I just got back from a week in Moab Utah, which was to be the "base camp" for photographic excursions around the area including Arches NP and Canyonlands NP. I will share the highlights from my trip on a series of posts, beginning with this first post which will include the history of Moab. Subsequent posts will expound on our adventures in the two national parks nearby Moab as well as “special places” that we also visited. I drove through Moab over 35 years ago and was struck by its natural beauty. It’s taken me this long to return…if you haven’t been, make sure it’s up on your bucket list.
This was a road trip that started in Albuquerque (after having flown in from the west coast) and headed north along Highway 550 which was quite beautiful but then quickly became a bit more treacherous with snow and slush. I knew from having checked the weather, that our destination in Utah was to be sunny with clear skies, but how much further would we continue through this snow? Thankfully road conditions improved after only a few more miles. We proceeded north, through Farmington New Mexico and into the southwest corner of Colorado. Skirting past Durango, we turned due west and headed into Mancos where we enjoyed a lunch break. I could have spent all day exploring this small, quaint, and very scenic town, but Moab was calling, so we hit the road...
The anticipation was palpable as we began our final approach as we descended towards Moab. For a while now we've been seeing the La Sal Mountains on the horizon, but as they loom larger we realize we're almost there... next stop Arches and Canyonlands National Parks!
According to Wikipedia, Moab is located just south of the Colorado River, at an elevation of 4,025 feet, and is 18 miles west of the Utah/Colorado state line. Moab’s population was 5,046 at the 2010 census and attracts a large number of tourists every year, mostly visitors to the nearby Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. The town is also a very popular base for mountain bikers who ride the extensive network of trails including Slickrock Trail, as well as off-roaders who come for the annual Moab Jeep Safari.
The Biblical name Moab refers to an area of land located on the eastern side of the Jordan River. Some historians believe the city in Utah came to use this name because of William Pierce, the first postmaster, believing that the biblical Moab and this part of Utah were both "the far country". However, others believe the name has Paiute origins, referring to the word "moapa" meaning mosquito. Some of the area's early residents attempted to change the city's name because in the Christian Bible, Moabites are demeaned as incestuous and idolatrous. One petition in 1890 had 59 signatures and requested a name change to Vina. Another effort attempted to change the name to Uvadalia. Both attempts failed. Moab was incorporated as a town on December 20, 1902.
During the period between 1829 and the early 1850s, the area around what is now Moab served as the Colorado River crossing along the Old Spanish Trail. Later, other places to cross the Colorado were constructed, such as Lee's Ferry, Navajo Bridge and Boulder Dam. These changes shifted the trade routes away from Moab. Soon Moab's origins as one of the few natural crossings of the Colorado River were forgotten. Nevertheless, the U.S. military deemed the bridge over the Colorado River at Moab important enough to place it under guard as late as World War II.
Moab's economy was originally based on agriculture, but gradually shifted to mining. Uranium and vanadium were discovered in the area in the 1910s and 1920s. Potash and manganese came next, and then oil and gas were discovered. In the 1950s Moab became the so-called "Uranium Capital of the World" after geologist Charles Steen found a rich deposit of uranium ore south of the city. With the winding down of the Cold War, Moab's uranium boom was over, and the city's population drastically declined. By the early 1980s a number of homes stood empty and nearly all of the uranium mines had closed.