State in western USA, one of the Mountain States, bordered to the east by Colorado, to the south by Arizona, to the west by Nevada, and to the north by Wyoming; at the Four Corners in the southeast, it also touches New Mexico; area 212,752 sq km/82,144 sq mi; population (2010) 2,763,885; capital and largest city Salt Lake City. The name Utah derives from the American Indian Ute, meaning ‘high land’; its nickname symbolizes thrift and industry. Utah has a spectacular landscape of canyons, Rocky Mountain peaks, and vast deserts. It is an important transport hub for the western USA, and service industries and tourism are the state's largest employers. Products include transport equipment, processed foods, and scientific materials. Beef, milk, and hay are the main agricultural products. Salt Lake City is the headquarters of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints, or Mormons; nearly 70% of Utah's population is Mormon (2010). Other important towns and cities include West Valley City, Provo, West Jordan, Sandy, Orem, and Ogden. Originally home to the Ute, Paiute, and Goshiute, the region was first claimed by Spain and, after 1821, by Mexico. From the 1840s US explorers surveyed Utah, and settlement began in 1847 when the Mormons under Brigham Young arrived in Salt Lake City. The region was ceded to the USA in 1848, and the extension of the Union Pacific Railroad in 1869 opened the state to further settlement. Utah was admitted to the Union in 1896 as the 45th US state.
Physical Utah includes part of the Rocky Mountains in the northeast, the Basin and Range region in the west, and the Colorado Plateau to the east. Two Rocky Mountain ranges extend into Utah: the Uinta Mountains and the Wasatch Mountains. The Uinta are Utah's tallest mountains, rising to 4,123 m/13,528 ft at King's Peak; they extend westward from Colorado and almost reach Salt Lake City. The Wasatch range spreads from Mount Nebo, south of Provo, to Idaho in the north, and rises to over 3,350 m/11,000 ft. The range contains many canyons, providing water and recreation areas for the cities to their west.
The Basin and Range region, with the Great Salt Lake in its northeast, is one of the driest regions in the USA. The centre of the region is comprised of small mountain ranges and wide basins, with higher ranges to the east and west. To the west of the Great Salt Lake is the barren Great Salt Lake Desert, which features around 1,620 ha/4,000 acres of extremely hard, flat, salt beds, with, at its southern end, the cold arid desert of the Great Basin. By contrast, the far southwest of this region is the state's hottest and most fertile area, where early settlers grew cotton and grapes.
The Colorado Plateau features uplands with deep canyons, valleys, and plateaux over 3,350 m/11,000 ft high. The best-known canyons include Cedar Breaks and Zion. The southeast corner of the region, where Utah meets Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado, is the only place in the USA where four states meet.
The largest rivers are the Colorado and its major tributary, the Green River, which drain east of the state. The northwest corner is drained by the Snake River and its branches. The Bear, the Provo, and the Weber rivers flow through the Wasatch Mountains from the Uinta Mountains into the Great Salt Lake. The Great Salt Lake has no outgoing drainage and is saltier than an ocean; its evaporation leaves salt deposits. Floods are often caused by the expansion of the lake after heavy rain. Utah Lake and Bear Lake, which is shared with Idaho, are important reservoirs, storing water for irrigation. In the far south of the state, in the middle of the Utah Desert and extending into Arizona, is Lake Powell, the second-largest artificial lake in the USA. There are several other small lakes in the mountains.
Features Utah has five national parks with a wealth of geological features created by the forces of erosion. Canyonlands is a vast park set in the canyons of southeast Utah, with the confluence of the Colorado and Green rivers at its heart. It contains some of the wildest terrain in the USA, much of it inaccessible. To its northeast is the Arches National Park, a maze of sandstone arches and fins with balanced rocks and tall spires. Capitol Reef National Park, to the west of Canyonlands, features sculptured rock in spectacular rainbow colours; its rounded sandstone hills were compared by early explorers to the Capitol dome in Washington, DC. To the southwest is Bryce Canyon National Park, a region of rock spires below the high cliffs of Paunsaugunt Plateau. Further to the southwest is Zion National Park, where sheer cliffs and great monoliths reach high into the sky.
Dinosaur National Monument straddles the Utah–Colorado border in the northeast and is one of the world's most productive sites for dinosaur bones. It presents opportunities for geological study and its deep canyons and rapids are popular venues for river running and rafting. Cedar Breaks National Monument is a giant natural amphitheatre carved by erosion, 760 m/2,500 ft deep and 5 km/3 mi across, and Nine Mile Canyon has rock carvings by the Fremont American Indians. Hovenweep National Monument has tower structures built by the American Indian Anasazi in the 13th century that may have been used for making astronomical observations. Other national monuments include Natural Bridges, Rainbow Bridge, and Timpanogos Cave. Further sites of American Indian interest include Monument Valley Tribal Park, where the Navajo hid from Kit Carson in 1863; Anasazi Indian Village State Park, with evidence of habitation from the 11th to 12th centuries; and Fremont Indian State Park, with over 500 examples of rock art and the weathered remains of pit houses over 1,000 years old.
Salt Lake City has fine examples of pioneer architecture. Built on a grid system formulated by Brigham Young in 1837, the city has residential districts containing examples of grand Victorian mansions, while the city centre features ornate storefronts and impressive civic buildings. Popular tourist sites are Temple Square; the Tabernacle, home of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir; the Family History Library, the largest collection of genealogical data in the world; the Beehive House (1854), Brigham Young's home; the Union Pacific Railroad Depot (1909); and the Utah state capitol (1915), a good example of Renaissance Revival architecture, with murals depicting Utah's history, painted during the Great Depression. The city also has a number of museums.
Other places of interest include Golden Spike, a National Historic Site where the Union Pacific and Central Pacific railways met in 1869, completing the Transcontinental Railroad; and the Intermountain Power Project, the world's largest coal-fired generating station.
Culture Utah's population is one of the most urban in the USA, with 85% of its inhabitants living in cities. Modern Utah's population is largely white (86% in 2010), reflecting the north European origins of the Mormon pioneers and the south European origins of those attracted by the state's mining opportunities. The Mormon preoccupation with family and education has given rise to a relatively young population and one of the highest proportions of high-school graduates in the USA.
Every 24 July the state observes Pioneer Day, commemorating the 1847 arrival of the Mormon pioneers in the Salt Lake Valley, and many towns stage celebrations. Provo celebrates the Fourth of July with a Freedom Festival. American Indian festivals include the Fourth of July Northern Ute Indian Powwow and Rodeo, the main annual event in the Uintah and Ouray Indian Reservation, west of Vernal. Smaller powwows, rodeos, and dances take place there throughout the year.
Utah has a strong association with the film industry. The Sundance Film Festival was founded here in 1981 by US film actor and director Robert Redford, and takes place in Park City, Salt Lake City, and Sundance every January. Kanab, in the far south of the state, is known as Little Hollywood because of the movies that have been shot there. The Frontier Movie Town, a replica film set for tourists holds a Dutch oven cook-out and a shoot-out most evenings. The canyon just to the north of the town has been used as a set for several Westerns.
A few of Utah's many other festivals include the Friendship Cruise in Green River in May; the Re-enactment of the Driving of the Golden Spike, where the Transcontinental Railroad was joined, in Provo in May; the Scottish Festival in Salt Lake City in June; the Ute Stampede and Rodeo in Nephi in July; and the Mormon Miracle Pageant in Manti at Logan in July and August. The Utah Shakespearean Festival takes place at Cedar City in July and August in an open-air replica of the Globe Theatre in London.
Salt Lake City was the host of the 2002 Winter Olympics, and Olympic venues were scattered around the city and in the ski resorts of Park City and Deer Valley. Utah is known for its abundant, powdery snow, and the Wasatch Mountain ski resorts, which also include Alta, Snowbird, Solitude, Brighton, and Sundance, attract skiers and snowboarders from all over the world.
Utah's universities include the Brigham Young University at Provo, the University of Utah at Salt Lake City, and Utah State University at Logan.
GovernmentUtah's state constitution Utah adopted its constitution in 1895 and became the 45th state in 1896. Constitutional amendments may be proposed by the state legislature or by constitutional convention.
Structure of state government The state legislature consists of an upper chamber, the Senate, with 29 members elected for four-year terms, and a House of Representatives, with 75 members elected for two-year terms. The legislature meets each year in January for a 45-day session.
Two senators and four representatives go to the US Congress, and the state has six electoral votes in presidential elections. State politics are dominated by the Republican party and Utah is a socially and fiscally conservative state. It is only one of two US states (the other being Hawaii) to outlaw all forms of gambling.
The governor is elected to a four-year term, as are other executives, such as the attorney general, the lieutenant governor, the state treasurer, and state auditor. All these elected officials can serve any number of terms. Republican Gary Herbert took the governorship in August 2009. The governor has the power to appoint unelected officials.
The Utah court system includes a Supreme Court, consisting of five justices who serve ten-year terms. A chief justice is elected by majority vote to serve for four years and an associate chief justice to serve for two years. There is also a court of appeals which consists of seven judges who serve six-year terms, and trial courts including the district, juvenile, and justice courts.
Each of the state's 29 counties is run by an elected three-member board of county commissioners. The 245 municipalities may have one of five different forms of government.
Economy The state's service industries, mostly located in the metropolitan areas, make up the greatest portion of Utah's gross state product and provide the most employment. Tourism is also a major employer and makes a key contribution to the economy. Leading manufactured products include transport equipment, the largest plants being at Brigham City and Salt Lake City, where rocket propulsion systems for spacecraft and weapons systems are produced. Other industries include the manufacture of computing and electronic equipment, processed foods, primary and fabricated metals, and scientific instruments.
Petroleum, most of which comes from Duchesne, San Juan, and Uintah counties, is the state's most valuable mineral resource, followed by copper, low-sulphur coal, and natural gas. There are uranium deposits in the southeast, gold in Tooele County, and silver in Iron county. Other minerals include gilsonite, molybdenum, magnesium, potassium, sand, gravel, clay, gemstones, phosphate, and gypsum. Beef, cattle, and milk are the main agricultural products, followed by turkeys, eggs, pigs and sheep. Hay is the leading crop, mainly used by the state's own livestock. Wheat, barley, corn, and wool are also produced; the main fruits are apples, peaches, and pears.
HistoryPrehistory Archaeological evidence suggests that American Indians were wandering across the Utah area around 15,000 years ago, hunting big game. Agriculture was introduced from the south 2,000 years ago, marking a transition to settled life. The Fremont culture developed in the north of the Colorado Plateau and the Anasazi in the south, the latter leaving behind masonry buildings, many of which still stand. Both these groups left the region about 800 years ago, possibly because of prolonged drought or the arrival of other peoples. Around that time the nomadic Shoshone, and the Ute, Paiute, and Goshiute, moved into the area from the north. The semi-nomadic Navajo migrated into the southwest in the late 18th century.
Explorers The region was part of the large southwestern territory claimed by Spain in the mid-16th century and, after 1821, by Mexico. The 1776 Escalante and Dominguez expedition, striking northwest from Santa Fe, New Mexico, in search of a route to California, wound through the south-central region along part of what became known as the Spanish Trail. In the early 19th century fur trappers explored the mountains, the rivers, and the Great Salt Lake, and blazed the trails later used by wagon trains, the Pony Express, telegraph lines, and railways. US frontier scout James Bridger was probably the first white man to see the Great Salt Lake, in 1824.
In 1843 John C Frémont led one of his government-sponsored expeditions into Utah. He determined the salinity of the Great Salt Lake and laid to rest speculation that a river drained it into the Pacific. In 1845 he led a successful expedition across the Great Salt Desert to California.
The Mormons The Mormons were subject to religious persecution in the East and were looking for a place to settle. Frémont's reports were studied by the Mormon leaders who were planning a trek from Nauvoo, Illinois, and in July 1847 the Mormons under Brigham Young arrived in the Salt Lake Valley and began settlement. By 1848, the year that Mexico relinquished its claims on the territory, the Mormons had proclaimed Salt Lake City the capital of Deseret (a Mormon word meaning ‘beehive’), a state extending as far as California. In 1850, however, the US government established the much smaller Utah Territory.
With the discovery of gold in the northeast in the 1860s, ‘gentiles’ (non-Mormons) poured into the territory. The completion of the Transcontinental Railroad in 1869 further opened Utah to the outside world, and decades of conflict between the Mormons and federal authorities followed. Many differences fuelled the sometimes violent relationship, but it was the Mormon practice of polygamy (properly polygyny, the practice of one husband having several wives) that was the most contentious. The abolition of polygamy in 1890 opened the way to statehood.
The Paiute and Ute befriended the early settlers but soon saw their most desirable land being taken by white farmers and ranchers. The Ute chief Walker attacked several Mormon settlements, but was eventually persuaded to stop by Brigham Young. There was a period of peace until the start of the Black Hawk War in 1865, during which many Mormons and American Indians died. The Mormons lost over US$1 million and the tribes lost their land, eventually being settled on the state's five reservations.
20th-century history and contemporary Utah An agricultural community grew along the Wasatch Front in coexistence with the mining and smelting settlements built in Salt Lake Valley, which supplied the allies in World War I. The world's largest open-pit copper mine began work in 1906 at Bingham Canyon. Utah was hard hit by the Great Depression in the 1930s – the mining industry suffered, farm prices dropped, and unemployment soared. The manufacturing and mining industries prospered during World War II, however, and in the 1950s missile plants were built in Brigham City, Ogden, and Salt Lake City. By the 1960s Utah had made the transition from an agricultural to an industrial state, the manufacture of steel products becoming important. In 1952 uranium was found near Moab and dam building in the 1960s led to further prosperity.
The slump in oil prices in the 1970s and a decline in demand for missile parts meant difficult times again for Utah, although the tourist industry had been prospering since the 1950s, attracted by ski resorts in the Wasatch Mountains and other outdoor pursuits.
Environmental concerns were raised in 1968 when it was discovered that the US army was testing nerve gas in Utah – they had accidentally poisoned some 6,000 sheep. Conservation has been high on the agenda ever since, and activists have demanded an end to the storage and use of such chemicals. A statewide programme was adopted to fight air pollution in 1969. Bitter disputes have erupted over land use, with conservationists arguing that the desert and mountain areas must be preserved.
The state's economy and population have grown rapidly over recent decades. In 2002 Salt Lake City hosted the Winter Olympic Games. This gave a further boost to the economy as Utah's ski resorts increased in popularity.
Famous peoplethe arts Cyrus Dallin (1861–1944), sculptor; Maude Adams (1872–1953), actor; Bernard DeVoto (1897–1955), author; Loretta Young (1913–2000), actor; James Woods (1947– ), actor; Rosanne Barr (1952– ), comedian; Donny (1957– ) and Marie (1959– ) Osmond, singers
science John M Browning (1855–1926), inventor; Philo Taylor Farnsworth (1906–1971), television pioneer; Simon Ramo (1913– ), engineer; Paul D Boyer (1918– ), Nobel Prize-winning chemist; Jake Garn (1932– ), astronaut and senator
society and education Peter Skeene Ogden (1790–1854), fur trader and trapper; Brigham Young (1801–1877), Mormon religious leader; William Haywood (1869–1928), labour leader
economics J Willard Marriott (1900–1985), restaurant and hotel executive; James S Coleman (1919–1985), political scientist; Stephen R Covey (1932–2012), management theorist
politics and law Reed Smoot (1862–1941), senator; Orrin Hatch (1934– ), senator.
Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
Monument Valley, Utah
Utah – flag
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