Garfield County

County Profile

Founded in 1882, Garfield County is located in the south central region of the state. It encompasses an area of 5,158 square miles with a population of approximately 5,051 (U.S. Census Bureau, Population Estimates Program, V2019). Panguitch is the county seat.

A Brief History of Garfield County*

The Colorado River and Lake Powell mark the eastern border of remote, sparsely populated Garfield County. Other geographical features include the Henry Mountains in the northeast and the forested, high plateaus in the western half of the county. The two areas have 11 peaks over 10,000 feet. The Sevier River system runs north through western Garfield, and the Escalante River empties into the Colorado.

Traces of the two major prehistoric formative Indian cultures -- the Fremont and Anasazi -- have been found in the county. In historic times Southern Paiutes and Utes used the land.

The first white settlers made the difficult trip from Beaver and Parowan through the mountains to the Panguitch area in March 1864. The village, abandoned during the Black Hawk War (1865-68), was not resettled until 1871. The territorial legislature created the county in 1882 and, at the suggestion of Gov. Eli H. Murray, named it after assassinated President James A. Garfield. Boulder, settled in 1889, was the most isolated town in Utah until the mid-1930s when Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) workers constructed a road from Boulder to Escalante. The CCC also reseeded ranges and built telephone lines, ranger stations, and trails.

Vast rangelands and some of the state's largest forest reserves have made cattle ranching and lumber Garfield County's most important industries since pioneer times. The forests also provide many recreational sites, and Panguitch Lake is one of the state's prime fishing waters. The creation of Bryce Canyon National Park in 1928 increased the importance of tourism to the local economy.  The large sections of Capitol Reef National Park and the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area that lie within the county remained largely inaccessible in the late 1980s. The proposed, controversial paving of the Burr Trail through the Waterpocket Fold area of Capitol Reef would, however, expand travel in eastern Garfield. The seasonal nature of lumbering and tourism often gives the county higher than average unemployment.

The Upper Valley oil field in central Garfield is a sizeable oil producing area. The county also has large coal fields as well as tar sands and uranium, but these energy-related resources have not been developed. Mining for other minerals has been very limited.

*Used by permission. Beehive History 14: Utah Counties. 1988. Utah State Historical Society, 300 Rio Grande, Salt Lake City, UT 84101-1182.