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Utah's central location in the western United States has always meant a steady flow of traffic across its expanse, and has earned the state nickname "The Crossroads of the West." As early as the 18th century Spaniards and New Mexicans began exploring Utah in search of "short-cut" routes to the western coast. Their efforts resulted in a popular trade route known as "the Old Spanish Trail." In the first half of the 19th century trappers and mountain men further explored the state, plotting and mapping routes as they went. Their trails were later used by thousands of pioneers and adventurers heading to California and Oregon. U.S. government explorers began crossing Utah in the 1840s; one of the most notable of these was John C. Fremont, who mapped trails and wrote detailed reports of the plant and animal life in the area.

On July 24, 1847, Brigham Young, in search of "a place nobody else wanted," first entered the Salt Lake Valley with a company of Mormon pioneers. The group was escaping religious persecution in the Midwest, and sought a life of peace and isolation from outside interference.

Early accounts of the Salt Lake Valley describe "a vast desert whose dry and parched soil seemed to bid defiance." Undaunted by the landscape, within days of their arrival the pioneers had established the work ethic and resourcefulness that would become their trademark. Crops were planted and an ingenious irrigation system implemented. A "tent school" educated the children. Homes and forts were built and the surrounding area explored.

Hundreds of Mormons from all over the world continued the migration to Utah, and within three years a newspaper was in circulation, a theatre was built, and a territorial government was established. By 1900 the Mormons had founded nearly 500 settlements in Utah and surrounding states.

Information courtesy of the Governor's Office
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Last Updated 10.17.2017