Brief History of the Combined Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest
The unique mix of Land, People, and Events have made the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest what is today and will continue to carry it into the future. From the very first humans to the multiple users of tomorrow, the Uinta-Wasatch Cache National Forest will continue to provide important resources and opportunities for the American people.
The Uinta portion of the Forest, established in 1897, was the first National Forest in Utah. In 1897, President Grover Cleveland created the Uintah Forest Reserve, the predecessor to the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, and the Ashley National Forest. A Presidential proclamation created the Wasatch National Forest in 1906 and the Cache National Forest in 1907 to protect valuable resources. In 1973 the Cache National Forest was split at the Idaho/Utah state line. The Idaho division was annexed to the Caribou National Forest headquartered in Pocatello, ID; while the Utah division was annexed to the Wasatch National Forest headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah. The history of the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest is comprised of a fascinating mix of people, landscapes, and resources.
Uinta is derived from the Ute word Yoov-we-teuh, which means pine tree or pine forest. Wasatch is a Ute Indian word meaning "low place in high mountains." Cache is a French word meaning "to hide" and is a legacy of the early fur trappers who were the first Europeans to visit the region. Cache Valley was the site where the trappers dug caves to cache their furs so they would be hidden and safe from detection until they could be traded. The Forest holds important clues to the natural history of the area.
The oldest exposed rocks in Utah are in the Farmington Canyon Complex, which can be seen in outcrops near the mouth of Farmington Canyon. The Jardine Juniper tree, on the Logan Ranger District, is 1500 years old and is refuted to be the oldest living tree in the Rocky Mountains. Evidence of ancient oceans, volcanoes and glaciers can be found throughout the Forest. The shoreline of ancient Lake Bonneville can be traced in the terraces along the foothills.
Long before Europeans arrived, prehistoric Fremont, Shoshoni and Ute Indians lived in the valleys following the fish in the lakes and streams and the big game of the surrounding mountains. Early mountain men, trappers and explorers began to arrive in the 1820's. The promise of abundant wildlife lured trappers such as Jim Bridger, Kit Carson and Jedidiah Smith. Peter Skene Ogden and John Weber were two explorers whose names have remained. Their explorations were critical to providing information used by the pioneer settlers who followed.
By 1846, wagon trails were rattling down Weber Canyon from Fort Bridger, passing through present-day Salt Lake City on their way to California. The ill-fated Donner-Reed party followed the route through Henefer, east of Ogden, where they left Weber Canyon and opened a new trail across the mountains and the Great Salt Lake Desert. A monument in Emigration Canyon marks the spot where Brigham Young, early leader of the early Mormon church, reportedly declared "This is the place" to the first Mormon pioneers in 1847. These early pioneers were also dependent on the resources from the forests to build their cities, irrigate their crops and raise their livestock. The rocks for the construction of the Mormon temple were quarried from mountain outcrops. Throughout the Forest, traces of early industry critical to the pioneers can be found, such as kilns used for producing mortar and cement and saw mills. Mining in Little Cottonwood Canyon brought new settlers to the Wasatch-Front.
Unfortunately, a great deal of resource damage soon resulted from overgrazing and uncontrolled fires. Watersheds were so heavily grazed and severe summer floods occurred and regularly polluted water supplies.... Timber was free and loggers removed all the choice trees. Presidential proclamation created the Wasatch National Forest in 1906 and the Cache National Forest in 1907 to protect valuable resources.
The watersheds above Ogden City became so polluted that a major Typhoid outbreak occurred. By 1923 the problem had become so bad with domestic cattle and sheep carcasses decomposing in the Wheeler Creek, a critical source of Ogdens drinking water, that local Ogden residents became determined to reclaim the land and restore the environment. By 1936, the area now known as Snowbasin, was purchased by Ogden City, Weber County, the Ogden Rotary Club and the Ogden Chamber of Commerce. The land was transferred to the Forest Service for restoration and protection.
In 1973 the Cache National Forest was split at the Idaho/Utah state line. The Idaho division was annexed to the Caribou National Forest with headquarters in Pocatello, Idaho; while the Utah division was annexed to the Wasatch National Forest headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah.