thomas Forrest in St. George, 1880
William Harvey (Black man) in Salt Lake City, 1883
John Murphy in Park City, 1883
George Segal (Japanese man) in Ogden, 1884
Joseph Fisher in Eureka, 1886
Robert Marshall (Black man) in Castle Gate, 1925
Other lynchings in Utah territory include multiple instances of mass murder of Native American children, women, and men by White settlers including the Battle Creek massacre (1849), Provo River Massacre (1850), Nephi massacre (1853), and Circleville Massacre (1866).

Beginning in the early 20th century, with the establishment of such national parks as Bryce Canyon National Park and Zion National Park, Utah began to become known for its natural beauty. Southern Utah became a popular filming spot for arid, rugged scenes, and such natural landmarks as Delicate Arch and "the Mittens" of Monument Valley are instantly recognizable to most national residents. During the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, with the construction of the Interstate highway system, accessibility to the southern scenic areas was made easier.

Beginning in 1939, with the establishment of Alta Ski Area, Utah has become world-renowned for its skiing. The dry, powdery snow of the Wasatch Range is considered some of the best skiing in the world. Salt Lake City won the bid for the 2002 Winter Olympics in 1995, and this has served as a great boost to the economy. The ski resorts have increased in popularity, and many of the Olympic venues scattered across the Wasatch Front continue to be used for sporting events. This also spurred the development of the light-rail system in the Salt Lake Valley, known as TRAX, and the re-construction of the freeway system around the city.

During the late 20th century, the state grew quickly. In the 1970s, growth was phenomenal in the suburbs. Sandy was one of the fastest-growing cities in the country at that time, and West Valley City is the state’s 2nd most populous city. Today, many areas of Utah are seeing phenomenal growth. Northern Davis, southern and western Salt Lake, Summit, eastern Tooele, Utah, Wasatch, and Washington counties are all growing very quickly. Transportation and urbanization are major issues in politics as development consumes agricultural land and wilderness areas.

In 2012, the State of Utah passed the Utah Transfer of Public Lands Act in an attempt to gain control over a substantial portion of federal land in the state from the federal government, based on language in the Utah Enabling Act of 1894. The State does not intend to use force or assert control by limiting access in an attempt to control the disputed lands, but does intend to use a multi-step process of education, negotiation, legislation, and if necessary, litigation as part of its multi-year effort to gain state or private control over the lands after 2014.

Utah families, like most Americans everywhere, did their utmost to assist in the war effort. Tires, meat, butter, sugar, fats, oils, coffee, shoes, boots, gasoline, canned fruits, vegetables, and soups were rationed on a national basis. The school day was shortened and bus routes were reduced to limit the number of resources used stateside and increase what could be sent to soldiers.

Geneva Steel was built to increase the steel production for America during World War II. President Franklin D. Roosevelt had proposed opening a steel mill in Utah in 1936, but the idea was shelved after a couple of months. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States entered the war and the steel plant was put into progress. In April 1944, Geneva shipped its first order, which consisted of over 600 tons of steel plate. Geneva Steel also brought thousands of job opportunities to Utah. The positions were hard to fill as many of Utah’s men were overseas fighting. Women began working, filling 25 percent of the jobs.

As a result of Utah’s and Geneva Steels contribution during the war, several Liberty Ships were named in honor of Utah including the USS Joseph Smith, USS Brigham Young, USS Provo, and the USS Peter Skene Ogden.

One of the sectors of the beachhead of Normandy Landings was codenamed Utah Beach, and the amphibious landings at the beach were undertaken by United States Army troops.

It is estimated that 1,450 soldiers from Utah were killed in the war.

Posted by on 2022-07-15 23:02:27

Tagged: , Zion national park , usa , utah , America , Land of Liberty , land of opportunity , New World , the States , U.S. , US of A , north america , americas

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