Utah is located in the western United States. It was the 45th state admitted to the union, on January 4, 1896. Approximately 88 percent of Utah's 2,500,000 people, known as "Utahns," live in an urban concentration with Salt Lake City as the center, known as the Wasatch Front. In contrast, vast expanses of the state are nearly uninhabited, making the population the sixth most urbanized in the U.S. The name "Utah" is derived from the Ute Indian language, meaning "people of the mountains". Utah is known for its geological diversity ranging from snowcapped mountains to well-watered river valleys to rugged, stony deserts. It is also known for being one of the most religiously homogeneous states in the Union, with approximately 61 percent of its inhabitants claiming membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which greatly influences Utah culture and daily life.
The state is a center of transportation, information technology and research, government services and mining as well as a major tourist destination for outdoor recreation. St. George, Utah was the fastest growing metropolitan area in the United States from 2000-2005 with Utah being the sixth fastest growing state overall in 2006.
Utah is generally rocky with three distinct geological regions: the Rocky Mountains, the Great Basin, and the Colorado Plateau. Utah is known for its natural diversity and is home to features ranging from arid deserts with sand dunes to thriving pine forests in mountain valleys.
Utah is one of the Four Corners states, and is bordered by Idaho in the north, Wyoming in the north and east; by Colorado in the east; at a single point by New Mexico to the southeast (at the Four Corners Monument); by Arizona in the south; and by Nevada in the west. It covers an area of 84,899 square miles (219,887 km²). The state is one of only three U.S. states (with Colorado and Wyoming) that have only lines of latitude and longitude for boundaries.
One of Utah's defining characteristics is the variety of its terrain. Running down the northern center of the state is the Wasatch Range, which rises to heights of about 12,000 feet (3,650 m) above sea level. Portions of these mountains receive more than 500 inches (12.7 m) of snow each year and are home to world-renowned ski resorts, made popular by the light, fluffy snow, which is considered good for skiing. In the northeastern section of the state, running east to west, are the Uinta Mountains, which rise to heights of 13,000 feet (3,950 m) or more. The highest point in the state, Kings Peak, at 13,528 feet (4,123 m), lies within the Uinta Mountains.
At the western base of the Wasatch Range is the Wasatch Front, a series of valleys and basins that are home to the most populous parts of the state. The major cities of Ogden, Salt Lake City, Layton, West Valley City, Sandy, West Jordan, Orem, and Provo are located within this region, which stretches approximately from Brigham City at the north end to Nephi at the south end. Approximately 75 percent of the population of the state lies in this corridor, and urban sprawl continues to expand along the edges of these valleys.
Western Utah is mostly arid desert with a basin and range topography. Small mountain ranges and rugged terrain punctuate the landscape. The Bonneville Salt Flats are an exception, being comparatively flat as a result of once forming the bed of Lake Bonneville. Great Salt Lake, Utah Lake, Sevier Lake, Rush Lake and Little Salt Lake are all remnants of this ancient lake, which once covered most of the eastern Great Basin. West of the Great Salt Lake, stretching to the Nevada border, lies the arid Great Salt Lake Desert.
Much of the scenic southern landscape is sandstone, specifically Kayenta sandstone and Navajo sandstone. The Colorado River and its tributaries wind their way through the sandstone, creating some of the world's most striking and wild terrain. Wind and rain have also sculpted the soft sandstone over millions of years. Canyons, gullies, arches, pinnacles, buttes, bluffs, and mesas are the common sight throughout south-central and southeast Utah. This terrain is the central feature of protected state and federal parks such as Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, and Zion national parks, Cedar Breaks, Grand Staircase-Escalante, Hovenweep, and Natural Bridges national monuments, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area (site of the popular tourist destination, Lake Powell), Dead Horse Point and Goblin Valley state parks, and Monument Valley (a popular photographic and filming site).
Southwestern Utah is the lowest and hottest spot in Utah. It is known as Utah's Dixie because early settlers were able to grow limited amounts of cotton there. Beaverdam Wash in far southwestern Utah is the lowest point in the state, at 2,000 feet (610 m). The northernmost portion of the Mojave Desert is also located in this area. Dixie is quickly becoming a popular recreational and retirement destination, and the population is growing rapidly. Just north of Dixie is the state's highest ski resort, Brian Head.
Eastern Utah is a high-elevation area covered mostly by plateaus and basins. Economies are dominated by mining, oil and natural gas-drilling, ranching, and recreation. Much of eastern Utah is part of the Uintah and Ouray Indian Reservation. The Navajo Nation also extends into southeastern Utah. The most popular destination within eastern Utah is Dinosaur National Monument near Vernal.
Utah's temperatures are extreme, with cold temperatures in winter due to its elevation, and very hot summers statewide (with the exception of mountain areas and high mountain valleys). Utah is usually protected from major blasts of cold air by mountains lying north and east of the state, although major Arctic blasts can occasionally reach the state. Average January high temperatures range from around 30 °F (-1 °C) in some northern valleys to almost 55 °F (13 °C) in St. George. Temperatures dropping below 0 °F (-18 °C) should be expected on occasion in most areas of the state most years, although some areas see it often (for example, the town of Randolph averages about 50 days per year with temperatures dropping that low). In July, average highs range from about 85 °F (29 °C) to 100 °F (38 °C). However, the low humidity and high elevation typically leads to large temperature variations, leading to cool nights most summer days.
Tourism is a major industry in Southern Utah, with Utah's five national parks (Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, and Zion) and many other attractions. In Moab mountain biking is a popular sport. Research, information technology development, and service based industries are important economic activities along the Salt Lake City-Ogden-Provo corridor. Utah is also noted for its ski resorts, near Salt Lake City, Park City, Ogden, Provo, and Cedar City (Brian Head).
Utah also hosted the 2002 Winter Olympics. The ski resorts in the northern Wasatch Range, the Bonneville Salt Flats, the Great Salt Lake, the five national parks in the south, and cultural attractions such as Temple Square, Sundance Film Festival, and the Utah Shakespearean Festival are among the most visited.
Popular recreational destinations within the mountains besides the ski resorts include Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area, Timpanogos Cave National Monument, Bear Lake, and Jordanelle, Strawberry, Pineview Reservoir, East Canyon, and Rockport reservoirs. The mountains are popular camping, rock-climbing, skiing, snowboarding, and hiking destinations.
The Space Shuttle Solid Rocket Booster is built and serviced by the Thiokol division of ATK, which has its facilities in Promontory Point. Boosters are tested periodically at a proving grounds in the Wasatch Range.