Utah is the only state in the country whose capital is three words long. Do you know the name of this city? The state borders Idaho to the north, Wyoming to the northeast, Colorado to the east, Arizona to the south, and Nevada to the west. It’s also the second-driest state in the United States after Nevada.
Utah is not only famous for its stunning beauty, but also its history. It has been inhabited for thousands of years by various Native American tribes. Five major tribes still live in the state, including the Ute, Navajo, Paiute, Goshute, and Shoshone.
What really happened
- About 75 million years ago, the Utah region was part of a landmass called Laramidia. It was swampy, hot and full of dinosaurs.
- The Anasazi people lived in the region for just over one thousand years before disappearing. They lived in Utah around 500 AD and disappeared in the 1300s. They were also called “Cliff Dwellers” because they carved large cities out of the walls of cliffs. Some of these cities can also be seen in three other states: Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado.
- The first Europeans arrived in Utah when Spanish explorer Juan Antonio de Rivera visited in 1765. He claimed the land for Spain and also founded the Colorado River. At the time, Native Americans tribes were already living on the land. One of the largest tribes was the Ute tribe, which is where the state got its name.
- In 1776, a Mexican expedition entered the state that was led by Franciscan priests on their way to California. In the late 1700s and early 1800s, others arrived who were mostly fur traders searching for new hunting grounds.
- In 1821, Mexico claimed Utah from Spain, along with parts of Arizona, California, New Mexico, Texas, Colorado and Nevada. Then in 1848, the United States won the Mexican-American War. As part of the treaty between the two countries, Mexico had to surrender Utah to the United States.
- Jim Bridger was the first English-speaking person to discover the Great Salt Lake in 1824. He mistakenly thought he had reached the Pacific Ocean. Great Salt Lake contains between 4.5 and 4.9 tons of dissolved salt. Some parts of the lake are almost nine times saltier than the ocean.
- In 1847, the first group of Mormon pioneers reached Salt Lake Valley. They came from the Midwest to escape religious discrimination and chose Utah as their new home. The global headquarters of the Mormon Church (Church Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) is located in Downtown Salt Lake City.
- In 1869, one of the greatest technological achievements of the 19th century happened: the completion of the first transcontinental railroad across the country. A local celebration took place in the city of Promontory where the Central Pacific and Union Pacific Railroads met. The spot is now called the Golden Spike National Historic Site.
- Utah joined the Union as the 45th state in 1896.
Stuff you should know
- Utah has the youngest population in the country. About 29% of its residents are under the age of 18.
- People from the state are called Utahns and Utahans.
- The state’s name comes from the Native American Ute tribe and means people of the mountains.
- There are five national parks in Utah: Zion, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, and Arches. Have you visited any of these wonderful parks? If so, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org about your experience there and we’ll post it on Mo’s social media pages along with your first name, age, and state where you live.
- Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah all meet at four corners. This is the only place in the United States where four states come together.
- Salt Lake City was called the Great Salt Lake City until 1968.
Crazy, funny, or just plain weird
- In Utah, there is a town called “Levan”. Levan spelled backward is navel. According to local lore, the town got its name because it sits in the center or at what would be the belly button of the state.
- There’s a law in Utah against hunting elephants. Really.
- Ever hear of a potato hotdish, also called “funeral potatoes”? Just like other states, Utah has its own special food. This classic comfort food combines potatoes with cheese, creamy soup, and crushed cornflakes. Another food favorite includes pastrami burgers. They’re a quarter-pound hamburger patty on a sesame seed bun with Thousand Island dressing, lettuce, tomato, onions, cheese, and topped with a heaping helping of pastrami. My stomach is growling…
- Even if you can’t swim, you can still float in the Great Salt Lake. The lake is filled with salt that streams down from the canyons and mountains and has nowhere to go. The lake’s high salt content makes it easier for people to float.
- The Kennecott Copper Mine is the largest open pit mine in the world. It’s almost one mile deep and 2.5 miles wide. It’s so big that astronauts in the space shuttle can see it from outer space!
Tell me more
- In 2004, Nasa’s space capsule Genesis was carrying captured particles blown off the Sun. It crashed to Earth in the Utah desert after parachutes failed to open.
- The city of Kanab is also known as “Little Hollywood” because over 100 movies and many TV series, mostly westerns, have been filmed there since 1924. Remember Gunsmoke and Planet of the Apes? (We’re talking to the adults with these references!)
- The first electric traffic light using red and green lights was invented in 1912 by Lester Farnsworth Wire, a police officer in Salt Lake City. Likewise, Walter Fredrick Morrison, a Utah resident, invented the Frisbee.
- The most beautiful natural bridge in the world is Rainbow Bridge (Rainbow Bridge National Monument). It’s surrounded almost entirely by the Navajo Indian Reservation. Guess what color it is? It’s made out of salmon-pink Navajo sandstone.
What should people know about your state? What makes it special? Tell us and we will post it on Mo’s social media pages along with your first name, age, and state where you live.