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Salt Lake City is the capital and the most populous city of the U.S. state of Utah. The name of the city is often shortened to Salt Lake, or its initials, S.L.C. It was originally known as Great Salt Lake City. Salt Lake City is also known as the "Crossroads of the West".

The city was founded in 1847 by a group of Mormon pioneers led by the prophet Brigham Young, who fled hostility from the midwest. Salt Lake City is now the headquarters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the L.D.S. or Mormon Church.)

Salt Lake City is the headquarters of the Mormon Church


The city is located in the northeast corner of the Salt Lake Valley surrounded by the Great Salt Lake to the northwest and the steep Wasatch and Oquirrh mountain ranges on the eastern and western borders, respectively. The elevation of the city is about 4,500 feet. Its encircling mountains contain many narrow glacially and volcanically carved canyons. Among them, City Creek, Emigration, Millcreek, and Parley's border Salt Lake City proper. The Jordan River flows through the city and is a drainage of Utah Lake that empties into the Great Salt Lake.

The mountains near Salt Lake City are easily visible from the city and have sharp vertical relief caused by massive ancient earthquakes, with a maximum difference of 7,099 feet (2164 m) being achieved with the rise of Twin Peaks from the Salt Lake Valley floor. The mountains provide year-round recreation, but are especially known for "the greatest snow on earth." Utah snow tends to be dry powder, ideal for skiing. Many resorts are close to Salt Lake City, including Park City, Deer Valley, Snowbird, Brighton, and Solitude.

The Salt Lake Valley floor is the ancient lakebed of Lake Bonneville which existed at the end of the last Ice Age. Several Lake Bonneville shorelines can be distinctly seen on the foothills or benches of nearby mountains.

Though Salt Lake Valley must have appeared barren to the early settlers, it is blessed with abundant water from snow runoff from nearby mountains. Irrigation, therefore, is easily possible. The original water supply was from City Creek. Subsequent development of water resources was from successively more southern streams flowing from the mountains to the east of the city.


The climate of Salt Lake City is characterized as a semi-arid steppe climate, with four distinct seasons. Both summer and winter are long, with hot, dry summers and cold, snowy winters, and with spring and fall serving as brief but comfortable transition periods. The city receives 16.50 in (419 mm) of precipitation annually. Spring is the wettest season, and another "rainy season" occurs in fall. Snow occurs on average from November 6 to April 18, producing a total average of 62.7 in (159 cm), while the city's watersheds in nearby mountains accumulate averages as high as 500 in (1,270 cm). The period without freezing temperatures usually lasts an average of 167 days, from April 30 to October 15. [1]

During the winter months cold fronts typically originate in the Gulf of Alaska and move southeastward into the area. The nearby Great Salt Lake produces lake-effect snow approximately 6 to 8 times per year, some of which can drop excessive snowfalls. The lake-effect also contributes to some rain storms, and it is estimated that about 10% of the annual precipitation in the city can be attributed to the lake effect. During mid-winter, strong areas of high pressure often situate themselves over the Great Basin, leading to strong temperature inversions. This causes air stagnation and thick smog in the valley for several days to weeks at a time and can result in the worst air-pollution levels in the U.S., reducing air quality to unhealthy levels. The city has an average of three days annually with low temperatures below 0 °F.

In the spring, most of the storms originate in the Pacific Ocean from the Pineapple Express, bringing in the most moisture of the entire year. Larger and cooler storms in the spring can lead to heavy overnight snowfall. Measurable snow has occurred as late as May 18.

The summers of the city are marked by hot weather and are mostly dry. The monsoon rises from the Gulf of California from approximately mid-July into September, producing localized severe afternoon thunderstorms. Due to the low daytime humidity, virga, lightning, and microbursts can lead to wildfire problems. During active monsoon periods, widespread thunderstorms carrying excessive precipitation are common. High temperatures of at least 100 °F (38 °C) occur on average five times a year, but always on days with low humidity.[2]


Before Mormon settlement, several Native American groups, the Ute, the Shoshone, and the Paiute, had dwelt in the Salt Lake Valley for thousands of years. They were semi-nomadic and camped where streams come out of the nearby mountains. The first Caucasian near present-day Salt Lake City was an explorer named Jim Bridger. Bridger explored the area in 1825.

The first Europeans to settle in the region were the Latter-day Saints, the first of whom arrived in 1847. They traveled beyond the boundaries of the United States to find an isolated place to practice their religion. Brigham Young is recorded as stating "This is the right place," after seeing the area in a vision. They found a large valley without settlements.

Mormon Temple Square in 1912

Only four days after arriving in the area, Brigham Young designed the site for the Salt Lake Temple. Constructed on what is now called Temple Square, the temple took forty years to complete (started in 1853, and dedicated on April 6, 1893).

The Mormon Pioneers organized a new state called Deseret and petitioned for it's recognition in 1849. The United States Congress established Utah Territory in 1850. In 1858, Great Salt Lake City became the territorial capitol, replacing Fillmore. The city's population swelled with an influx of religious converts, making it one of the most populous cities in the American West.

Disputes with the federal government ensued over the widespread Mormon practice of polygamy. A climax occurred in 1857 when President James Buchanan declared the area in rebellion after Brigham Young refused to step down as governor, beginning the Utah War. A division of the United States Army, commanded by Albert Sidney Johnston, later a general in the army of the Confederate States of America, marched through the city and found that it had been evacuated. This division set up Camp Floyd approximately 40 miles (65 km) southwest of the city. Another military installation, Fort Douglas, was established in 1862 to maintain Union allegiance during the American Civil War. Many area leaders were incarcerated at the territorial prison in Sugar House in the 1880s for violation of anti-polygamy laws. The LDS Church began their eventual abandonment of polygamy in 1890, releasing "The Manifesto," which officially suggested that members obey the law of the land (which was equivalent to forbidding new polygamous marriages inside the U.S. and its territories, but not in Mormon settlements in Canada and Mexico). This paved the way for statehood in 1896, when Salt Lake City became the state capital.
The First Transcontinental Railroad was completed in 1869 at Promontory Summit on the north side of the Great Salt Lake. A railroad was connected to the city from the Transcontinental Railroad in 1870, making travel less burdensome. Mass migration of different groups followed. They found economic opportunities in the booming mining industries.[3]

Layout of the City

Salt Lake City has a population of over 178,000. The Salt Lake City metropolitan area spans Salt Lake, Summit and Tooele counties, and has a total estimated population of more than 1,034,000. It is the third-highest metropolitan population in the interior western U.S. The city is laid out on a "grid plan" with very wide streets. Brigham Young envisioned being able to turn around a mule train on any of the main streets, "without "resorting to profanity." The wide boulevards must have been a challenge when roads were made of dirt and people had to cross them in bad weather, but they have proven to be an example of prophetic foresight in modern times where multi-lane highways are needed. The grid plan is an aid to navigating the city, and directions are simplified by the looming wasatch mountain range due east. Joseph Smith, founder of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, planned the layout in the "Plat of the City of Zion" (intended as a template for Mormon towns wherever they might be built).

2002 Winter Olympics

Olympic torch at Rice-Eccles Stadium, photo by Scott Catron

Salt Lake City was selected to host the 2002 Winter Olympics in 1995. The games were plagued with controversy. A bid scandal surfaced in 1998 alleging that bribes had been offered to secure the city for the 2000 games location. During the games, other scandals erupted over contested judging scores and illegal drug use. Despite the controversies, the games were heralded as a financial success, being one of the few in recent history to profit. Profitability was, in large part, credited to the talents of Mitt Romney, who was brought in to manage the Olympics in wake of the scandals. In preparation for the Olympics, major construction projects were initiated. Local freeways were expanded and repaired, and a light rail system was constructed. Olympic venues are now used for local, national, and international sporting events and Olympic athlete training. Tourism has increased since the Olympic games, but business did not pick up immediately following them.[4]

These Olympic games were the first since September 11, 2001, which meant a higher level of security than ever before provided for the Games. The Office of Homeland Security (OHS) designated the Olympics a National Special Security Event (NSSE).

Other Noteworthy Events

Salt Lake City hosted the 16th Winter Deaflympic games in 2007, taking place in the venues in Salt Lake City and Park City, and Rotary International designated the city the site of their 2007 convention, which was the largest single gathering since the 2002 Winter Olympics. The U.S. Volleyball Association convention in 2005 drew 39,500 attendees.

The yearly Sundance Film Festival, launched by Robert Redford, occurs in February and draws professionals from Hollywood and elsewhere to view new independent films.

Recent Construction by the LDS Church

In 1999, Salt Lake City sold the part of Main Street in downtown Salt Lake to the Church for development as the "Church Plaza." The proposal to build a new plaza on the one-block segment of Main Street between North and South Temple Streets received a great deal of public scrutiny and became fairly controversial. The section of Main Street was to become a walking plaza that opened to the main entrance of the historic Salt Lake Temple. Because of the holiness of the site, the Church desired to restrict smoking, profane behavior, and the like in the area of the plaza.[5]

File:Conference Center.jpg

Conference Center of the Mormon Church © Intellectual Reserve

In 1997 the groundbreaking took place for the construction of a new conference center just north of Temple Square. The Conference Center was completed in 2000. The Conference Center comprises 1.4 million square feet of floor space, and covers 10 acres, or an entire city block. The Center can seat 21,000 people, more than any other religious auditorium in the world, and there are 13,000 parking spaces. It also houses an 850-seat theatre. The Conference Center is used for General Conference twice each year, as well as other special Church gatherings and dramatic presentations.

File:City Creek Center.jpg

Artist's conception of City Creek Center being constructed by the Mormon Church © Intellectual Reserve

"On 23 June 2008 a new report highlighting environmentally friendly projects by U.S. faith-based organizations praised The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for its City Creek Center initiative in downtown Salt Lake City.

"The report, published by conservation organization the Sierra Club, highlights 'one exceptional faith-based environmental initiative from each of the fifty states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico,' according to It “demonstrates the breadth, depth and diversity of spiritually motivated grassroots efforts to protect the planet.

"City Creek Center will offer residential, office and retail space over 20 acres close to Temple Square in the heart of Salt Lake City." [6]


  1. Wikipedia:Salt Lake City
  2. Ibid.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Plaza Agreement at LDS Newsroom
  6. LDS News room article

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