Prehistoric and Native American History
The area around Moab has been inhabited since the Archaic Period (8000 to 2000 BC) as evidenced by artifacts found at sites such as Dead Horse Point State Park and Upheaval Dome. The Fremont culture, which dates from AD 500-1300, left behind pottery and petroglyphs in the area. the Anasazi Period (1000-1300 AD) large Puebloan communities flourished in the Moab area. The Utes moved into the area when they were pushed out of Colorado by other Native American tribes in the 1700s and have continued to inhabit it since then.
The Utes believed that the area was sacred, naming it “the land of the sleeping rainbows” or “Moab.” The Ute name for Moab translates to mean “painted mountain” and refers to the area’s beautiful red sandstone formations. Many of their descendants still live in the area today.
The Utes engaged in traditional activities such as hunting, fishing and gathering but also began to take on more agricultural practices as pioneers moved into the area. They grew corn, beans, squash and melons, stored water in reservoirs and built irrigation systems for their crops. The Ute people also held numerous religious ceremonies in the area, such as the Bear Dance and Sun Dance.
The area around Moab was explored for its mineral resources in the late 1800s, which led to the development of many of the towns in the region. Uranium mining began in 1952 with three major mines: La Sal, Lisbon Valley, and White Mesa. The uranium industry boomed briefly during the 1950s and 1960s and then declined due to competition from foreign sources.
Other minerals mined in the area include coal, copper, and gold. Moab was also once an important sheep farming center with large numbers of sheep being moved through the town to be shipped to other parts of the country. Cattle ranching is still important today, although tourism has become increasingly significant as well. Many visitors come to explore the region’s natural beauty and the many recreational opportunities available.