Moab; origin of countyname: the Colorado River,
which flows through the county, was first called the Grand River; principal cities/towns:
Moab (3,971); economy: tourism, agriculture, livestock, mining; points of interest:
ArchesNational Park, Manti-LaSal
National Forest, Colorado River, Dead Horse Point State Park.
Grand County is situated on the Colorado Plateau in eastern Utah.
The plateau includes two-thirds of the state of Utah as well as parts of
Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona. Composed mostly of sandstone and limestone,
the plateau has been eroded by large rivers and other water and wind sources into
huge canyons and other complex erosional forms that make it a rugged
but scenically spectacular region.
Much of the Colorado Plateau in prehistoric times was inhabited by
the Anasazi. Arriving
perhaps as early as the time of Christ, the Anasazi disappeared sometime
around A.D. 1300, perhaps fleeing a period of prolonged drought or hostile
Navajo invaders. Today, the remains of their cliff houses and their
rock art delight more recent visitors to the land.
The first white men to enter the present area of Grand County were Spanish explorers
who discovered a crossing of the Colorado River at the site of the present
highway bridge at Moab. Later Spanish traders and American fur trappers
developed the route known as the Spanish Trail,
of which that crossing and another ford across the Green River above the site of the present
Emery County town of that name were a part.
The first attempt by Mormon colonists to settle the
Moab area was a failure. The Elk Mountain
Mission reached Moab Valley in 1855 and established a small community,
but the Indians who were already farming the fertile Colorado River
bottoms regarded them as competition and drove them out after they had
been there only a few weeks. Not until the late 1870s and the 1880s
did a few Mormon families find it possible to build permanent homes
in the area.
Most of the history of Grand County has been the story of small family farms and orchards,
of mining for potash and uranium, and of livestock. Large sheep and
cattle companies have found abundant forage for their livestock in the
the La Sal Mountains, and cowboys and outlaws figure
prominently in the area's folklore. The uranium boom of the 1950s brought
the first real population expansion to the area and witnessed the creation
of a few large fortunes as well as many failures.
Most recently, the income from tourism has been the county's major economic resource.
Arches National Monument was established in 1929, and consistently increasing
numbers of visitors led to its being upgraded to national park
status in 1971. During the 1970s and 1980s Moab became perhaps the
most important center for river-running, mountain bicycling, and four-wheel drive
recreation in Utah, and the prospects seem good that tourism and recreation will
remain important to the county for the foreseeable future.