Utah: The Beehive State
Geography and Industry
Western Utah is a dry lake bed. Thousands of years ago, it was the bottom of the massive Lake Bonneville. The Great Salt Lake is all that is left of this ancient lake. Central Utah is a long, narrow, fertile valley. Most of Utah's cities lie in this corridor. Eastern Utah is very mountainous in the north, and has a network of deep, beautiful canyons. These include the world-famous Bryce Canyon and Zion Canyon. Many of these formations were created by the Colorado River, which flows northeast to southwest across the southeastern corner of the state.
There are many other natural wonders to see in Utah. They include Canyonlands and Arches (both national parks), and national monuments such as Golden Spike, Dinosaur, Grand Staircase-Escalantre, and Rainbow Bridge. There are ancient cliff dwellings in Capitol Reef National Park.
Mining is a very important part of Utah's economy. There is a lot of copper, gold, magnesium, and petroleum. Other metals, such as silver, lead, tin, and uranium, are mined there as well.
Because the terrain is so dry and rocky, the amount of land used for agriculture is very small. In the land that is usable as farmland, barley, corn, hay, and wheat are grown. Cattle, sheep, and poultry are also raised in large quantities.
Tourism is a growing industry in Utah. Not only do the canyons and rock formations of the east and the southern deserts draw many visitors every year, but so does the world-class skiing in places such as Park City, which is in the Wasatch Mountains in the northeastern part of the state.
ALL ABOUT Utah
CAPITAL: Salt Lake City
LARGEST CITY: Salt Lake City
POPULATION: 2,233,169 (2000 Census)
STATE BIRD: Seagull
STATE TREE: Blue Spruce
STATE FLOWER: Sego Lily
STATE MOTTO: “Industry”
STATEHOOD: January 4, 1896
POSTAL ABBREVIATION: UT
Like neighboring states Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona, Utah was occupied over a thousand years ago by cliff-dwellers who built in Utah's canyons using adobe. By the time the Spanish visited the region, the major Native American tribes living in Utah were the Western Shoshone, the Ute, and the Paiute.
Trappers like Jim Bridger worked throughout Utah, looking for beaver in the early 1800s. Bridger was the first white man to see the Great Salt Lake (in 1824). He was also the guide who led Brigham Young's first Mormon wagon trains to northern Utah.
Utah and the Mormons
The Mormons were established as a religious sect in the early 1800s by Joseph Smith, in upstate New York. As they gained in numbers, they moved several times, relocating to Ohio, then to Missouri, and after that to Illinois.
Later, Brigham Young was responsible for the Mormon migration to the far west. He hired Jim Bridger to lead the way. They arrived in the valley of the Great Salt Lake on July 24, 1847.
By 1850, all of Utah and part of what later became Nevada was designated by the U.S. government as the Utah Territory. However, it took nearly half a century and the threat of civil war before Utah became a state. This was mostly because the Mormons practiced polygamy, which means a man marrying more than one wife. Polygamy was illegal in the United States, but Mormons practiced it as part of their religion. In 1858 they had a series of skirmishes with U.S. troops sent to the territory to remove Brigham Young as governor. James Buchanan replaced Young as governor, but Young remained head of the Mormon Church.
THE GOLDEN SPIKE NOT SO GOLDEN?
The only problem is that the “golden” spike wasn't really golden! It's true! Pure gold is far too soft to be pounded into a wooden railroad tie with a hammer. So the builders used a spike that was made of an alloy of different metals, including gold, and covered in gold plating.
A Transportation Revolution
On May 10, 1869, Leland Stanford, a California railroad owner, drove the ceremonial “golden” spike in the first transcontinental railroad tracks. The spike was driven in at Promontory Point in the northern part of Utah. With the opening of the railroad, travel between the west coast and the east coast went from taking months to taking days.