Wandering Lizard

An online magazine with information related to attractions, lodging, dining,
and travel resources in selected areas of Utah

Grand County, Utah

Grand County Grand County
Grand County Grand County

Grand County is located in southeastern Utah. The county seat is Moab. The 2010 census counted 9,925 residents.

Humans have lived in this part of the Colorado Plateau for at least 10,000 years. What used to be called the Anasazi Culture predated the arrival of Anglo-Europeans by many centuries. Until recently, we were told that the Anasazi culture suddenly and mysteriously disappeared in about 1300 A.D. Today, we are instructed to refer to this culture as the Ancestral Puebloan Culture and we are told that these people were the ancestors of the Hopi, Zuni, and other puebloan people that live in the general area today.

The early recorded history of Grand County is dominated by the opening of the Old Spanish Trail. Starting in 1830, Spanish traders began moving back and forth between Los Angeles, California and Santa Fe, New Mexico, passing through Grand County in ones and twos and in annual caravans. A major crossing of the Colorado River had been discovered near present day Moab so it was logical that it was one of the earliest communities to develop. Early on, however, settlement was exceptionally difficult. The first Mormons to try moving into the region in 1855 were almost immediately driven out by Ute Indians that were already living in the area. It was not until the 1870s and the 1880s that a few Mormon families were able to establish a few small farms, orchards and ranches. This was also the heyday of the cowboy outlaw. Gangs like Butch Cassidy's Wild Bunch used the extensive web of canyons that characterize the region as an excellent place to hide from the law.

At the time that Grand County was being cut out of Emery County (1890), the Colorado River above the confluence with the Green River was known as the Grande River. This was, of course, the part of the river that flowed through the new county, so it is understandable that the county was named for the river. In 1921, the name of the river was changed to the Colorado, but the name of the county was not.

Eventually, large sheep and cattle ranches were developed in Grand County. In 1929, Arches National Park was established. In the 1950s, Grand County was the locale for a large number of Western movies. It was also when uranium mining stimulated the local economy. Today tourism is far and away the most important source of income in the area. Moab is the regional center for outdoor activity of all sorts.