Grand County, Utah
A Brief History of Grand County*
Grand County is situated on the Colorado Plateau eastern Utah. The plateau includes two-thirds of the state of Utah and parts of Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona. Composed mostly of sandstone and limestone, the plateau has been eroded by large rivers and other water sources into huge canyons and 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. First arriving perhaps as early as the time of Christ, the Anasazi had disappeared by A.D. 1300, probably due to years of drought. Today the remains of their cliff houses and rock art in the canyons delight explorers. A petroglyph of a mammoth or mastodon on a canyon wall west of Moab suggests occupation by Early Man.
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, using that crossing and one across the Green River above the present Emery County town of that name.
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 very late 1870s and 1880s did a few Mormon families find it possible to build permanent homes.
Most of the history of Grand County has been the story of small family farms and orchards, mining for potash and uranium, and livestock. Large sheep and cattle companies have found abundant forage for their livestock in the canyons and the LaSal 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 saw 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 upgrading 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.
*Used by permission. Beehive History 14: Utah Counties. 1988. Utah State Historical Society, 300 Rio Grande, Salt Lake City, UT 84101-1182, 801/533-3500.
- 2010 Utah County Fact Book
The information in this book describes the economic, demographic, public safety, and financial characteristics of each of Utah’s 29 counties. Published by the Utah Association of Counties (UAC). Previous versions are available from UAC as well.
- Census 2000 Demographic Profile: Grand County
General population characteristics, social characteristics, economic characteristics, and housing characteristics for the county. From American FactFinder, the U.S. Census Bureau.
- Grand County Facts
Labor force, economic and wage information from the Department of Workforce Services County and Statewide Information.
- Grand County Profile
Census, demographic, genealogy & vital records, crime, educational, economic, government, and county data. From ePodunk.
- Grand County QuickFacts
Find quick, easy access to facts about people, business, and geography from the U.S. Census Bureau's State & County QuickFacts.
- Economic Profile: Grand County
Information on county industry and employment. From the Economic Development Corporation of Utah (EDCUtah).
- Religious Membership Report: Grand County
Religious denomination for the county. From the Association of Religion Data Archives (ARDA).
- 2002 Census of Agriculture County Profile: Grand County
Census data on farms, crops, and livestock. From the Census of Agriculture, the National Agricultural Statistics Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
- Grand County Agriculture Profile
Data on land ownership, crops, and livestock. From the Utah State University Extension.
- Times-Independent/Grand Valley Times - Archives
Available issues from Utah Digital Newspapers: 1896-1947. Search all newspapers, select a specific newspaper or browse by county. This project was funded by the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) and digitized at the University of Utah.
- The Time-Independent - Current Issue & Archives
Online version of the Standard.
Cities & Towns with Websites
Native American - Tribal Lands
Parks, Monuments & Scenic Sites
Grand County Quick Facts
Area: 3,689 Square Miles
County Seat: Moab
Origin of Name: the Grand River (now known as the Colorado River), which flows through the county
Population: 9,225 (2010 Census), 8,485 (2000 Census); 8,999 (2006 Estimate)
Bordering Counties: Carbon, Emery, San Juan, Uintah, and Wayne