Emigration Canyon

Adapted from: Carlstrom, Jeffery, and Cynthia Furse. Emigration Canyon: Gateway to Salt Lake City. 2nd, ed. s.p., 2019; “Emigration Canyon: Its historical significance, offbeat aura lend the area plenty of flavor.” July 25, 2006.  Deseret News. https://www.deseret.com/2006/7/25/19964952/emigration-canyon-its-historical-significance-offbeat-aura-lend-the-area-plenty-of-flavor#longtime-resident-stan-fishler-chairman-of-the-emigration-canyon-historical-society-relaxes-in-his-woodshop-at-his-home-in-emigration-canyon. Accessed April 27, 2020.

Emigration Canyon Railway, Utah State Historical Society

As a canyon, Emigration Canyon’s history is ancient, and important to Native Americans, as well early Utah settlers and immigrants bound for California. Settled life in Emigration Canyon was sparse for most of its history, and the flavor of the township today has its roots in recent years.

The first known settlers of Emigration Canyon were the Killians, who built a ranch near the top of Emigration Canyon. His family lived there until his death in 1858. The area, which had been a popular passage point for travelers along the Mormon Trail, became less traveled with the completion of the transcontinental railroad. The canyon became a location for homesteaders, most of whom squatted for a time without bothering to file claims.

The Canyon saw various uses in the late 19th and early 20th century, including a brewery at the mouth of the canyon, pasture land for many sheep, and a mountain resort, the Pinecrest Inn, which was accessible by an electric light rail train service. By the 1930s, a few residents had taken up permanent residence in what had previously been summer homes. The 1950s through the 1970s saw additional settlement, but most of this was by people who wanted to get away from city living. Many of the homes were DIY projects. The area was seen as so out of the way that it was difficult to get a home loan from the banks, who reportedly found it risky to loan to such a “depressed area.” 

This homestead, Walden-esque view of Emigration Canyon began to change in the 1980s, as interest in upscale development in the canyon grew. Before long, multi-million dollar homes mingled among the self-built canyon, which led to various disputes and clashes between residents about what direction the canyon was going. This is not surprising, considering that settlers range from extremely wealthy business people, people seeking solace from city life, and even UFO watchers. The area was officially incorporated as a metrotownship in 2017.