History


The history of Red Butte Canyon comes as bits and pieces from many sources, including Arrington and Alexander (1965), Hibbard (1980), and the Fort Douglas Army of Engineers Office (1954), records of the Fort Douglas Museum, and discussions with C.G. Hibbard (Fort Douglas historian) and Harold Shore (Fort Douglas water master overseeing Red Butte Canyon). It is primarily a history of human impact on the utilization of natural resources provided by the canyon. Major resources were water from the stream and sandstone quarried for use in construction. Of minor importance were grazing and timber. In 1848, just one year after the arrival of the first pioneers in Salt Lake Valley, red sandstone was first quarried in the canyon to be used in construction in the building of Salt Lake City. It was the closest source of construction-quality sandstone and was quarried for almost 100 years. This mining had considerable impact on the plant and animal life in the lower portion of the canyon. The major use of Red Butte Creek water was by the U.S. Army at Fort Douglas, which was established at the mouth of the canyon in 1862. This utlization of water outside the canyon had little effect on the canyon itself, as U.S. Army administrators worked over many years to protect the watershed and water quality. In fact, protection has grown steadily since Fort Douglas was first established, and particularly since the canyon was acquired by the U.S. Forest Service in 1969 and declared to be a Research Natural Area.