We’re diving into 6 Fun Facts about Utah that will have you packing your bags quicker than you can say “Beehive State”! Utah, often celebrated for its stunning landscapes and outdoor recreational opportunities, also boasts a treasure trove of lesser-known marvels. From its Great Salt Lake to its modern-day cultural quirks, Utah is a state that keeps on giving. Join me as we uncover the quirky, the cool, and the outright astonishing! Get ready to add a sprinkle of Utah’s unique charm into your travel dreams.
1. The Beehive State
Utah is fondly known as the Beehive State, and the story behind this moniker is as fascinating as it is emblematic. The term “beehive” doesn’t pay homage to a particular abundance of the striped pollinators or their hives, but rather to an attribute highly cherished by its early settlers: industry.
The name stems from the early history of Utah, particularly the period when the members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (commonly known as the Mormon pioneers) settled in the area in the mid-19th century.
These pioneers faced the daunting task of cultivating a life in the harsh, dry terrain of what would become Utah. They embraced the beehive as a symbol of their industriousness, perseverance, and the cooperative effort required to create a thriving community amid challenging conditions. The beehive represents hard work, resilience, and the idea that many hands make light work—a nod to the settlers’ communal efforts in establishing their settlements.
This emblematic insect abode was so central to their identity that it was adopted as a part of the official state seal and remains a prominent part of Utah’s state symbols today. You can find the beehive symbol proudly displayed on state buildings, road signs, and even on the Utah state flag, acting as a constant reminder of the industrious spirit that is a cornerstone of Utah’s heritage and character.
2. The Great Salt Lake
The Great Salt Lake in Utah is truly a marvel, with its high salt concentration creating a buoyant bathing experience—you can float effortlessly on the water! My daughter Corinne and I did this several years ago.
Here’s a particularly intriguing fact: The Great Salt Lake is all that remains of the prehistoric Lake Bonneville, which once covered a large portion of present-day Utah. This ancient lake existed around the last Ice Age and was believed to be as big as Lake Michigan.
Nowadays, the Great Salt Lake is much smaller than its Ice Age ancestor, but it’s no less impressive. It’s the largest saltwater lake in the Western Hemisphere and the fourth-largest terminal lake in the world. (A terminal lake means that water flows into it but does not flow out to any ocean, leading to high levels of salinity.)
Besides being a hotspot for boaters and beachgoers seeking the unique no-sink swim, the area around the lake is also a haven for wildlife, especially birds. The Great Salt Lake is a critical stopover for millions of migratory birds including pelicans, gulls, and ducks. It’s an ecosystem of global importance, which also makes it a must-see for nature enthusiasts and bird watchers.
3. Bonneville Salt Flats
The Bonneville Salt Flats region in Utah is perhaps one of the most barren places in the United States. When Lake Bonneville began to dry up, it left 30,000 acres of dried table salt. Each winter, a shallow layer of standing water floods the surface of the salt flats. During spring and summer, the water slowly evaporates while winds smooth the surface into a vast, nearly perfect flat plain. The flats also have a history of speed racing with auto enthusiasts continually trying to set speedy new records.
When you think of the USA’s best barbecue joints, Utah is probably not the first place that comes to mind. However, Utah has a long-standing history of being home to good barbecue that dates back to the days of the Wild West and cooking over an open fire under the night sky.
The barbecue culture in Utah has since grown and developed with legendary BBQ joints all over the state. While you won’t find a signature style that’s as distinct as, say, Texas or North Carolina barbecue, Utah does offer a mosaic of influences from different BBQ traditions. Ribs, briskets, and pulled pork make a regular appearance, and local joints often smoke their meats over fruitwood, like cherry and apple, giving the BBQ a unique, sweet-smoky edge.
From the urban centers like Salt Lake City to the more remote areas, visitors might be surprised to find smokehouses that serve up melt-in-your-mouth brisket, tender ribs, and a variety of house-made sauces ranging from sweet and tangy to fiery hot.
5. Dark Sky Parks
Have you ever heard of a dark sky park? Dark Sky Parks are certified locations that boast the most exceptional dark skies in the world. The highest concentration of these parks is in Utah, including four national parks, five state parks, five national monuments, and one dark sky community.
If you visit these parks on a clear night, you’ll be treated to a view of the night sky that is sure to amaze you. A vast canvas of dazzling stars overhead coupled with Utah’s unique landscape will set the scene for the ultimate stargazing experience. I’ve arranged a telescope tour for some of my clients, with lots of big telescopes and professional guides so that they could stargaze like a pro.
Utah consumes more Jell-O per capita than any other state. In the Beehive State, this gelatinous treat is not just a mere wiggly and jiggly sweet; it’s an embodiment of tradition, a symbol of communal gatherings, and unbelievably, a testament to state identity. Believe it or not, Jell-O has been unofficially dubbed the state snack. It takes the spotlight at family dinners, church potlucks, and even major celebrations. Jell-O is so popular that the Mormon Corridor region (Utah and parts of surrounding states) has been nicknamed the Jell-O Belt.
Learn more about Utah
I hope you’ve enjoyed these fun facts about one of my family’s favorite states. Here are some more articles I’ve written about Utah:
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