Salt Lake County is a county located in the U.S. state of Utah. It had a population of 1,029,655 at the 2010 census. Its county seat and largest city is Salt Lake City, the state capital and largest city. It occupies a valley, Salt Lake Valley, as well as parts of the surrounding mountains, the Oquirrh Mountains to the west and the Wasatch Range to the east. In addition, the Great Salt Lake is partially within the northwestern section of the county. The county is famous for its ski resorts, which led to Salt Lake City hosting the 2002 Winter Olympics.
The area that was to become Salt Lake County was settled in 1847 when Mormon pioneers of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), fleeing persecution in the East, arrived in the Salt Lake Valley after traveling through Emigration Canyon. Brigham Young, their leader, declared "This is the place" after seeing the valley, which was at the time arid, dry, and unpromising. However, they soon developed a flourishing, self-sufficient city, Great Salt Lake City, through extensive irrigation techniques. Thousands of Mormons from around the world followed in the next several decades. The county was officially formed on January 31, 1850, with just over 11,000 residents recorded.
Settlements were scattered across the valley and beyond, and the territorial capital was moved to Great Salt Lake City in 1857, when the name was subsequently shortened to Salt Lake City. In 1858, when the Utah Territory was declared in rebellion after governor Brigham Young refused to step down for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' polygamous practices, the government sent troops to install a new governor and keep watch over the place. However, the valley was abandoned and the troops set up Camp Floyd to the south in Utah County. In 1862, Fort Douglas was established on the eastern bench, near the current site of the University of Utah, to make sure that the territory maintained its allegiance during the American Civil War.
Patrick Edward Connor, who was the leader of the garrison stationed at Fort Douglas, was openly anti-Mormon and sent out parties to scout for mineral resources in the nearby mountains to encourage non-Mormons to settle there. During the late 19th century, mines were established in the mountains, most notably around Alta. Exploiting the mineral wealth was difficult until the Utah Central Railroad arrived in 1870. The Bingham Canyon Mine, which contains vast deposits of copper and silver, was the most notable of the mines that was established. The mine, located in the Oquirrh Mountains in the southwest portion of the county, attracted thousands of settlers to the narrow canyon. At its peak, the city of Bingham Canyon contained 20,000 residents all crowded along the steep walls of the canyon, and natural disasters were a frequent occurrence. By the early 20th century, most of the mines in the county had closed. However, the Bingham Canyon Mine kept on expanding, and today is among the largest open-pit mines in the world.
After the railroad came to the county, the population began to expand more rapidly and non-Mormons began to settle in the city. During the early 20th century, heavy industry came to the valley as well, diversifying its economy, and a trolley system was in place in what are now Salt Lake City and South Salt Lake. The trolley system was mostly dismantled by 1945 as cars outpaced public transportation across the country. Throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the east side of the valley began to be heavily-settled. In 1942, Camp Kearns, a massive military installation created for World War II, was created in what is now Kearns and Taylorsville on the western side of the valley. After the camp was closed in 1946, the land was sold off and rapid settlement of the area began. Other major defensive installations were set up along the Wasatch Front and in the Great Salt Lake Desert during World War II, further encouraging growth and boosting the economy, as well as establishing Utah as a major military center. In the nation-wide suburb boom of the late 1940s, 1950s, and early 1960s, such cities as South Salt Lake, Murray, Midvale, and much of the east side of the valley grew rapidly.
The airport was upgraded to international status in the 1960s and became Salt Lake City International Airport. Like all of the industrialized cities throughout the nation, Salt Lake City faced inner-city decay beginning especially in the 1960s, while the suburbs grew tremendously. Growth in such cities as Sandy, West Jordan, and what would become West Valley City was phenomenal in the 1970s and 1980s. Huge residential tracts were created through the center of the valley, and within ten years, the entire area had been converted from farmland into sprawling bedroom communities to Salt Lake City. West Valley City was created from the merger of the three unincorporated cities of Granger, Hunter, and Chesterfield in 1980. However, not every area of the county saw growth. Not only was Salt Lake City facing urban decay, but the cities that provided residences for the miners in Bingham Canyon were torn down in the 1960s and 1970s. The city of Bingham Canyon was completely torn down and swallowed up in the mine by 1972, and the dismantling of Lark in 1980 completed the process. The only remaining mining town in the county is Copperton, located southwest of West Jordan, with approximately 800 residents.
Beginning especially in the 1990s, rapid growth shifted further south and west. Old farmland and pastureland was swallowed up by new residential development. The cities of West Jordan, South Jordan, Riverton, Herriman, and Draper are some of the fastest growing cities in the state. During the 1990s, Salt Lake City began reversing the trend of inner-city decay, and its population grew for the first time in 40 years. Salt Lake City's selection as the host of the 2002 Winter Olympics spurred a construction boom in the city that continued well after the Olympics left, until a recession began in 2008. As the county's population has surpassed 1 million, one of the main issues in the county is urbanization. Only a few small rural areas remain in the far west of the valley. Other issues facing the county today include pollution and transportation.
According to data from the LDS Church and the State of Utah, Salt Lake County was 53% LDS (Mormon) in 2004, as reported in the Salt Lake Tribune. Extrapolating corresponding figures of 62% LDS in 1994 and 57% in 1999, along with the 2004 figure of 53%, renders an estimate that Salt Lake County is very likely less than 50% LDS today - From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
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