Dairy Calf Club, Wasatch County, 1925
Area: 1,191 square miles; population: 10,089 (in 1990); county
seat: Heber City; origin of county name: from the Wasatch Mountains;
principal cities/towns: Heber City (4,782), Midway (1,554), Charleston
(336), Wallsburg (252); economy: hay, livestock, recreation; points
of interest: Strawberry, Deer Creek, and Jordanelle reservoirs, Wasatch
Mountain State Park, Wasatch LDS Tabernacle in Heber City, Heber Creeper,
historic homes in Midway.
Heber Valley, one of several back valleys in the Wasatch Mountains, is often
called Utah's Switzerland because of the rugged beauty of Mount Timpanogos
located to the west, its climate, and a large population of Swiss that settled
in Midway. The county's highest peaks top 10,000 feet, and over half of
the land is 7,500 feet above sea level. The climate zone, classified as
undifferentiated highlands, offers cool summers and very cold winters. The
average annual precipitation is about sixteen inches.
The county is divided into two watersheds--the Colorado and the Great Basin
drainage systems. Because of its annual precipitation and its location between
the Uinta and Wasatch mountains, Heber Valley is well endowed with water.
Flowing from the east are Daniels, Lake Fork, and Center creeks. From the
north and northeast is the Provo River. From the west Snake Creek drains
a central portion of the Wasatch Mountains. Two additional sources of water
are man-made: the Ontario Drain Tunnel west of Keetley drains many of the
Park City mines, and the Weber/Provo diversion canal diverts water from
the Weber across the Kamas prairie in Summit County to the Provo River in
Prior to the 1850s, Heber Valley was an important summer hunting ground
for the Timpanogos Utes living around Utah Lake. The first white men to
visit the county were members of the Dominguez-Escalante expedition in 1776.
They skirted Heber Valley, traveling down Diamond Fork to Spanish Fork Canyon
and then into Utah Valley. Fifty years later fur trappers entered the county.
In 1824 and 1825 Etienne Provost from Taos, New Mexico, trapped beaver in
the Uinta and Wasatch mountains. About the same time, William Henry Ashley
and members of his fur company from St. Louis also hunted and trapped for
beaver in the county.
The first settlers came into Wasatch County from Utah Valley in the spring
of 1859 and located a short distance north of present Heber City at the
London or John McDonald Spring. That same year, Midway and Charleston were
also settled. In 1862 the territorial legislature created Wasatch County,
which then included all of the Uinta Basin. Wasatch in Ute means "mountain
pass" or "low pass over high range." Heber City, named for
Mormon Apostle Heber C. Kimball, was selected as the county seat. The last
boundary change occurred in 1914 when Duchesne County was created out of
the eastern half of Wasatch County.
The county produces hay, dairy products, sheep and cattle. During the early
1900s, after the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad completed a line into the
county from Provo, Heber City became an important shipping terminal for
wool and sheep. In 1922 the Union Pacific Railroad constructed a spur from
Park City to the mines west of Keetley. Lead, zinc, and silver ore were
shipped from these mines on this railroad spur. Today neither railroad line
is in full operation, and other economic activities are more important to
the county than transportation and mining.
Strawberry Reservoir (completed in the 1910s), Deer Creek Reservoir (completed
in the 1940s), and Jordanelle Reservoir (scheduled for completion in the
1990s), together with sparkling streams and beautiful mountain scenery,
have made Wasatch a popular recreation area. The county provides excellent
opportunities for fishing, boating, and other summer and winter outdoor
activities. Also, Heber Valley increasingly is becoming the home for many
people who work in Utah Valley, Park City, and Salt Lake City.