History of Utah
The territory of present-day Utah was originally inhabited by the Fremont and Anasazi tribes. These predominantly sedentary tribes were the part of the Uto-Aztec ethnicity. They disappeared from the region in the 15th century and three centuries later were replaced by the Navajos and other Uto-Aztec tribes (Shoshone, Ute, Goshute and Paiute).
As for the Europeans, the first explorers in the area were Spanish, in the 16th and 18th century. The explorers were not particularly interested in settling in Utah as the land appeared to be very dry and less than ideal for cultivation. When Mexico gained independence from Spain in 1821, Utah became a part of Alta California and thus a part of Mexico.
In the early 19th century, many trappers and fur traders explored the area, naming some of the present day places in Utah after themselves (Provo, Ogden). It wasn’t until the discovery of the Great Salt Lake that the first permanent settlements (initially, trading posts) were made.
After Joseph Smith, the leader of the Latter Day Saints movement, died in 1844, many of the movement’s adherents followed Brigham Young to the Salt Lake Valley in Utah and settled there. Other settlements soon emerged throughout the region, not only in Utah, but in surrounding states as well. The desert proved to be a good place for Mormons to practice their faith without any disturbances.
The entire Southwest region was ceded to the United States with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848. New Mexico and California were granted statehood and the settlers applied for statehood, proposing what they called the State of Deseret. The proposed territory was too large and the Utah Territory was established instead. The territorial capital was Fillmore, but several years later it was replaced with Salt Lake City.
The US government was not happy with some of the practices in the LDS Church, especially polygamy. The tensions between the government and Mormons grew more acute and finally resulted in an attempt to replace then governor Brigham Young with another, federally appointed governor. This was known as the Utah War, which concluded by the official surrendering of power to the government, even though Young’s influence in the territory remained strong.
Federal troops were revoked from Utah because of the Civil War, but in 1862 another regiment arrived. The government publicized mineral deposits in the area with the intention of bringing more non-Mormons to the area.
The Black Hawk War (1865-1872) was one of the deadliest conflicts in the territory, fought between Mormons and the Ute, Paiute, Apache and Navajo tribes.
The new population boost came with the construction of the First Transcontinental Railroad in 1869.
When Utah applied again for statehood, one of the conditions was that polygamy must be prohibited. Statehood was granted in 1896.
In the early 20th century, Utah became famous for its unique landscape and natural beauty. The opening of national parks, most notably Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park, brought more and more tourists to the area, especially after the interstate highways were completed. Utah also became a popular filming location for Hollywood movies.
The population growth in Utah was very fast and intense starting from the 1970s and even today many areas are experiencing significant growth, especially the suburbs.
With its southeastern corner, Utah belongs to the Four Corners region. It shares its northern border with Idaho, eastern with Colorado, southern with Arizona and western with Nevada. Wyoming lies to the northeast of the state. The border with New Mexico, to the southeast, is very small and consists of one single point.
Utah represents the meeting point of three important US regions – the Rocky Mountains, Colorado Plateau and Great Basin. Utah is known for its diverse terrain, from sandy dunes to rich pine forests.
The northern portion of the state consists of the Wasatch Range with the famous ski resorts. The Uinta Mountains, with the state’s highest point (Kings Peak) are located in the northeastern portion of Utah.
The Wasatch Front is located at the base of the Wasatch Range. With approximately 75% of the entire state population, this is the most populated part of the state.
To the west, Utah is mostly arid, with small mountains and deserts. This part of the state has several remnant lakes from the ancient Lake Bonneville – Utah Lake, Great Salt Lake, Rush Lake and Sevier Lake. The Great Salt Lake Desert, Snake Valley, Great Basin National Park and Notch Peak are all located in western Utah.
The southern and southeastern portion of the state, with the Colorado Plateau, consists mainly of Kayenta and Navajo sandstone. This is a very specific and scenic landscape, with canyons, arches, pinnacles, buttes and mesas. Henry, Abajo and La Sal mountains are located in the southeast. This part of the state has many national and state parks, monuments and other tourist destinations, most notably Arches, Zion, Bryce Canyon, Cedar Breaks, Natural Bridges, dead Horse Point, Monument Valley and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.
To the east, Utah is dominated by basins and plateaus, many of which are hardly accessible. The population in this region relies greatly on mining, oil and natural gas drilling, ranching and tourism.
The southwestern portion of Utah is the lowest, with the most arid climate. It is sometimes called “the Utah’s Dixie” because in the past settlers used to grow cotton there.
Utah has a dry climate that ranges from semi-arid to desert climate. The weather is dry and the rainfall is more than modest, as the state lies in the rain shadow of the Wasatch Mountains and the Sierra Nevada. The driest part of the state is the Great Salt Lake Desert. On the other hand, snowfall is common and regular in almost all parts of the state. The snow is fluffy and dry, which makes Utah one of the best skiing destinations in the United States. The temperatures in Utah are extreme – summers are very hot and winters are quite cold. Events like tornadoes and thunderstorms are not common.
Population of Utah
According to the 2011 estimate, Utah has 2,817,222 inhabitants. The most populous area in Utah is the Wasatch Front, with approximately 2 million inhabitants. The second-most populous area, with 150,000 inhabitants, is the so-called Dixie, in the southwestern portion of the state.
The state’s population is in a constant rise. In fact, the St. George metropolitan area is the second-fastest growing in the entire USA.
The majority of population is non-Hispanic white (80.4%). As for the other groups, 0.9% are Black or African American, 1% American Indian or Alaska Native, 2% Asian, 0.9% Hawaiian or Pacific Islander, 0.1% some other non-Hispanic race and 1.8% of two or more non-Hispanic races. Hispanics and Latinos of any race make up for the 13% of the population.
The largest ancestry group is English, followed by Scandinavian, German, Mexican, American, Irish, Scottish, French, Welsh, Scotch-Irish and Swiss.
Utah has the youngest population in the US and it is the state with the highest birth rate in the nation. This probably has something to do with the doctrine of the state’s predominant religion – the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS Church). It is estimated that 60.7% of Utahans belong to this church, which makes Utah one of the most religiously homogenous states in America.
Other denominations in the state include Catholics, Evangelicals, Protestants (mainline), Buddhist, Orthodox, Hinduism, Islam, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Judaism.
Economy of Utah
In 2010, the gross state product of Utah was $114.5 billion. In 2005, the per capita personal income was $24,977. In 2010, it was the “Best State for Business” according to Forbes and Newsweek called the state and its capital, Salt Lake City, “the new economic Zion.”
The economy of Utah is largely based on mining, cattle, salt and government services. Petroleum production and refining are major industries in eastern Utah, while in the central part of the state coal production makes up much of the mining activity.
Mining has been a major economic activity in Utah since the times of the Utah Territory. Mining towns in Utah experienced the “boom and bust” cycles like all the other mining towns across America. Most of the population growth in Utah, especially the immigration influx, is owed to the expansion of mining. Minerals mined in Utah are zinc, gold, silver, copper, beryllium, lead and molybdenum. Uranium was mined during the Cold War era.
The economy of Utah also relies greatly on tourism. With five national parks, seven national monuments, two national recreation areas seven national forests and many state parks, Utah is a favorite tourist destination throughout the year. Winter sports and activities are particularly popular, especially after the 2002 Winter Olympics. Top ski destinations are located mostly in the northern part of the state, near Park City, Ogden, Provo and Salt Lake City. Deer Valley is considered to be one of the best ski resorts in North America. Skiing destinations in Utah are popular not only because of the light, dry and fluffy snow, but also because of the proximity of highways and airports and the fact that many resorts are located near each so the skiers can change two or more locations in a single day.
Cultural events in Utah also attract a lot of tourists, especially the prestigious Sundance, DOCUTAH and Red Rock film festivals, as well as the Temple Square and Utah Shakespearean Festival.
The personal income tax in Utah is 5% and the state sales tax is 6,45%. Property taxes vary depending on the location.
Utah Government and Legislation
The government in Utah (much like in any other US state) consists of the executive, juridical and legislative branches. The state legislature consists of the Senate with 29 elected members representing 29 senatorial districts (each consisting of approximately 91,000 people) and the House of Representatives with 75 members representing districts of approximately 35,000 people each. The Utah Supreme Court has five justices appointed by the governor.
Utah was one of the first states to grant suffrage to women in 1870. However, it was one of the 15 states that have not adopted or ratified the Equal Rights Amendment, whose purpose was to grant equal rights to women.
Utah and Hawaii are the only two US states in which all forms of gambling are completely illegal. It also one of the 18 alcoholic beverage control states, which means the state has the monopoly over the selling (wholesale and retail) of some or all alcoholic beverages.
Utah is one of the most conservative states in the United States. It is predominately Republican, and even the Democratic candidates from Utah (who are usually not very successful) are less liberal than their counterparts from other states. This has a lot to do with the dominant role of the LDS Church plays in Utah. Approximately 80% of the State Legislature are members of the LDS Church and since gaining its statehood in 1896 Utah has had only two non-Mormon governors.
Education in Utah
Utah has a number of public and private universities and colleges. The University of Utah in Salt Lake City is the state’s flagship university and the oldest institution of higher education in Utah. Utah State University was founded in 1888, with the main campus in Logan and satellite campuses all across the state. This university is known for its aerospace program and research and its ties with the Department of Defense and NASA. Weber State University in Ogden was founded in 1888 by the LDS Church and has seven colleges.
One of the top private universities in Utah is the Brigham Young University in Provo, affiliated with the LDS Church. Ever since its founding in 1875, this university had an intense rivalry (based on the acute cultural differences) with the University of Utah, especially in college sports.
Other important colleges and universities in Utah include LDS Business College and Westminster College in Salt Lake City, Provo College in Provo, Dixie State College of Utah in St. George, the Art Institute of Salt Lake City in Draper and ITT Technical Institute in Murray.
Transportation in Utah
The two main interstate highways in Utah are I-15 and I-80, intersecting near Salt Lake City. I-15 passes the state from north (entering from Arizona) to south, where it continues into Idaho. I-80 passes through the northern section of Utah, from Nevada to the east towards Wyoming to the west. I-70 in central Utah, notable for its beautiful scenery, is important as it provides quick and easy access to many national parks and monuments in southern Utah.
The Salt Lake Valley is served by a light rail system called TRAX, with three lines: Sandy, Mid-Jordan and West Valley lines. TRAX is operated by Utah Transit Authority, which also operates a bus system providing winter service to popular ski resorts.
Amtrak’s line called California Zephyr from Chicago to Emeryville, California, runs daily with stops in Salt Lake City, Provo, Helper and Green River.
The only international airport in Utah is Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC). This airport is the fourth largest hub for Delta Air Lines and also the company’s westernmost hub and it services flights to more than 100 destinations in United States, Mexico and Canada, and also to Paris and Tokyo. Salt Lake City International Airport is known for its on-time departures, very few flight cancellations and its overall reliability.
Other airports in Utah include Provo Municipal Airport, St. George Municipal Airport, Canyonlands Field, Cedar City Regional Airport and Vernal Regional Airport.