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Kane County, Utah

Kane County administrative offices are located at 76 North Main Street, Kanab, UT 84741; phone: 435-644-4900.


Beginnings< [1]

Native American tribes inhabited present day Kane County for thousands of years prior to European contact. Nomadic hunter-gatherers passed through the area as they traveled to the nearby plateaus to hunt. The first semi-permanent settlement of the area was undertaken by the Anasazi or Basket Makers around the time of Christ. About the same time the Fremont culture established semi-permanent settlements in the Long Valley area. These groups left the area in approximately 1300 A.D. Most researchers believe the movement was caused by a combination of drought and raids by Navajo tribes. Paiute, Navajo, and Hopi tribes used the area as hunting grounds, but permanent settlement was scarce. European explorers and settlers found mainly nomadic Southern Paiutes inhabiting the area during the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

The barrier created by the Grand Canyon and Colorado River kept early Spanish explorers from reaching present day Kane County for hundreds of years. The Escalante/Dominguez party was the first European group to enter the region. After exploring much of Utah and Northern Arizona searching for a route from Santa Fe to California in 1776, they crossed the Colorado River at the "Crossing of the Fathers". A spur of the Old Spanish Trail is said to have crossed through Kane County near the Utah-Arohona border. This route carried considerable traffic during the early 19th century. However, no permanent settlement was attempted. The area became part of the United States in 1848 as a result of the Treaty of Guadelupe Hildago.

The first European settlement of Kane County was undertaken in the mid-19th century by Mormon ranchers and settlers. These members of the newly-formed Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had arrived in the Great Basin in 1847 after having been driven from their homes in Illinois and Missouri. They established many small agrarian villages throughout the Great Basin and extended their colonization into California, Nevada, Arizona, and Mexico.

The desert highlands south of Kanab were found to be excellent winter range for livestock. A number of Mormon ranchers established grazing operations in the area in the early 1860's. The Long Valley area north of the desert was the first area to be settled permanently. Small settlements were established in the mid-1860's at Glendale and Alton. Indian hostilities forced these early settlers to leave.

Mormon settlers returning from the Nevada area re-established the communities in Long Valley and established Kanab in 1870. These settlers farmed the bottom lands near streams and grazed livestock on the high plateaus in the summer and desert highlands in the winter. The small towns prospered during the 1870's. The residents established orchards, field crops, and livestock grazing operations. Unfortunately, a drought from 1879-1882 caused a severe shortage in irrigation water, resulting in great hardships to the settlers. The drought was followed by three years of floods which deepened the channel of Kanab Creek almost 60 feet. Most of the farm land was washed away.

Most of the early settlers were experienced desert colonizers and survived the trying times. They continued to expand the agricultural base upon which their livelihood was dependent. Population levels remained fairly constant during the late 19th century. One of the most successful communal organizations in the history of the United States was established by Mormons in Orderville. The economy of the area remained based upon livestock grazing into the 1930's. The establishment of Grand Canyon National Park and the Kaibab Game Reserve began a demand for tourist services. The first economic "boom" occurred during the 1930's-1950's as the area became a famous location for shooting western films and television episodes. Over 50 feature length westerns have been filmed in Kane County.

The canyon country of eastern Kane County remained a sparsely settled area until the construction of Glen Canyon Dam on the Colorado River in the late 1950's. The resulting reservoir, Lake Powell, created the impetus for the establishment of Page, Arizona, Big Water, Utah and Bullfrog Marina in northeastern Kane County. Lake Powell is a world class attraction which draws millions of visitors each year. Most travel through Kane County to reach the Lake.

The small timber harvesting operations which supplied building materials to local residents expanded in the 1940's and began to provide timber to larger markets. The Kaibab Forest Products sawmill in Fredonia, Arizona became a major year round employer. Recent concerns with wildlife habitat and other environmental issues has caused a major reduction in timber harvests from the nearby plateaus.

  1. Division of Community and Economic Development, Kane County General Plan Advisory Committee, Kane County, Utah General Plan, 1998, kane.utah.gov, accessed August, 2011.

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