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Utah trivia: fun facts from 125 years

Utah is kicking its 125th anniversary off with a bang, and encouraging residents to ‘thrive’ in 2021.

Thrive125: A Utah Celebration” will air on Monday, January 4 at 6:30 p.m. on all four Utah network affiliates, with a repeat airing on PBS Utah at 8:30 pm. The special will celebrate the state’s artistic heritage, cultural diversity and scenic wonders. Performances will include musical and dance numbers from notable Utah performers and celebrity guests. The 30-minute television special will be followed by live fireworks displays at 7:30 pm in all 29 counties. 

*To find a firework location near you, click here*

25 State Fun Facts

  1. Utah is the second-driest state in the United States after Nevada. On average, Utah has about 300 sunny days a year. 
  2. Salt Lake City, UT, has more plastic surgeons per capita than any other city in the United States.
  3. Utah is the only state to have a cooking pot among its state symbols. The Dutch oven was approved as a state symbol by the legislature in 1997.
  4. In Utah there is a town called “Levan.” Levan is “navel” backwards—and Levan is in the center, or is the “navel,” of Utah.
  5. Lagoon—located in Farmington, Utah—is the oldest operating amusement park in the American West, and its original roller coaster, named “Old Woodie,” is the 3rd oldest in the nation.

    Memorial Day weekend

    Lagoon’s ‘Old Woodie’ roller coaster.

  6. Utah has one of the highest rates of prescription drug abuse in the United States. Over the past decade, it has increase by 800%.
  7. Because of the state of Utah’s high elevation and desert-like climate, its snow is dry and powdery. Hence, Utah claims to have the “Greatest Snow on Earth.”
  8. Walter Frederick Morrison, the man credited with inventing the Frisbee, was born in Richfield, Utah. He said he got the idea for the “Pluto Platter” after throwing cake tins on the beach.
  9. Salt Lake City, UT, is home to the nation’s leading manufacturer of rubber chickens.
  10. Two dates appear on Utah’s state seal: 1847, the date Mormon settlers arrived in Utah, and 1896, the year Utah became the 45th state. Also on the seal are sego lilies, which stand for peace.
  11. Approximately 75 million years ago, Utah was part of a landmass called Laramidia. This land mass was hot, swampy, and full of dinosaurs, which makes Utah one of the best places in the U.S. to find dinosaur fossils. In fact, the world’s largest raptor lived in Utah. Known as the “Utahraptor,” it measured over 23 feet long, making it larger than any other known raptor.
  12. According to historical data, January 13 is the golden winter day, perfect for skiing in Utah. This day has the highest likelihood of receiving snowfall. Mark your calendars! Winter Sports Utah COVID-19
  13. Utah was the site of the nation’s first department store. The Mormon leader Brigham Young founded the Zions Cooperative Mercantile Institution, or ZCMI, in 1868 in Salt Lake City. The 130-year enterprise finally shut down in 1999, when the Mormon Church sold the store to the Macy’s corporation.
  14. Philo T. Farnsworth, the man best known for inventing a prototype of the first all-electric television, was born in Beaver, Utah in 1906. 
  15. Utah is the only state where every county contains some part of a national forest.
  16. The location of the first-ever KFC wasn’t in Kentucky, but 1500 miles west in Salt Lake City, Utah. The iconic fried chicken recipe was first served in the cafe of Colonel Sanders’s friend (and Utah native) Leon W. “Pete” Harman.
  17. Utah is the only state whose capital is three words long. At one point it was even longer: Salt Lake City was originally named “Great Salt Lake City” for its proximity to the Great Salt Lake, but they decided to drop the “Great” in 1868.
  18. According to a study conducted by WalletHub, Utah is home to the most charitable people in the country. Utah ranked first in volunteer rates among residents, first in percentage of donated income, and first in median contribution to charity.
  19. Utah is home to more than 600 vertebrate animals[52] as well as numerous invertebrates and insects.[53]
  20. Utah has the third most national parks of any state after Alaska and California.

    Arches National Park Great American Outdoors act

    Arches National Park Photo: Getty Images

  21. Utah’s state gem is topaz, a semiprecious gem found in Beaver, Juab and Tooele counties. It’s an aluminum florisilicate almost as hard as diamonds, and it can be pink, yellow, blue or colorless. In nature, it’s shaped like stubby sharpened pencils. Oh, and it’s the birthstone of November, so if you know a Utahn born that month, you have a doubly perfect gift idea.
  22. Allergic to bees? Hate honey? Take your complaints to the fifth grade glass who successfully lobbied to make Apis mellifera the official insect of Utah in 1983. (They’re in 39th grade now, probably keeping bees in their backyard somewhere in Layton.) Deseret — the name pioneers gave the Utah–Nevada territory before statehood — is a word from the Book of Mormon said to mean honey bee, adding background and an extra layer of connection to state’s emblem.
  23. Utah officially recognized Coal as the State Rock in 1991. Big coal deposits around the state have given Utahns a lot of electricity, and it even gave Carbon County its name.
  24. There are 15 recognized subspecies of cutthroat trout, and the Bonneville Cutthroat is ours. It has the characteristic red-orange slash under its jaw and black spots that get more concentrated near the tail. The Bonneville cutthroat was an important food source for Native Americans and early Mormon settlers.

    Bonneville cutthroat trout photo: Utah Department of Wildlife Resources

  25. The sego lily is endemic to the western U.S. Like the seagull, it earned its state designation for its service to the early, hungry, cricket-ridden Mormon settlers. When crops got scarce, Native Americans taught the new arrivals to dig up the sego lily’s nutritious bulbs to stave off starvation.