Area: 3,904 square miles
County Seat: Kanab
Where it got its name: from Col. Thomas L. Kane, an influential supporter of the Mormons
Main cities and towns: Kanab (3,564), Orderville (596), Glendale (355)
Economy: tourism, services
Interesting places: Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Lake Powell, Coral Pink Sand Dunes, Kodachrome Basin, Old Paria, Navajo Lake, Hole-in-the-Rock
Looking down through "Hole in the Rock" to the Colorado River. A group of Mormon pioneers had to take their wagons down here.
The high desert landscape of Kane County belongs to the Colorado Plateau geographical province. In Kane County you can find towering sandstone cliffs, deep canyons, plateaus, mountains, and lots of sand.
The lush “Glen Canyon”—named by John Wesley Powell—once formed the eastern border; now the reservoir waters of Lake Powell cover the canyon.
Most of the rivers and creeks drain into the Colorado River.
Ancestral Pueblo dwellings in Cottonwood Canyon, northwest of Kanab. A photographer for the Utah Writers Project took this photo in the 1930s.
PaleoIndian and Archaic people lived on this land. These people hunted animals like deer in the uplands and desert sheep and rabbits in the desert. They learned how to gather and use a variety of desert plants. The Ancestral Pueblo culture developed as people learned to farm corn, beans, and squash.
Ruins and other evidence of these ancient people dot Kane County. Archaeologists have recorded hundreds of sites on Fifty Mile Mountain, but have excavated few of them. Glen Canyon had many sites that are now covered by water. Before Glen Canyon Dam was completed, archaeological teams studied these sites.
The hunting-gathering Paiutes replaced the Ancestral Pueblo people. After the coming of Europeans to the Southwest, Navajos, Utes, and later Spanish explorers and traders felt free to take Paiute women and children and sell them into slavery in the Spanish settlements.
The Kane County jail (date unknown).
Jacob Hamblin and other Mormons first dug a few little dugouts in the area of in 1858. More settlers trickled in. Cattle owners began running cattle in the region and settlers founded more towns.
But the Black Hawk War interrupted the settlers’ hopes. In 1866, killings and raids by some American Indians—mostly Navajos—forced them to abandon their new farms. Friendly Paiutes cared for the crops after they left. When the settlers began to return later, Paiutes and Mormons worked together grow crops and develop farmland.
In the meantime, Jacob Hamblin worked hard to establish peace between the Navajos, Hopis, Paiutes, and settlers.
Settlers didn’t start to return seriously until 1870, and when they did they tried to make Kanab a beautiful and prosperous community.
Kanab town board, 1912-14, with "Mary W. Howard," mayor, in center. (Mary's real last name was Chamberlain, but she used another name to protect her polygamous husband, Mr. Chamberlain.)
In March 1874 Brigham Young encouraged the formation of a United Order at Orderville. Under the United Order, the people would share their possessions and work together as a community, instead of each family just looking after themselves.
Although many towns, including Kanab, organized “United Orders,” the people in Orderville lived communally more earnestly than most. They had great success and were happy for several years, but eventually, for many reasons, they gave up their experiment in communal living.
A Hollywood film crew on location in Kane County.
During the 19th and early 20th centuries, most of the county’s residents got their living by farming and ranching. But a new industry came to town in 1922 when Fox Film Corporation filmed Deadwood Coach with Tom Mix in Utah. The Parry brothers of Kanab led a crusade to attract more films. They developed lodging, food, and other services for film crews, and by the 1930s Kanab was called Little Hollywood because so many movies were made there.
In the 1920s and 1930s Kanab also become a tourist center for visitors to Bryce Canyon, Zion, and Grand Canyon National Parks.
During the construction of Glen Canyon Dam near Page, Arizona, which began in 1956, Kanab's population doubled and the economy boomed. Although the population dropped after crews finished the dam, Lake Powell, one of Utah's major recreational sites, brought in new service industries connected with boating and fishing, especially the Bullfrog Basin Marina in the extreme northeast corner of the county.
Enormous coal reserves in the Kaiparowits Plateau and Alton fields are Kane County's most important natural resource and may, when environmental issues are resolved, dictate a new economic future based on mining.