Area: 754 square miles; population: 1,277 (in 1990); county seat: Junction; origin of county name: after Paiute Indians; principal cities/towns: Circleville (417), Marysvale (364), Junction (132); economy: agriculture (primarily beef and dairy cattle), education; points of interest: Big Rock Candy Mountain, Tushar Mountains, Otter Creek, and Piute Reservoir, Piute County Courthouse.
Piute County was split off from Beaver County in 1865. Its western boundary approximates the crest of the Tushar Mountains. Delano Peak (12,173 feet) is the high point of the High Plateaus section of the Colorado Plateau. Most of the county's population is concentrated in the Sevier River Valley. Grass Valley (Otter Creek) lies between the Sevier Plateau in the center of the county and the Parker Range on its eastern border.
Evidence of prehistoric inhabitants has been found in the caves of Kingston Canyon (now an attractive local recreation area), but in general little is known of the Paiute Indians' predecessors. The Paiutes were mainly peaceful gatherers and hunters of food who produced beautiful baskets for many uses and rabbitskin clothing for winter protection.
Circleville and Junction were settled in 1864 by a group of Mormon pioneers from Ephraim. The Sevier Valley provided good grazing, and livestock remains important to the economy. Wild hay, alfalfa, grain, and pastureland provide feed for the county's limited beef and dairy production. Earth-covered potato cellars remain as evidence of successful crops in an earlier era. The Piute School District employs some fifty county residents. Less obvious contributors to the local economy are a small group of retirees in the larger towns. As in most of Utah's rural counties, "home" has a strong pull on the natives while economic forces tend to push recent high school graduates toward the opportunities of urban areas. Piute County residents depend on nearby Richfield, north on Highway 89, for major services.
Earth's riches once played a dominant role in the county's economy. A gold and silver boom in the Tushar Mountains spawned such towns as Bullion, Kimberly, and Marysvale. Later, lead, zinc, alunite, and uranium were significant products. Cyclical mining, now in a bust mode, could boom again locally. Piute and Otter Creek reservoirs provide good boating, water skiing, and fishing for county recreationists and visitors.
Gary B. Peterson