Corona Arch, Grand County
Area: 3,689 square miles; population: 6,620 (in 1990);
county seat: Moab; origin of county name: 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: Arches National 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
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
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 canyons and in 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.