St George City
It was Brigham Young, the Mormon prophet-colonizer, who started it all. While visiting the Rio Virgin Valley in May of 1861, he stood at the little settlement of Tonaquint (near the present day Southgate Golf Course) and gazed northward up a desperately baren valley. Waving his hand to include the entire setting, he said, "There will yet be built between those volcanic ridges a city with spires, towers... and homes with many inhabitants."
The following autumn, Brigham Young helped his prophecy along by sending 309 families from their fertile farms and fine homes in northern Utah to colonize the dusty alkali flat. Those first settlers came to St. George not because they wanted to do so, but because they felt obligated to do so, having been "called" by their leader. Folks have been coming to St. George ever since.
Brigham Young envisioned a towering white temple sitting squarely in the middle of a city exceeding 30,000 inhabitants. Although his contemporaries questioned his judgment in building a temple so far from other major Mormon settlements, the temple was completed in 1877. In 1992, Brigham's full vision was achieved - St. George was a community of 30,000 people and the temple located in the middle of town. Today, St. George's population exceeds 71,000. The values and ideals the city was built on are still a prevalent part of its character.
Centrally located in some of nature's finest scenery, St. George has become a winter resort for snowbirds and retirees, as well as a key gateway to the greatest concentration of national parks and natural wonders on earth. Within easy driving distances are such world-renowned destinations as Zion, Bryce and Grand Canyon National Parks; Cedar Breaks and Pipe Springs National Monuments, Snow Canyon State Park, the Virgin River Gorge, Kolob Canyons, Lake Powell and Lake Mead.
The St. George area is a historical gold mine, full of 19th century homes, buildings and old dirt roads leading to fascinating ghost towns and prehistoric dinosaur footprints. Off the beaten path, you'll find remarkable sites that are unique to Utah's southwest landscape.
Interesting Mormon historic sites that can be found in the St. George area include the town of Pine Valley, where you can see one of the oldest surviving Mormon chapels. The fascinating structure was built by a boat-builder using techniques similar to those used to construct ships. The small cemetery there can also be quite enlightening. At Jacob Hamblin's home in Santa Clara, one can experience rustic, pioneer living. He was one of the first settlers in the area and a great friend to the Native Americans living nearby. Brigham Young's winter home in St. George is also open for tours. Several pioneer-era homes, including some built by prominent citizens, can be seen at Green Gate Village.
Of course, the St. George Temple and the St. George Tabernacle are great monuments to the determined efforts of the early settlers who were sent to "Dixie." A fun walking tour guide is available at the visitor's center housed in the old St. George Courthouse. It takes visitors through the historic district and describes the homes, schools, shops, and public buildings which have been a part of St. George since its earliest settlement.
A little further away is the Mountain Meadows Massacre historic site, with a marker and information describing a dark day in Utah history when a California-bound wagon-train of 120 people was destroyed by a combined force of Native Americans and Mormons.
Other historic sites in the St. George area have nothing to do with Mormons. Grafton is an old ghost town which served as a backdrop for the movie "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid." Another ghost town is Silver Reef, where the Wells Fargo building and the ruins of silver mines tell the story of a boom town that swelled to 1,500 people between 1878 and 1882.
The area is also rich in natural history. Dinosaur footprints can be seen in the rocks at a site along the Virgin River on the edge of town (2200 East Riverside Drive).
Snow Canyon State Park offers fascinating geology; it is a wilderness of red-rock formations, volcanic rock, and sand dunes; perfect for hiking, biking, horse-back riding, camping, or windshield touring.
But more than anything, St. George has become a fine place to relax and enjoy year-round leisure time. The area boasts 11 great golf courses, with others nearby. The tennis college at Green Valley offers everything the tennis enthusiast could ask for. There are dozens of miniature communities for retirees, snowbirds and vacationers, from condo developments to RV parks with all the amenities. There are also plenty of residential areas, recreational facilities and community offerings for growing families organized through St. George Leisure Services.
Early Chamber of Commerce boosters called St. George the place "where the summer sun spends the winter." To prove the point, motel owners once offered free rooms when the sun didn't shine. Plenty of vitamin-enriched sunshine was always considered the secret of why so many happy people lived in St. George. It was the sunshine that sparked Brigham's original idea of establishing a cotton growing colony and provided the area with its nickname - "Utah's Dixie."
The city's scenery and location along the major artery of Interstate 15 between San Diego and Salt Lake City make St. George a central location for travelers and commerce alike.
St. George touts services and facilities unheard of for its size, including the Dixie Center, a major convention, arts and entertainment complex; Dixie College, an accredited state-owned community college which not only provides two and some four-year degrees to students, but offers the community an enriched repertoire of academic, cultural and sporting events; Dixie Regional Medical Center, a 137-bed regional hospital with 96 physicians and specialists; a daily newspaper and one of the six top national commuter airlines, Skywest.
The city's cultural climate is accented by world-class entertainment, including the Celebrity Concert Series sponsored by Dixie College, Southwest Symphony and various concerts by performing artists available through the Dixie Center. The St. George Marathon is 13th largest in the nation and is a qualifier for the Boston Marathon. The event is held in the first Saturday of October. The Huntsman World Senior Games offers athletes ages 50 and over the opportunity to compete in 17 world class events over a two week period in mid-October. The event hosts more than 36,000 participants from all states and 15 countries. The Rotary Club's annual Rotary Bowl recognizes top junior college football athletes and has fast become one of the premier bowls in America. St. George also plays host to thousands of visitors each Easter weekend when it showcases some of the finest artists at the annual St. George Arts Festival.
We invite you to discover for yourself the friendly warmth of St. George. Bask in "Utah's Hot Spot."
Information courtesy of St. George Magazine
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