Wasatch Range (/ˈwɑːsætʃ/ WAH-satch) is a mountain range that
stretches approximately 160 miles (260 km) from the Utah-Idaho
border, south through central
Utah in the western United States. It is
the western edge of the greater Rocky Mountains, and the eastern edge
Great Basin region. The northern extension of the Wasatch
Range, the Bear River Mountains, extends just into Idaho, constituting
all of the
Wasatch Range in that state.
According to the
Utah History Encyclopedia, Wasatch in Ute means
"mountain pass" or "low pass over high range." According to William
Bright the mountains were named for a Shoshoni leader who was named
with the Shoshoni term wasattsi, meaning "blue heron".
2 Geography and geology
6 Further reading
7 External links
Mount Olympus, a prominent and recognizable mountain visible from much
of the northern part of the Salt Lake Valley
Since the earliest days of settlement, the majority of Utah's
population has chosen to settle along the range's western front, where
numerous river drainages exit the mountains. The mountains were a
vital source of water, timber, and granite for early settlers. Today,
85% of Utah's population lives within 15 miles (24 km) of the
Wasatch Range, mainly in the valleys just to the west. This
concentration is known as the
Wasatch Front and has a population of
just over 2,000,000 residents.
Salt Lake City
Salt Lake City lies between the Wasatch
Range and the Great Salt Lake.
At 11,928 feet (3,636 m), Mount Nebo, a triple peak rising above
Utah at the southern end of the range, is the highest peak of
the Wasatch. In some places the mountains rise immediately from the
valley's base elevation of 4,330 feet (1,320 m) to over 11,000
feet (3,582 m), producing steep inclines. Other notable peaks include
Mount Timpanogos, a massive peak which looms over northern
and is especially prominent from Pleasant Grove and Orem; Lone Peak,
the Twin Peaks, and Mount Olympus, which overlook the Salt Lake
Francis Peak overlooking both Morgan and Davis counties; and
Ben Lomond and Mount Ogden, both near Ogden, Utah.
The Wasatch Mountains in the fall.
Since they top out just below 12,000 feet (3,700 m), Wasatch
peaks are not especially high compared to the Colorado Rockies or even
the Uinta Mountains, the other main portion of the
Rocky Mountains in
Utah. However, they are sculpted by glaciers, yielding notably rugged,
sweeping upland scenery comparing well with other prominent ranges of
western North America. They also receive heavy falls of snow, in some
places over 500 inches (1,300 cm) per year. This great snowfall,
with its runoff, made possible a prosperous urban strip of some 25
cities along nearly 100 miles (160 km) of mountain frontage. The
Wasatch Range is home to a high concentration of ski areas, with 11
stretching from Sundance in northern
Utah County to Powder Mountain
Wolf Mountain northeast of Ogden. There is also one ski resort in
Bear River Mountains
Bear River Mountains (Beaver Mountain). Park City alone is
bordered by two ski resorts. Due to the low relative humidity in
wintertime, along with the added lake-effect from the Great Salt Lake,
the snow has a dry, powdery texture which most of the local ski
resorts market as "the Greatest
Snow on Earth". The high concentration
of ski resorts located close to a major urban area, as well as the
famed light, powdery snow that's often considered good for skiing,
were prime reasons for Salt Lake City's hosting of the 2002 Winter
Squaw Peak over Rock Canyon at sunset as seen from BYU campus.
Several of the Wasatch canyons in the
Lone Peak area, most notably
Little Cottonwood Canyon, have a number of high-quality granite
outcroppings, and make up a popular climbing area such as the
Pfeifferhorn. Further north,
Big Cottonwood Canyon
Big Cottonwood Canyon features tricky
climbing on quartzite.
The densely vegetated narrow canyons of the Wasatch Range, such as Big
Cottonwood Canyon and
Little Cottonwood Canyon
Little Cottonwood Canyon are heavily visited; on
September 25, 2005, 1,200 automobiles entered Little Cottonwood within
one hour. The canyons are located within 24 miles (39 km) of
Salt Lake City
Salt Lake City and the year-round paved roadways can reach
5,000 ft (1,500 m) higher in elevation above the city within
a short distance. Dirt roads readily drivable in passenger cars with
moderate clearance stretch up from Park City, Heber, and Big
Cottonwood Canyon. These reach about 10,000 feet (3,000 m) above
sea level and provide impressive long-range high country views.
Geography and geology
Wasatch Plateau geologic cross section, where Kmt and Kmf are the
Tununk and Ferron Sandstone members of the Mancos Shale, Km. Kmv is
the Mesaverde Group and Tkn is the North Horn Formation
West side of Mount Nebo, the highest peak in the Wasatch range.
Mount Nebo, the highest peak of the Wasatch, is located at the
southern edge of the range. The
Colorado Plateau comes to its
northwest corner here as it meets the southern end of the Rocky
Mountains. Immediately west of these two, the Great Basin, which is
the northern region of the Basin and Range Province, begins and
stretches westward across western
Nevada until it reaches the
Nevada near the Nevada/
California border. The range is
punctuated by a series of geologic faults, chief among them the
Wasatch fault. These faults also formed Timpanogos Cave National
Wasatch Range is punctuated by a series of mountain
valleys. While the western side of the range drops sharply to the
floors of the
Wasatch Front valleys, the eastern side of the range is
gentler, allowing for the construction of several ski resorts. The
Cottonwoods, a particularly rugged and dense area just east of the
Salt Lake Valley, shelters small mountain coves that harbor four
world-famous ski resorts (Alta, Brighton, Solitude, and Snowbird). The
eastern slopes of the Cottonwoods drop to the Snyderville Basin, which
contains Park City and its two ski resorts (Park City Mountain Resort
and Deer Valley). Much of the eastern side of the range from north of
Salt Lake City
Salt Lake City to the
Bear River Mountains
Bear River Mountains is especially gentle in
comparison to the rest of the range. The range widens significantly
east of Ogden, sheltering a high mountain valley known as the Ogden
Valley. Three more ski resorts lie here, as well as several small
towns (such as Huntsville, Liberty, and Eden).
North of this, the
Wellsville Mountains branch off from the northwest
of the range, continuing a line of mountains paralleling the I-15
corridor. This range is noted for being exceptionally thin and steep.
However, U.S. 89/U.S. 91 is maintained as a four-lane highway along
its entire length through the range at Wellsville Canyon east of
Brigham City. Cache Valley, created by the Bear River, is flanked on
the west by the
Wellsville Mountains and the east by the much denser
and higher Bear River Mountains. The northwestern border of Cache
Valley is flanked by the Bannock Range in Idaho. The two highest peaks
in this area are Mount Naomi and Mount Logan, each just under 10,000
feet in elevation.
Wasatch Range viewed from Jordan Campus of the Salt Lake Community
The southeastern portion of the range across Wasatch County transforms
into the relatively flat, windswept Wasatch Plateau at an elevation of
approximately 8,500 feet (2,600 m) to 9,500 feet (2,900 m).
At its southeastern edge, just north of Helper, it runs into the Book
Wasatch Range outlined in red.
Further north, the Heber Valley and Weber River Valley separate the
Wasatch Range from the Uinta Mountains, while the Bear River Valley
and Bear Lake Valley separate it from lower mountain ranges that mark
the western edge of the Green River Basin.
Throughout the length of the Wasatch Range, it is traversed by just 7
highways (as well as several rugged mountain roads and unpaved
trails). The two most prominent are I-80 through
Parley's Canyon east
of Salt Lake City, and I-84 through
Weber Canyon east of Ogden. They
meet near the ghost town of Echo on the eastern slopes of the range
and continue northeast as I-80. Other highways through the range
include U.S. 6/U.S. 89 through Spanish Fork Canyon, U.S. 189 through
Utah State Route 39 extending east from Huntsville (a
route which is closed in winter), U.S. 89/U.S. 91 through Logan
Canyon, and along
Idaho State Route 36 near the northern end of the
Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad
Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad had a line through the
Wasatch Mountains, via Soldier
Summit Pass and Spanish Fork Canyon.
Now operated by the Union Pacific Railroad, the line is used by
freight trains, as well as Amtrak's
Wasatch Range is part of the Wasatch and
Uinta Mountains Level 3
Ecoregion, a temperate coniferous forest. Common trees include
Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii), subalpine fir (Abies bifolia),
Engelmann spruce (Picea engelmannii),
Colorado blue spruce
Colorado blue spruce (Picea
pungens), and quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides).
Gambel oak (Quercus
gambelii) is common on the foothills of the range from just south of
Brigham City in the north, to the southern extension of the Wasatch
Range. It is not found in the northern portion of the Range. Ponderosa
pine (Pinus ponderosa), while abundant elsewhere in
Utah is not common
in this mountain range, except in plantations in Big Cottonwood Canyon
Salt Lake City
Salt Lake City and in Logan Canyon, east of Logan, Utah.
Some individual trees have been found in remote areas of the Wasatch
Range that appear to be relic individuals from past populations.
Subspecies of big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata) dominate drier
portions of the landscapes. Most of the sagebrush that occurs in the
Wasatch Range is mountain big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata ssp.
vaseyana). Many of the valley bottoms at one time were occupied by
basin big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata ssp. tridentata). Most of
this subspecies has been removed, however, because it occurred on what
constitutes prime agricultural lands. In upper elevations, and on
slightly more mesic sites than that of mountain big sagebrush, one can
find subalpine big sagebrush (Artemisia tridenta ssp. spiciformis).
This subspecies occupies productive sites and often has a lush
understory of wildflowers and grasses. Wyoming big sagebrush
(Artemisia tridentata ssp. wyomingensis) occurs at the lowest and
driest elevations, although much of the
Wasatch Range is above the
elevation where this subspecies occurs. All sagebrush species,
combined, provide critical habitat to greater sage grouse, a species
under consideration for listing by the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
Wasatch Range is home to several endemic plants - those that occur
nowhere other than in this area. Several of these are very rare and
restricted to narrow geological formations, while others are more
widely distributed throughout the area. Some of the less rare endemics
include five-petal cliffbush (Jamesia americana var. macrocalyx),
Sierra fumewort (Corydalis caseana ssp. brachycarpa), and Utah
angelica (Angelica wheeleri).
Alta ski resort in Little Cottonwood Canyon
In addition to the world class ski resorts, the Wasatch range is home
to a host of other outdoor pursuits as well. Hundreds of miles of
mountain biking and hiking trails wind through the canyons and alpine
valleys of the Wasatch offering back country access in very close
proximity to a large metropolitan area.
Outdoor enthusiasts can also find world class rock climbing and
mountaineering on the towering limestone, granite and quartzite peaks
and in many of the surrounding canyons. Winter recreation includes
excellent ski touring & ski mountaineering. as well as endless
opportunities for snowshoeing.
Alpine lakes and streams offer somewhat over-worked fishing
Wasatch Mountain Club calendars regular activities
allowing one to experience the Wasatch Range. The
Utah Native Plant
Society regularly conducts walks from spring until fall along the
foothills of the Central
Wasatch Front and in adjoining canyons as the
seasons progress. A particularly spectacular location for wildflowers
in the late summer is Albion Basin at the top of Little Cottonwood
Salt Lake Valley
Salt Lake Valley urban area, a major portion of the Wasatch Front.
The Wasatch Mountains extend both north and south of the valley.
panoramic shot from Trail Mountain looking (left to right) southwest,
west, and north west, over Joes Valley in the Wasatch Plateau just
west of Castle Dale,
Utah in October 2009
^ a b
Hiking the Wasatch, John Veranth, 1988, Salt Lake City,
^ Fuller, Craig. "Wasatch County".
Utah History Encyclopedia.
Retrieved November 28, 2008.
^ Bright, William (2004). Native American Placenames of the United
States. University of Oklahoma Press. p. 549.
^ Sadler, Tiffany (October 5, 2006). "Fall a perfect time to explore
Utah's canyons". The Salt Lake Tribune.
^ USGS Wasatch and
Uinta Mountains Level 3 Ecoregion
^ Winward, A.H. 2004. Sagebrush of Colorado: taxonomy, distribution,
ecology and management. Colorado Division of Wildlife. Denver, CO. 46
^ USDA - COCAB
Geology of Utah, William Lee Stokes,
Utah Museum of Natural History,
Salt Lake City, 1986.
Wasatch Quartzite, John Gottman, Salt Lake City, 1979.
Wasatch Tours, Alexis Kelner & Dave Hanscom, Wasatch Publishers,
Salt Lake City, 1976.
Flora of the Central Wasatch Front, Utah. L. Arnow, B. Albee, & A
Wycoff, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, 1980.
Gori, P.L. and Hays, W.W. (Eds.) (2000). Assessment of regional
earthquake hazards and risk along the Wasatch Front,
Geological Survey Professional Paper 1500-K-R]. Reston, VA: U.S.
Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey.
Parry, William T. (2005). A
Hiking Guide to the Geology of the Wasatch
Mountains: Mill Creek and Neffs Canyons, Mount Olympus, Big and Little
Cottonwood and Bells Canyons, ISBN 978-0-87480-839-1.
Veranth, John (1991). Wasatch Winter Trails,
Veranth, John (2014).
Hiking the Wasatch. 3rd Ed. Salt Lake City:
Utah Press. ISBN 978-1-60781-325-5
Winters, Randy (2006). Utah's Eleveners: A
Hiking and Climbing Guide
to the 11,000-foot Mountains of Utah’s Wasatch Range,
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Wasatch Range.
Aerial view of Wasatch Range
Image of Cottonwood Ridge
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Coordinates: 39°49′17″N 111°45′35″W / 39.82139°N
111.75972°W / 39