Utah is a perhaps surprisingly interesting place with a rich history that includes everything from dinosaurs to Mormon pioneers. Because of this well-varied history, Utah is also a state with a whole lot of interesting facts to its name. Read on to find out just a few of these things.
Utah is named after the Ute Native American tribe and it means people of the mountains.
People from Utah call themselves Utahns.
Utah was settled by Mormon pioneers in 1847. It became a state in 1896.
In 1869, the transcontinental railroad was completed in Promontory, Utah. Today, you can visit the last spike hammered into the railroad line. It’s called the Golden Spike and, yes, it was actually made out of gold, but no, there is not a hunk of gold in the ground still today. The spike was privately commissioned for the Last Spike ceremony and the man who commissioned it took it back to California with him and later donated it to the art museum at Stanford University where it still is today.
The Great Salt Lake is the biggest lake west of the Mississippi.
Perhaps the most recognizable landmark in downtown Salt Lake City is the Salt Lake City Temple. Measuring an impressive 253,015 square feet, this temple was dedicated in 1893 and took 40 years to build.
Utah is one of the states that meet up at the Four Corners – the only place in the US where four states touch each other. The other states are Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico. You can visit the Four Corners and see the monument that shows the four state borders meeting up.
If you visit Utah, chances are you’ll see a beehive somewhere…or lots of places. The state calls itself the Beehive State because the Mormon pioneers took to the beehive as a symbol of industry, self-reliance, perseverance, and other traits embodied by hardworking honeybees.
Utah was at one time, many millions of years ago, a hot bed of dinosaur activity. Utah even has a dinosaur named after it—the Utahraptor, which is the largest raptor discovered to date, measuring about 23 feet long.
Utah is filled to the brim with national and state parks. One of the most famous, Arches National Park, doesn’t get its name lightly. It has a whopping 2,000+ natural sandstone arches to its name.
Like most states, Utah has all kinds of state symbols. The state flower is the sego lily; animal is the Rocky Mountain elk; emblem is the beehive; gem is topaz. There’s even a state fossil—the allosaurus. However, the state bird is somewhat ironically the California seagull because seagulls helped ward off (by eating) a swarm of crickets that were destroying settlers’ crops. You’ll even see a statue of seagulls at Temple Square.
Just outside of Salt Lake City, Lagoon theme park is the oldest still-operating amusement park in the West. Its wooden rollercoaster was built in 1921, is still in operation, and is one of the oldest rollercoasters in the country.
The highest point in the state is Kings Peak, which tops out at 13,528 feet.
At one point, the Great Salt Lake was even greater – it is the remnants of an ancient lake called Lake Bonneville. At its highest level, Lake Bonneville extended up into Idaho and into Nevada as well, and covered the western half of Utah. Today, the Great Salt Lake, Utah Lake, Sevier Lake, and the Salt Flats are all that remains. You can see the ancient shores of the lake if you look up along the western front of the Wasatch Mountains in Salt Lake City.
The Bonneville Salt Flats cover 30,000 acres. You can visit the Salt Flats to see the expansive white landscape, and they’re a popular place for photographers, filmmakers, and land speed racers.
The Great Salt Lake is about four times as salty as any ocean.
There is a Joseph Smith sphinx in Salt Lake City at Gilgal Sculpture Garden. Anyone can visit and sit in the lap of the sphinx for an interesting photo op. There are 11 other stone sculptures there as well, all created by Thomas Child and designed to challenge people to “ponder the unsolved mysteries of life.”
Famous people from Utah include David Archuleta, Butch Cassidy, Shannon Hale, Karl Malone, Donny and Marie Osmond, Robert Redford, Julianne and Derek Houghs, Roseanne Barr, Loretta Young, James Woods, Chrissy Teigen, Orson Scott Card, Terry Tempest Williams, and Steve Young.
The world’s heaviest organism and one of the oldest living organisms is in Utah. It is the Trembling Giant, the 80,000-year-old Pando aspen grove consisting of a colony of genetically identical male quaking aspen trees that covers 106 acres!
Utah is known for skiing and its amazing powdery snow, which it tags as “the greatest snow on earth.” In fact, there are 10 top-notch ski resorts within an hour of the capital city of Salt Lake City.
While you would probably not know it from the name, the very first Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant is in Utah at 3890 S. State Street in Murray. There’s a statue of Colonel Harland Sanders, too.
A Utahn named Walter Fredrick Morrison invented the Frisbee after getting the idea from throwing tin cake pans in a similar fashion. He called his creation Pluto Platters and launched them in 1948.
Utah has about 300 sunny days a year.
More than two-thirds of Utah is owned by the federal government. This land is called BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land and it can be a great place to camp or hike. The largest open-pit mine in the world is in Utah. It’s the Brigham Canyon Mine, more often called the Kennecott Copper Mine, and it reaches 0.6 miles deep and 2.5 miles wide. The mine has been in use since 1906 and has produced 19 million tons of copper, more copper than any other copper mine over the course of history.