Historic Photos from Utah State Historical Society Collection


City Creek flows from the surrounding Wasatch Mountains and enters downtown Salt Lake City in Memory Grove and flows through Brigham Young Memorial Park at State Street and Third Avenue. Salt Lake City was established here in 1847 when the Mormon pioneers settled here. Abundant water for drinking and irrigation flowed in the creek and it was soon diverted for human uses as it coursed throught the new city. The history of the creek and its importance to Salt Lake City has been published by Thora Watson(1995) and is titled The Stream That Built a City: History of City Creek, Memory Grove, and City Creek Canyon Park, Salt Lake City, Utah. She describes the number of early water-powered mills that were built along the creek as well as later diversions for drinking water for the growing city. A history of water sources for Salt Lake City is available on the city's web site and a detailed paper written by Mr. LeRoy W. Houghton titled "City Creek: Salt Lake City's First Water Supply" is available in downloadable PDF format at the site.


The whole canyon, with its native vegetation and wildlife, has been protected as a municipal watershed for over 150 years. It has been formally designated by a Salt Lake City Master Plan as City Creek Park. This large natural area, all within one mile of the city and its state capitol building, is remarkable as an example of urban open-space and wildlife habitat preservation. It has been protected from the beginning of the city's history.


By learning the names of the native trees and shrubs that support the wildlife in City Creek Canyon along the nature trail loop, one can see which plants may be useful in backyard landscaping. Native plants introduced into the urban landscape around houses and yards help wildlife to survive in the city and help conserve water.


Watson's book also describes the flood event of 1983 when City Creek filled its underground conduit with debris, and then overflowed its banks and then ran down State Street through the center of the city. The following photos from that period demonstrate the need for proper planning along flood plain of urban streams with the preservation of above-ground water courses that will be subject to periodic flooding events.

(To see the larger images in this slide series click on the thumbnail version. Photos are by Bruce Peterson, Sandy, Utah)

This is what the State Street looked like in the Spring of 1983 with sandbags forcing City Creek to the east half of the street and flowing south toward 1300 S.

Thousands of volunteers filled and placed sandbags in order to stop the flooding of adjacent businesses.
Looking southwest along State Street
Temporary cross walks across the "State Street River" were constructed to allow pedestrian traffic in the city center. The U.S. Federal Building at 125 South State Street is in the background.

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