With its wide city streets, the coming-and-going of the TRAX light rail system and the constant bustle of new construction, Salt Lake City has an atmosphere of expansion and growth. Situated at the base of the magnificent Wasatch Mountains, Salt Lake City is booming and evolving at a rapid rate.
While most business travelers limit their activities to the city center, many tourists come for the outstanding outdoor recreation found throughout the Salt Lake Basin. In winter, skiing in the Wasatch Mountains is the main reason most people visit, but when the snow melts, it becomes prime mountain biking and hiking country.
Salt Lake City offers a variety of activities no matter what the season and any time of year is good time to visit.
History & Culture
Salt Lake City was founded on July 24, 1847 by Mormon pioneers. But people had been living in the region for centuries. When the colonies were declaring independence in 1776, Catholic fathers and the explorers Dominguez and Escalante were in the area documenting Utah‘s geography and people. Ancient indigenous people, the ancestors of the Ute and Navajo tribes, are reported to have been here from approximately 1 A. D. to 1300 A. D. Mountain men and trappers arrived to exploit Utah’s abundant wildlife during the 1820′s. But Salt Lake City really began to get on the map when Mormon pioneers began arriving in 1847. Over the course of that year, nearly 2,000 migrated to the Salt Lake Valley in search of religious freedom. The pioneers faced much adversity as they established their community. In 1848 a late frost, drought and a plague of crickets nearly destroyed the harvest. Flocks of seagulls from the Great Salt Lake consumed the insects and enough crops were saved to ensure the pioneers would survive the harsh Utah winter.
The University of Utah was established in 1850. The famous California Gold Rush of 1849-50 also brought many settlers to the area. After a harsh crossing through the Rockies, many were not willing to cross the desert to get all the way to California and decided to stay here. In 1853, construction began on Temple Square with granite from nearby canyons. The structure took forty years to complete. By the time the first transcontinental railroad was completed in 1869 at Promontory Point (approximately 80 miles north of Salt Lake City), Utah had a population of more than 60,000 Mormons. Soldiers, miners, ranchers and merchants followed. The completion of the transcontinental railroad also brought many of Utah’s first tourists who were determined to see this “City of Saints.” In 1896, Utah became the 45th state admitted to the Union.
The modern character of Salt Lake City began to evolve in the early 1900′s. The Utah State Capitol Building and other buildings rose near the shores of the Great Salt Lake. Electric trolleys transported people living in the outlying regions of Sugarhouse, Liberty Park and The Avenues. The Eagle Gate, marking the entrance to Brigham Young’s estate, was reconstructed allowing traffic to flow into the city.
Many of Salt Lake City’s most graceful mansions were constructed by the mining tycoons and remain as examples of this opulent time in the state’s history. The population of the city tripled in the first few decades of the 20th century. Although the Great Depression slowed the growth, defense installations and manufacturing were developed to meet the demands of World War II, revitalizing Utah’s economy. Many companies that got their start during World War II and in the post-war years have maintained that presence in Utah.
As with the rest of the United States, the suburbs around Salt Lake City expanded and developed their own identities in the 1960′s and 1970′s. The nearby canyon communities and the ski resorts evolved into the world class ski areas good enough to host the 2002 Winter Olympic Games. Each ski area has a distinct personality and cachet. Park City is now renowned as the home of the Sundance Film Festival and Deer Valley Resort is one of the world’s premier ski resorts. Snowbird and Alta in Little Cottonwood Canyon also rank among the world’s top ski areas.
The mountain men and early pioneers would be amazed by what has become of Salt Lake City. Because Salt Lake City exists in the shadows of the mountains, it has evolved into a city that is deeply connected to its geography and environment. The downtown skyline continues to grow, but it will always be dwarfed by the mountains to the east. Salt Lake City’s history has been one of contrasts, and its future is bound to continue this.
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