6 historic places to visit in the Salt Lake Valley before summer ends

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SALT LAKE VALLEY – Fall is just around the corner with back to school and bedtime.

But there is still time to go out and discover the remains of history in your own backyard. Hidden all over the Salt Lake Valley are clues to our past. You have probably passed markers and monuments several times without warning.

Now forgotten by the passing of time, these sleepy tales were once breaking news. So get together with family and friends and go on a history hunt.

Heritage park: memorial to the 1938 bus tragedy

During a severe snowstorm in December 1938, a school bus full of students collided with a northbound Denver & Rio Grande Western train crossing the tracks near 10200 South and 40 West in the south of the Jordan. The bus driver and 23 students were killed and many more were injured. This horrific accident triggered national bus safety laws that are still in effect today. In Heritage Park, 75 years after the tragedy, a memorial stands in honor of the victims and survivors.

Olympus Junior High School: fortified village of Holladay Fort

In 1847, Holladay Fort became the first village to be established independently of Salt Lake under the leadership of Brigham Young. Around 1853, a wall of adobe and straw built around the village protected the inhabitants from possible attacks by the Amerindians. Although the wall was probably never completed, the settlement flourished.

The plaque and site of the original fort can be found at the eastern end of the grounds of Olympus Junior High School.

600 East: Lonely Cedar

When the pioneers entered the Salt Lake valley, they found a majestic cedar tree towering above the rest. It became Utah’s first famous landmark and a meeting place for weary travelers in the shade of its branches. In 1933, a shrine was built by the Daughters of Utah Pioneers, although the tree was long dead. When the giant tree was still standing, the locals called it the “old cedar pole”. Unfortunately, vandals cut the trunk, leaving only the stump in 1958. Look for this marker in the median of 600 East, between 400 and 300 South.

Jordan River Parkway: Donner-Reed Campground

The Donner-Reed Wagon group crossed the Salt Lake Valley on their westward migration. The group had hoped that the crossing of the Great Salt Lake desert would save precious time. Instead, the group wasted days through sticky salt marshes, entering the Sierra Nevada mountains at the end of the season. The settlers found themselves stranded for three weeks without food in the snow-capped mountains, ultimately resorting to survival cannibalism. There is a historic landmark for a campsite on the Jordan River Parkway Trail Trail, accessible from 2780 South and 900 West.

State Prison, Frontage Road: Rockwell’s Station

Not a quaint place, but an obscure gem worth seeing. Named after the famous Orrin Porter Rockwell, Joseph Smith and Brigham Young’s personal bodyguard and legend of Mormon folklore. Rockwell’s Hot Springs Hotel and Brewery was a frequent stop on the Pony Express and Overland Stage. There isn’t much left except a historical marker placed in 1934, but if you search the grounds you can find some real stones from the station. A short excursion, but a fun trip for the adventure taker. Found across from Bluffdale Park and Ride on a narrow gravel road.

Old Bingham Highway: Welby Ghost Town

An abandoned town consumed by the growth of western Jordan, students at Welby Elementary School may not realize their namesake Alma mater is after the respected superintendent of the Rio Grande Railroad in Welby. A railway junction built in 1905 was named after Welby, soon after, in 1908, the post office did too. The city disappeared after the loss of the railway contract. Pack lunch and a picnic at the tables provided by the marker on Old Bingham Highway and 4200 West.


Evelyn Hatch is proud to be from Utah and the mother of three boys. Contact her at evelynrimmasch@hotmail.com.

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