Published: May 21st 2012May 21st 2012
Two national parks are located in the Moab Utah area: Arches National Park, and Canyonlands National Park. Moab is known as a Utah adventure capitol, offering activities such as biking the Slickrock Trail, off-road routes and the Moab Jeep Safari, rafting down the Colorado River and hiking to Delicate Arch - Utah's famous icon. From scenic parks to adventure, Moab Utah offers something for everyone.
The Biblical name Moab refers to an area of land located on the eastern side of the Jordan River. Some historians believe the city in Utah came to use this name because of William Pierce, the first postmaster, believing that the biblical Moab and this part of Utah were both "the far country". However, others believe the name has Paiute origins, referring to the word "moapa" meaning mosquito. Some of the area's early residents attempted to change the city's name because in the Christian Bible, Moabites are demeaned as incestuous and idolatrous. One petition in 1890 had 59 signatures and requested a name change to Vina. Another effort attempted to change the name to Uvadalia.
During the 1800s the area around what is now Moab served as the Colorado River crossing along the Old
Spanish Trail. Mormon settlers attempted to establish a trading fort at the river crossing called "Elk Mountain Mission" in 1855 to trade with travelers attempting to cross the river. After repeated Indian attacks, the fort was abandoned in late 1855. A new round of settlers established a permanent settlement in 1878. Moab was incorporated as a town on December 20, 1902.
In 1883 the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad main line was constructed across eastern Utah. The rail line did not pass through Moab, instead passing through the towns of Thompson Springs and Cisco, forty miles to the north. Later, other places to cross the Colorado were constructed, such as Lee's Ferry, Navajo Bridge and Boulder Dam. These changes shifted the trade routes away from Moab. Moab farmers and merchants had to adapt from trading with passing travelers to shipping their goods to distant markets. Soon Moab's origins as one of the few natural crossings of the Colorado River were forgotten. Nevertheless, the U.S. military deemed the bridge over the Colorado River at Moab important enough to place it under guard as late as World War II.
Moab's economy was originally based on agriculture, but gradually shifted
to mining. Uranium and vanadium were discovered in the area in the 1910s and 1920s. Potash and manganese came next, and then oil and gas were discovered. In the 1950s Moab became the so-called "Uranium Capital of the World" after geologist Charles Steen found a rich deposit of uranium ore south of the city. This discovery coincided with the advent of the era of nuclear weapons and nuclear power in the United States, and Moab's boom years began.
The city population grew nearly 500% over the next few years, bringing the population to near 6,000 people. The explosion in population caused much construction of houses and schools. Charles Steen donated a great deal of money and land to create new houses and churches in Moab.
With the winding down of the Cold War, Moab's uranium boom was over, and the city's population drastically declined. By the early 1980s a number of homes stood empty and nearly all of the uranium mines had closed.
Morning Glory Natural Bridge near Moab
In 1949, Western movie director John Ford was persuaded to use the area for the movie Wagon Master. Ford had been using the area in Monument Valley around
Mexican Hat, Utah, south of Moab, since he filmed Stagecoach there 10 years earlier in 1939. A local Moab rancher found Ford and persuaded him to come take a look at Moab.There have been numerous movies filmed in the area since then, using Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park as backdrops.
Since the 1970s, tourism has played an increasing role in the local economy. Partly due to the John Ford movies, partly due to magazine articles, the area has become a favorite of photographers, rafters, hikers, rock climbers, and most recently mountain bikers. Moab is also an increasingly popular destination for four-wheelers as well as for BASE jumpers and those rigging Highlining, who are allowed to practice their sport in the area. Moab's population swells temporarily in the spring and summer months with the arrival of numerous people employed seasonally in the outdoor recreation and tourism industries.
In recent years Moab has experienced a surge of second-home owners. The relatively mild winters and enjoyable summers have attracted many people to build such homes throughout the area. In a situation mirroring that of other resort towns in the American West, controversy has arisen over these new residents and
their houses, which in many cases remain unoccupied for most of the year. Many Moab citizens are concerned that the town is seeing changes similar to those experienced in Vail and Aspen in neighboring Colorado: skyrocketing property values, a rising cost of living, and corresponding effects on local low- and middle-income workers.
Sunset Magazine's March 2009 issue listed Moab as one of the "20 best small towns in the West".
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