Utah’s Little Hollywood is the gateway to the Grand Staircase

Kanab, Utah

This article originally appeared in Vol.51, No.4 (2004) of Pioneer Magazine.

by Pioneer Magazine

Created in the early 1860s, Kane County is noted for some of the most beautiful—though often inhospitable—land in Utah. After the Black Hawk War, settlers soon moved to favorable locations such as Kanab and Long Valley, establishing towns in the isolated region north of the Arizona Strip with economies based on ranching and timber harvesting.

With the improvement of area roads and communications in the twentieth century, more people became aware of the scenic splendor of the county, and tourism and moviemaking began to increase. Kanab was even known as Utah’s “Little Hollywood” during the heyday of filmmaking. The creation of the brought the promise of increased tourism to the area.

, one of the first settlers to visit the area, first came to the future Kane County in 1860 with a flock of sheep. There he found grass knee high stretching across the valley to Kanab Creek and moving like waves with the wind. It seemed that everywhere the valley was covered with a sea of grass. A small stream ran from the canyon north of the future townsite of Kanab to the southern side of the valley. It ran through a thick growth of grass and willows, although during the hot summer months it dried up altogether.

Here, everything seems to appear in extremes, especially the rugged plateaus of canyon country—raw, exposed, thirsty land that seemed to defy settlement. Bands of Navajo Indians threatened the security of more peaceful Paiutes, who for security even lodged for a short period in forts with the settlers. White settlement of the land was interrupted by its earlier inhabitants, forces beyond the control of the determined first generation of pioneers. Later, the land itself and discouragement provided continual deterrents to settlement.

The earliest pioneer settlers of Kane County, called by Brigham Young, were a hardy bunch—frontiersmen and missionaries, families usually with several children and sometimes several wives. In the late 1860s they began to build a fort where Kanab would eventually be located but were discouraged in their efforts at settlement by attacks from, local Indians, In the 1870s the returning settlers were joined by a small group of farmers who earlier had made their homes in the Cottonwood area of the Salt Lake Valley. A third group soon joined them. The members of this last group had already lived in a difficult place—the LDS Muddy Mission in Nevada’s Moapa Valley. They left Nevada because of what they considered excessive taxation and were advised by Brigham Young to resettle in Kane County.

Patterning their efforts on Mormon models throughout the settlement corridor, settlers attempted to organize field agriculture by planting hay, grain, row crops, and orchards.

There is a rich community history that comes from the people who inhabited this place. Dozens of diaries, journals, and other sources are excerpted in the two Daughter of Utah Pioneers histories of Kane County. Others, handed down through the generations, have remained in family hands and speak to the heritage of resourcefulness and hard work.

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