Utah is a western state of the United States, in the Rocky Mountains region. Its capital is Salt Lake City. The state had a population of 2,351,467 according to a Census Bureau estimate. The state is generally rugged and arid, and has spectacular natural scenery. It is a popular summer and winter tourist destination. Salt Lake City, the ski resorts in the Wasatch Range, and the national parks of the south are the most popular destinations. The name Utah is from the Southern Ute language and means "higher up". The Paiute, Navajo, and Goshute nations also inhabit portions of the state.
Utah is the center of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS or Mormon Church), of which approximately 60% of the residents are members. The LDS Church has a strong cultural influence on the state and helped Utah to become one of just two states where gambling is illegal. Residents are called Utahns.
Native Americans have lived in Utah for several thousand years; most archeological evidence dates such habitation about 10,000 to 12,000 years ago. Some left petroglyphs and pictographs which exist throughout the state.
Francisco Vásquez de Coronado may have crossed into what is now southern Utah in 1540, when he was seeking the legendary Cibola.
A group led by two Roman Catholic priests—sometimes called the Dominguez-Escalante Expedition—left Santa Fe in 1776, hoping to find a route to the California coast. The expedition travelled as far north as Utah Lake and encountered the native residents.
Fur trappers—including Jim Bridger—explored some regions of Utah in the early 1800s. The city of Provo, Utah was named for one such man, Étienne Provost, who visited the area in 1825.
Mormon settlers first came to the Salt Lake Valley on July 24, 1847. At the time, Utah was still Mexican territory. As a consequence of the Mexican-American War, the land became the territory of the United States upon the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, February 2, 1848. The Treaty was ratified by the United States Senate on March 10. In 1850 the Utah Territory was created with the Compromise of 1850, and Fillmore was designated the capital. In 1856, Salt Lake City replaced Fillmore as the territorial capital.
Disputes between the Mormon inhabitants, who had settled in the area in 1847 and were pushing for the establishment of the State of Deseret, and the US Government, intensified after The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints publicly admitted to the practice of polygamy among their members. The US Government, which was reluctant to admit a state the size of the proposed Deseret into the union, opposed the polygamous practices of the Mormons.
After news of their polygamous practices spread, the members of the LDS Church were quickly viewed as un-American and rebellious. In 1857, after news of a false rebellion spread, the government sent troops in the "Utah expedition" to quell the supposed rebellion and to replace Brigham Young as territorial governor with Alfred Cumming. The resulting conflict is known as the Utah War.
As troops approached, Mormon settlers and Paiutes attacked and killed 120 immigrants from Missouri, an event called the Mountain Meadows Massacre. The Massacre became a point of contention between LDS leaders and the federal government for decades. Twenty years later one man, John D. Lee was executed for the massacre.
Before troops led by Albert Sidney Johnston entered the state, Brigham Young ordered all residents of Salt Lake City to evacuate southward to Utah Valley and sent out a force, known as the Nauvoo Legion, to delay the government′s advance. Although wagons and supplies were burned, eventually the troops arrived and Young surrendered official control to Cumming, although most subsequent commentators claim Young retained true power in the territory. A steady stream of presidential-appointed governors quit the position, often citing unresponsiveness of their supposed territorial government. By agreement with Young, Johnston established Fort Floyd 40 miles away from Salt Lake City, to the southwest.
Salt Lake City was the last link of the transcontinental telegraph, completed in October of 1861. Brigham Young was among the first to send a message, along with Abraham Lincoln and other officials.
Due to the Civil War, federal troops were pulled out of Utah Territory, leaving the territory in LDS hands until Patrick E. Connor arrived with a regiment of California volunteers in 1862. Connor established Fort Douglas just three miles east of Salt Lake City, and encouraged his men to discover mineral deposits to bring more non-Mormons into the state. Minerals were discovered in Tooele County, and miners began to flock to the territory.
Beginning in 1865, Utah′s Black Hawk War developed into the deadliest conflict in the territory′s history. Chief Antonga Black Hawk surrendered in 1867, but fights continued to break out until additional federal troops were sent in to suppress the Ghost Dance of 1872. The war is unique among Indian Wars because it was a three way conflict, with mounted Timpanogos Utes led by Antonga Black Hawk exploiting the mutual distrust between federal and LDS authorities.
On May 10, 1869, the First Transcontinental Railroad was completed at Promontory Summit, north of the Great Salt Lake. The railroad brought increasing numbers of non-Mormons into the state, and several influential non-Mormon businessmen would make fortunes in the territory.
During the 1870s and 1880s a number of laws were set to punish polygamists, and in the 1890 Manifesto the LDS Church finally agreed to ban polygamy. When Utah applied for statehood again, it was accepted. One of the conditions to granting Utah′s statehood was that a ban on polygamy be written into the Utah Constitution. This was a condition required of other western states that were also admitted later into the Union. Statehood of Utah was officially granted on January 4, 1896.
Beginning in the early 1900s, with the establishment of such national parks as Bryce Canyon National Park and Zion National Park, Utah began to become known for its natural beauty. Southern Utah became a popular filming spot for arid, rugged scenes, and such natural landmarks as Delicate Arch and "the Mittens" of Monument Valley are instantly recognizable to most national residents. During the 1950s, ′60s, and ′70s, with the construction of the Interstate highway system, accessibility to the southern scenic areas was made easier.
Beginning in 1939, with the establishment of Alta Ski Area, Utah has become world-renowned for its skiing. The dry, powdery snow of the Wasatch Range is considered some of the best skiing in the world. Salt Lake City won the bid for the 2002 Winter Olympics in 1995, and this has served as a great boost to the economy. The ski resorts have increased in popularity and many of the Olympic venues scattered across the Wasatch Front continue to be used for sporting events. This also spurred the development of the light-rail system in the Salt Lake Valley, known as TRAX, and the re-construction of the freeway system around the city.
During the late 1900s, the state has been growing quickly. The fastest-growing areas have been Utah County, western and southern Salt Lake County, eastern Tooele County, northern Davis County, northern Utah County, Summit County, and Iron and Washington counties in Southern Utah. Beginning in the late 1960s, the suburbs began to see phenomenal growth. Today, new communities are being constructed in Utah County (Eagle Mountain and Saratoga Springs) and old, previously tiny communities (such as Ivins, Herriman, and Cedar Hills) are seeing phenomonal growth. The fastest-growing city between 1990 and 2000 was Draper, located in southern Salt Lake County.
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