Salt Lake City, Utah, the capital and largest city of the state, and the seat of Salt Lake County. It lies between 4,200 and 5,200 feet (1,280 and 1,585 m) above sea level on a plain between Great Salt Lake and the Wasatch Range. The Jordan River, on its way to Great Salt Lake, flows through the city's west side. As one of the few large cities between the Rocky Mountains and the west coast, Salt Lake City is an important commercial and industrial center. It is also a religious center—the headquarters of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or Mormon Church.
The city's wide streets, many of them tree-lined, form an orderly grid. Toward the northern end of town lies the central business district. The eastern and northern sections of Salt Lake City are built on a series of terraces, locally called “benches,” on the slopes of the Wasatch Range. Most of the manufacturing districts are outside the city limits to the west and south.
Located in the heart of Utah's richest agricultural and mining area, Salt Lake City, with its metropolitan area, is a major processing and marketing center. Major industries are food processing, the smelting of metallic ores, oil refining, and the manufacture of steel products, paper and printed matter, electronic and missile components, and chemicals. Interstate routes 15 and 80 and several railroads and airlines serve the city.
Temple Square, a walled city block in the downtown area, encloses the Mormon Temple, the Tabernacle, and the Assembly Hall. The six-spired Temple, completed in 1893, is open only to persons of the Mormon faith. The adjacent Tabernacle is an oval, domed structure; it is the home of the renowned Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Nearby are the Mormon Church administration building, the Museum of Church History and Art, and the Salt Palace Center, a complex of buildings that includes a convention center, a concert hall, and an art museum. Also nearby are the Pioneer Memorial Museum, the state capitol, and the Family History Library, the largest genealogical library in the world.
Near the mouth of Emigration Canyon at the eastern edge of the city stands the “This is the Place” monument. From a vantage point here Brigham Young's party of Mormons first viewed the site of the present city. The University of Utah and Westminster College are in Salt Lake city. The city is home to the Utah Jazz and Utah Starzz professional basketball teams.
The region that includes what is now Salt Lake City was inhabited by Ute Indians when the first white men arrived. During the winter of 1824–25, two trappers, James Bridger and étienne Provost, independently discovered the Great Salt Lake.
The first white settlement in the Great Salt Lake Valley was made by the Mormons, led by Brigham Young, in 1847. They were seeking a place “to colonize in peace and safety,” having long suffered persecution. Young laid out plans for the city. The land, chosen for its isolation, was in Mexican territory. (It became part of the United States at the end of the Mexican War.) Crops were planted, and City Creek was dammed to supply water to the dry land—the first irrigation project by white settlers in the Americs. In 1848 the crops were threatened by swarms of crickets, but gulls from the Great Salt Lake islands devoured the insects and saved the settlement.
The settlement, which originally consisted of 143 men, 3 women, and 2 children, grew rapidly as immigrants came from the East and from Europe. In late 1848, there were about 3,700 Mormons in Salt Lake City. The settlement was run as a cooperative venture with most activities under church control. In 1849 the city's isolation was ended by the California gold rush. A measure of prosperity came from supplying prospectors with provisions and fresh horses. In 1851 the city was chartered as Great Salt Lake City (“Great” was dropped in 1868). It served as the capital of Utah Territory for most of the period before statehood was achieved.
As headquarters for the Mormon Church, Salt Lake City acted as the parent colony for other Mormon settlements. It also was a way station for pioneers traveling farther westward. By the 1880's, it had rail links to all parts of the country. New settlers arrived; many, however, were not Mormons, and friction arose.
In 1896 Salt Lake City was made the capital of the new state of Utah. With the 20th century came accommodation between Mormons and non-Mormons, substantial growth, and industrial development.
Salt Lake City was the site of the 2002 Winter Olympics.