City Creek Nature Notes – Salt Lake City

January 21, 2017

January 21st

Filed under: Elk, Mule Deer, Weather — canopus56 @ 8:10 pm

External Link to Image

Left: Shipler’s January 21, 1918 Photograph of City Creek after a Snow Storm. Right: Photograph of City Creek after a Snow Storm taken January 21, 2017. The spring below picnic site 6 discussed Jan. 20th is in the lower left-hand corner.

Snow Storm

4:30 p.m. Another snow storm crossed the valley depositing over one foot of wet, heavy spring-like snow, and it takes most of the weekend day to clear the whiteness away. In the canyon, the branches of trees weigh down supporting four to six inches of this snow whose consistency allows it to pile high on the smallest branch and twig. High on the west ridge, a few elk and deer have returned to paw through the thick blanket. Birds are silent. On January 21st, 1918, the Salt Lake Tribune published a half-page spread of four photographs of snow-covered City Creek Canyon made by Harry Shipler. Comparing photographs taken on January 21st, 1918 with those taken today this evening, I recognize the same weather in both. Shipler typically reached the canyon by horse and buckboard.

On January 21st 1899, Water Superintendent John T. Caine recommended the construction of an excavated reservoir tank at Pleasant Valley in City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake Tribune).

On January 21, 1893, the Polytechnic Society discussed a plan proposed the Salt Lake Herald in 1892, for an 18-mile long grand boulevard beginning at the Warms Springs on Beck Street, rising to the Ensign Peak mountain grounds, traveling around City Creek, along 11th Avenue, thence to Fort Douglas, along Wasatch Boulevard, and to Parley’s Canyon (Salt Lake Herald). (The route followed the natural topography of the Provo level bench of ancient Lake Bonneville.) The Herald’s route proposed crossing City Creek Canyon by a viaduct across lower City Creek instead of by the current Bonneville Drive. The proposals were described by retired British Rear Admiral Jason Henry Selwyn, who invented an ore separation process and who owned Utah mining claims. Selwyn noted that the road should be a boulevard and in the 1890s, that meant a wide street with a planted center and lined with trees that was designed for slow travel. Another proponent, a Colonel Stevenson, suggested that “Upon whatever lines it may be built it should as nearly conform to those that nature has given us so that we may forever give to posterity an outlook that may not be seriously interfered with by any artificial constructions in the way of buildings especially” (id). Colonel Stevenson referred to in the article is believed to be Col. Charles L. Stevenson, a prominent local mining engineer who then also served on the Utah Irrigation Commission.

The proposed boulevard can be viewed in the context of Frederick Law Olmsted’s the then popular systems of linear necklace parks including Boston’s 1880 Emerald Necklace Park and Rochester, New York’s 1881 Genesee Valley Park System. In the early 1900s, Cleveland, Ohio also developed an Olmsted inspired emerald necklace park system. Although the City did subsequently grade and develop the scenic road from the Ensign Peak area to the mouth of Parley’s Canyon using City prison labor, it did not acquire the property on either side of the road. Currently, private homes and public trees along 11th Avenue at the City Cemetery block the scenic view along almost all of the route, and in the 1890s, Salt Lake City missed its opportunity to have a grand emerald necklace boulevard that exploited the scenic vistas provided by the ancient Lake Bonneville Provo level terrace. Even so, the route is still popular with bicyclists, walkers, runners, and pleasure drivers. It was not until 1990 that an analogous unobstructed scenic vista drive was begun. In 1990, construction of the foot and bicycle traffic Bonneville Shore Trail began between Dry Fork and Emigration Canyons. By 2017, the Bonneville Shoreline Trail has expanded to 100 miles along the Wasatch Canyon Front Mountain Range out of a proposed system of 280 miles (

The missed opportunity by the City to purchase lands around each side of the scenic drive from Ensign Peak to Parley’s Canyon for an emerald necklace park without obstructions should be viewed in its economic historical context: the City may not have had the funds to make the necessary land purchases. In 1889, the non-Mormon Liberal Party succeeded to the mayorship of and control of the city council of Salt Lake City following demographic changes from mining and provisions of the Edmunds-Tucker Act that effectively prevented many Mormons from running for public office. As today, in 1983, between fifty and sixty percent of the population of the City were non-Mormon. The new city administration then proceeded on a massive program of public infrastructure modernization including sewers, street paving, sidewalks, public water supply improvements, and a fire alarm system that the Mormon People’s Party administration had previously refused to pursue (Maxwell). In 1890, City residents would also be required to take on another large public expenditure. The Utah Territorial Legislature would not would adopt universal free public education found in the then 42 existing States, until Congress forced its hand in 1890 by moving to amend the Territory’s Organic Act (id). In order to maintain local control of education, the territorial legislature then adopted its own public education law modelled on the federal bill; the new law required the building of many new public schools; and the City quickly issued $850,000 in bonds (or about $21.5M today) to buy land and to begin erecting free public schools (Maxwell). After his election as mayor in November 1891, Salt Lake City’s second non-Mormon Mayor Robert N. Baskin continued those programs, and in July 1892 in counter-point to the completion of the Mormon Temple in April 1892, Baskin laid the cornerstone for a large public construction project: the building of the Salt Lake City-County Building on Washington Square (id). Later in 1893, the United States suffered its largest ever recorded depression (Heilbroner and Singer). The Depression of 1893 was much larger than the Great Depression of the 1930s (id), and City unemployment was estimated at 48 percent (Maxwell). But construction of the City-County Building continued as a public works program in order to alleviate the poverty of its citizens (id, 242). When dedicated in late 1894, the City-County Building contained some architectural elements that were intended to distinguish its secular focus from the Mormon Temple and that were intended to make a statement. The statute at the top of the City-County Building is of Columbia, a popular 18th century personification of the United States. She holds the light of knowledge in one hand and the dove of peace in another. The four towers were designated as “Knowledge”, “Power”, “Peace” and “Justice” (Maxwell, 245). Taken together, through all of these features, the builders made a powerful implied statement on the future direction of the City. The public infrastructure investments of the 1890s formed the foundation of the modern city that we enjoy today. But adding the expense of creating an emerald necklace park on the Lake Bonneville terrace as discussed by Selwyn and Stevenson in January 1893 may at the time have been beyond the City’s fathers’ and the residents’ reach.


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