Skip Navigation

Utah County

Utah County

Quick facts
Cool facts
What the land is like
A bit of prehistory
A bit of history
A little about the economy

Back to Utah Counties Map


Quick facts

Area: 2,014 square miles 
Population
County Seat: Provo
Where it got its name: after the Ute Indians 
Main cities and towns: Provo, Orem, American Fork, Springville, Pleasant Grove, Spanish Fork 
Economy: education, steel industry, light manufacturing, agriculture 
Interesting places: Fairfield Stagecoach Inn, historic downtown Provo, Brigham Young University (Monte L. Bean Life Sciences Museum, Museum of People and Culture, Museum of Fine Arts), Utah Lake, Timpanogos Cave National Monument, Springville Museum of Art, Hutchings Museum of Natural History in Lehi, McCurdy Historical Doll Museum in Provo, Bridal Veil Falls, Heber Creeper steam train, Sundance ski resort

Cool  facts

historic photo

Pilot T. T. Maroney and David Cazier with a biplane at Payson in 1916.

What the land is like

historic photo

Abraham Jones andhis horses Mert and Marg plowing a field in the spring. The seagulls are gobbling up the worms the plow has turned up.

The most striking geographical features of Utah County are the Wasatch Mountains along the eastern boundary and Utah Lake, the state's largest fresh-water lake, to the west. The high mountains, rising over 11,000 feet, receive heavy snowfall, which feeds the rivers and creeks that flow into the lake.

Utah Lake is a remnant of the huge, prehistoric Lake Bonneville. Though large in size, Utah Lake is very shallow--18 feet at its deepest point.

The grassy Utah Valley became farmlands after settlement. Now the farmlands are gradually being developed into subdivisions and commercial areas.

Read what Father Escalante thought of Utah Valley.

A bit of prehistory

historic painting

Chief Pareyarts (Old Elk or Big Elk) and his wife. They opposed the settlers at Fort Utah. In 1850 the army attacked a their peaceful camp by surprise, killing men, women, and children. Pareyarts and his wife both died in the aftermath.

Utah County’s mountains, lake, streams, and valleys have sustained humans since at least 10,000 B.C. Utah Lake was once a rich fishery, and people lived and camped on its shores.

The lifeways and culture of humans developed over time. Archaeologists call the Ice Age prehistoric people PaleoIndians. The Desert Archaic culture followed the PaleoIndian culture.

In 1991 archaeologists excavated the remains of an Archaic-period man on the shore of Utah Lake. The man had been buried with tools, basketry, and a dog.

The next prehistoric culture is called the Fremont culture. Fremont Indians lived here until about A.D. 1500, farming corn, squash, and beans. They also fished, hunted, and gathered plant foods.

By 1800 three Indian groups used Utah Valley: Paiutes, who used the west side of Utah Lake; Shoshones, who sometimes traveled here from north; and the Utes, who were the main group who lived around the lake.

A bit of history

The Dominguez-Escalante expedition passed through Utah Valley in 1776. The Timpanogots Utes in the valley welcomed the padres and helped them.

Fur trappers stopped at the lake in the 1820s. Etienne Provost was one of them—and Provo was named after him. John C. Fremont visited the area in 1844.

Settlers

historic painting

"Brigham's Shanties at Provo City" or, in other words, Fort Utah), illustrated in Harper's Weekly in 1858.

A party of Mormons explored the valley in 1847. In January 1849 Brigham Young sent a fishing party to catch fish for the hungry settlers in Salt Lake Valley. That same year, other settlers moved to Utah Valley and established a fort at the present site of Provo.

The Utes who lived in the valley resented the pioneers taking their land. Violent conflicts arose, but no matter how hard they fought for their land, the Utes couldn’t win. They lost their land and had to move to the reservation in the Uinta Basin.

A little about the economy

historic photo

The railroad depot at American Fork in 1912.

The settlers farmed, growing crops, fruit, and sugar beets. Orem was once full of orchards. Today, developers have taken out the orchards and built roads, commercial centers, and subdivisions.

Utah County has fostered important industries. The Provo Woolen Mill became the state’s first large manufacturing plant in 1873.

In the late 1800s and early 1900s mines in American Fork Canyon and in the Tintic Mining District produced much wealth.

historic photo

The Orion Burgess Service Station on Main Street in Alpine, about 1939. City hall is across the street. Why is a horse-drawn wagon at a gas station?

During World War II, the U.S. needed a lot of steel to build ships, airplanes, and more. Geneva Steel was built on the east shore of Utah Lake during this time. The government chose this location because they thought that steel plants closer to the coast could be destroyed by the country’s enemies.

Geneva Steel employed many people in the county for many years. In 2001 it closed. The buildings were demolished.

Brigham Young University, established in 1875 as the Brigham Young Academy, has grown to be a major university. BYU and Utah Valley University have an important influence on the county.