Five national parks and 45 state parks preserve Utah’s natural beauty

November 28, 2012 1:18 pm

Utah is a place to see colorful canyons, a salt sea, salt deserts, and weird rock formations. Five national parks and 45 state parks preserve Utah’s natural beauty, especially its unusual rock formations.
Facts About Utah
Salt Lake City
2,650,000 people
Rank among states in population
Major cities
Salt Lake City, West Valley City, Provo
84,900 square miles
220,000 square kilometers
Rank among states in area
January 4, 1896, the 45th state
State nickname
The Beehive State
Name for residents
State bird
California Gull
State flower
Sego Lily
State tree
Blue Spruce
Have you ever watched honey bees? They are constantly buzzing about looking for food for their hives. When people work hard, we say they are “busy as bees.” Utah is nicknamed the Beehive State because its founders believed in working hard like bees. They worked together to create a community.
Utah was settled by Mormons—members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Mormons called the region Deseret. This word comes from the Book of Mormon, one of the sacred writings of the Mormons. Deseret means “land of the honey bee.”
The Great Salt Lake is in northwestern Utah. It is one of the saltiest bodies of water in the world. It’s about eight times saltier than the ocean! Do you know how the lake got so salty? Unlike most other lakes, it has no outlet, such as a stream or river. Its water evaporates instead. The process leaves behind all the salt in the water.
You can get fish food from the Great Salt Lake, but you won’t catch any fish there. There’s not much life in the lake because of the salt. Brine shrimp are harvested from the lake. They are used for fish food. Table salt and other minerals also come from the Great Salt Lake.
Salty or not, people use the lake for boating and swimming. You won’t have any trouble staying afloat. The salty water keeps you from sinking. The lake is also a great place to watch birds.
Thousands of years ago, a huge sea called Bonneville Lake covered much of western Utah. Most of it dried up about 10,000 years ago and left behind the Great Salt Lake and the Great Salt Lake Desert.
The Bonneville Salt Flats is a part of the desert that is extremely flat. Over ten automobile speed world records have been set on this long, level stretch of land. Can you imagine a car going 630 miles per hour (1,015 kilometers per hour)? A driver reached that speed on the Bonneville Salt Flats.
Almost 70 percent of Utah’s people are Mormons, members of a religion founded in 1830. Like members of many new religions, the Mormons met opposition and hostility from people around them. The Mormons wanted to find an isolated place where no one would bother them. Brigham Young was the leader of the Mormons. He had heard of the area around the Great Salt Lake. In 1847, Young led his people to Utah. They founded Great Salt Lake City. It was later renamed Salt Lake City.
Thousands of Mormons followed Young and the first pioneers to Utah. They walked or traveled in wagons. Every year on July 24, the people of Salt Lake City celebrate Pioneer Day. That’s the date on which the first group of Mormon pioneers arrived.
The Mormons wanted to have their own state called Deseret. It would have included part or all of what are now eight Western states. But the Congress refused. Congress created the smaller territory of Utah instead. The name Utah comes from the Ute Indians.
On January 4, 1896, Utah became the 45th state. Salt Lake City is its capital.
Salt Lake City is the largest city in Utah. It grew as people outside Utah converted to the Mormon religion and moved there. Today, Salt Lake City is the international headquarters of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Mormon Temple, where Mormons worship, stands at the heart of the city.
Salt Lake City is also the business and industrial center of Utah. Many of its industries are linked to mining. Utah has large amounts of copper, gold, and other minerals. The oldest mineral industry is the production of salt from the Great Salt Lake nearby.
Summer is the major tourism season. But tourists also come to Salt Lake City in winter to ski at resorts in the mountains near the city.
Do you know what hoodoos are? They’re rocks that have been worn away by wind or water so that they have strange shapes. Many hoodoos look like monsters or other weird creatures. Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah is famous for its hoodoos. They’re in brilliant shades of red, orange, and pink, and you can hike by them on trails. It takes thousands of years for wind and water to carve rock into hoodoos.
Utah is famous for the colorful rock formations found in the southern part of the state, although they’re not all hoodoos. Utah’s five national parks all feature sandstone in unusual shapes. At Zion National Park, you can explore colorful canyons. One exciting hike takes visitors along the Virgin River through deep, narrow cliffs of rock.
Capitol Reef National Park is an area of twisting canyons with beautifully colored canyon walls. Navajo Indians called this area the “Land of the Sleeping Rainbow.” Arches National Park is a desert with unusual and colorful rock formations. Many of the rocks have worn away to form giant stone arches. Canyonlands National Park features the canyons of the Colorado and Green rivers.
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