During the heat of summer, many Moabites head to the La Sal Mountains to enjoy cooler temperatures, hiking in the forest, fishing, camping, and more. The mountains have played a role in thousands of years of human history: a hospitable, verdant island in the desert. Ute people native to the Moab area traveled between the cool higher elevations of the La Sals and the hot lower elevation desert climates depending on the season. Later Euro-American settlement and the U.S. Government forcibly displaced Ute people and other Indigenous people of Utah, though Native communities today retain an enduring connection to the land, including the La Sals.

While still largely undeveloped, the La Sal Mountains have seen changes to the landscape and ecosystem over time. Since the settlement of the Moab area by Euro-Americans in the late 1800s, photographs have chronicled many facets of human activity in the La Sals, from sawmills to mining to recreation. 

Photographs in the Museum’s collection provide a view into these different times, and those included here record but a recent few of the many chapters of the human history of the La Sals.

Government and private trappers could earn large bounties by killing mountain lions and wolves, considered to be the primary predators of newborn lambs and calves. Wolves are now extinct in Southeast Utah. Here, a group of government trappers gather outside a cabin in the La Sals. [Moab Museum Collection, undated]
Early Forest Rangers Jack Palmer, Roy Colton, and Howard Balsley on duty in the La Sals in 1916. The La Sals first became part of the National Forest system in 1906. Both the Abajo Mountains and the La Sal Mountains were eventually combined with the Manti to form the Manti-La Sal National Forest. [Moab Museum Collection, 1916]
Oowah Lake, nestled high in the La Sal Mountains at an elevation of 8,800 feet, was one of the early manmade developments in today’s Manti-La Sal National Forest. Today beloved as a scenic fishing and camping destination, this lake is an upper part of the Mill Creek drainage. [Moab Museum Collection, undated]

The Moab Museum is dedicated to sharing stories of the natural and human history of the Moab area. To explore more of Moab’s stories and artifacts, find out about upcoming programs, and become a Member, visit www.moabmuseum.org.