Ensign Peak Park

Grace Longoria

Place by: Mutual Improvement Association; Utah Pioneer Trails and Landmarks Association GPS Coordinates: 40° 47.664′ N, 111° 53.442′ W.

Historical Marker Text 1:

Indian hunters probably used Ensign Peak as a vantage point to scout for prey. Many camped near the Warm Springs west of here, at the base of the mountain. The Salt Lake Valley was a meeting place and campsite for several bands which were composed of Shoshoni- and Ure-speaking Indians. These Indian people traveled in small, extended-family groups to hunt, fish, and gather berries, insects, roots, and seeds. One Chief, Little Soldier, was born in the Red Butte foothills southeast of here; Wanship, another leading Chief, made his headquarters in the Salt Lake Valley.

Historical Marker Text 2:

In 1776 the first non-native explorers entered Utah. They were led by Franciscan Fathers, Francisco Antanazio Domínguez and Silvestre Vélez de Escalante, who hoped to establish a new trail from New Mexico to their California missions. After visiting the Ute bands living near Utah Lake, the padres returned to New Mexico. They did not reach the Salt Lake Valley. Forty-five years later, traders and mountain men entered this region in search of animal pelts. They opened trails and charted rivers and mountain passes.  Among them were Jim Bridger, Miles Goodyear, Peter Skene Ogden, Erienne Provost, Jedediah Smith, Joseph R. Walker, and John H. Weber. John C. Frémont’s U.S. Army expeditions confirmed that the interior of the Intermountain West was a “Great Basin” with no outlet to the sea.

Historical Marker Text 3:

The first settlers in the Salt Lake Valley were members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, sometimes called Mormons because of their belief in the Book of Mormon. They had suffered persecution in New York, Ohio, Missouri, and Illinois. After a mob killed their church founder, Joseph Smith, in 1844, most church members followed the leadership of Brigham Young and the Council of the Twelve Apostles. Beginning in February 1846, many Latter-day Saints moved from Nauvoo, Illinois, to a temporary camp in eastern Nebraska, which was called Winter Quarters. Young led an advanced party of 143 men, three women, and two children, which set out for the Rocky Mountains in April 1847. Traveling parallel to the Oregon Trail along the Platte and North Platte Rivers to Fort Laramie, they proceeded on the Oregon Trail to Fort Bridger, and from there, followed the route taken by the ill-fated Donner-Reed pioneers in 1846. Brigham Young, sick with mountain fever, was among the last of the party to enter the Salt Lake Valley where he arrived on July 24, 1847. Many pioneer companies reached the valley over the next few years. Before the transcontinental railroad was completed in 1869, some eighty thousand emigrants traveled to Utah using various conveyances, including ox teams and handcarts.

Historical Marker Text 4:

From Ensign Peak the pioneer leaders laid plans for Salt Lake City. They envisioned a prospering community of wide streets, farms, homes, schools, shops, churches, and a temple. George A. Smith reported chatting before leaving Nauvoo, Illinois, for the Mormon trek west; Brigham Young.” had a vision of Joseph Smith who showed him the mountain that we now call Ensign Peak and there was an ensign that fell upon that peak. Joseph said Build under the point where the colors fall, and you will prosper and have peace. Upon viewing the valley and Ensign Peak, Brigham Young declared, “This is the Place.” The peak became sacred to many as a place for meditation, Prior to completion of the temple, religious ordinances were performed on the peak by the pioneer settlers. Ensign Peak became a symbol of fathering; from the time the first American Indians lived in this area to the present, this valley has drawn people from all corners of the world.

Historical Marker Text 5:

A great variety of plants, ground animals, insects, and birds inhabit the slopes and valleys around Ensign Peak. Native plants include the sego lily, a spring flower that grows from a bulb. On the advice of local Indians, the pioneers dug the sego lily bulb for food. Many flowers add color to the park from early spring, through summer and fall. Even on a winter hike, birds and animals may be seen. Oak brush offers limited shade on the mountainside. Deer roam the hills. Squirrels and burrowing animals are also evident. Many birds nest and feed around the peak period along the trail and nature paths are signs that identify the native fauna and flora.

Historical Marker Text 6:

When you hike the Ensign Peak Train, you will pass several information points or stations. Vista Mound station, which lies to your left, offers an excellent view of the Salt Lake Valley. Other stations along the trail tell about the Peak’s geology, the natural history of the valley, the Great Salt Lake, and the plants and animals that are native to this area. Above the meadow, near the trail, is an amphitheater that groups may use. If you hike to the summit, you will find additional information about the history of Ensign Peak. The hillside is seeded with native grasses and flowers. Please protect these tender plants by using the designated trails. Practice safety measures as you hike and please do not leave any litter. Drinking water and restrooms are not available along the trail. The hike from here to the summit of Ensign Peak is .47 miles. The elevation increases 398 feet.

Historical Marker Text 7:

Dedicated July 26, 1996

by

President Gordon B. Hinckley

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

This park is the result of a public-private partnership between

Salt Lake City and Ensign Peak Foundation.

Salt Lake City

Mayor Deedee Corradini

Salt Lake City Council, and the Department of Public Services

Ensign Peak Foundation

J Malan Heslop, Michael L. Hutchings, Glen A. Lloyd, Earl Maw

Glen Saxton, Ronald W. Walker, and Kim R. Wilson, trustees.

Paul A. Hanks, Michael Glauser, and Rhees Ririe, advisors.

About the Plaza

The plaza reminds visitors of the history of Ensign Peak. It is built

with concrete aggregate similar to that used during pioneer times and

blends with the natural stone found in the area. In memory of the

nine men who hiked to the summit on July 26, 1847, nine stone seats

and nine trees encircle the plaza. The paving stones on the floor

sketch a map of the world. By standing on the approximate location

of Salt Lake City and looking through the cleft in the wall, 

the summit of Ensign Peak can be seen. The plaza is situated a symbolic

47 feet from the street, a reminder of the year, 1847.

From the summit of the peak, Brigham Young and other pioneer

leaders viewed the valley and named the peak “Ensign” after Isaiah’s

words, “And he shall set up an ensign for the nations.” (Isaiah 11:12)

Three flagpoles at the plaza provide ample opportunity to hoist our

national ensign, as well as other flags.

Historical Marker Text 8: 

This is a plaque that shows what monuments and landmarks you can see from the top of the peak.

Extra photos:

This photo is of Ensign Peak before the park was placed at the foot. 

Extended Research:

At the base of Ensign Peak is Ensign Peak Park. This park serves as a home to different flora and fauna, a place to sit at the base of the hiking trail, and a gorgeous gathering spot to admire the beauty of Ensign Peak. There are many different flowers that grow in the park, and that includes the state flower, the sego lily. This flower is important to the history of Utah because it is the flower that the members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ate when they ran out of food in the winter. The Native Americans in the area showed them that the bulb of the flower was good to eat. This prevented the members of the Church from facing starvation. This flower became a prominent feature on many LDS buildings and once the park was built, it was added there too. There are other different types of flowers and bushes that can be found at the base, and these bushes are home to birds such as quail. They like to build their nests there for safety and security from predators. There are also squirrels and even deer that like to roam the area. 

The first group of non-Native American people to come in and settle Utah and the Salt Lake Valley, was the LDS Church. They had made peace with the Native Americans in the area, but this was not until many decades after their arrival.  While they only came in to escape religious persecution, they caused havoc among the Native Americans and even massacred whole sections of tribes to cleanse the land. They committed atrocious crimes against the Native Americans in the area.  Ensign Peak is the place Brigham Young, who became the President of the LDS Church, claimed to have seen previously in a vision.It was his signal that “this is the place” to establish a new community. This place also served as a temple for the LDS Church at one point. A man by the name of Addison Pratt had been serving a mission when the members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints were forced out of Nauvoo due to religious persecution. When he came back to the states in 1849, the leaders wanted him to receive his temple rituals. There was no temple in the Salt Lake Valley at this time due to the fact that the members of the LDS Church had just arrived in the valley two years ago. The leaders decided that Ensign Peak was the best place to offer Pratt these rituals. There is no clear distiction on who first came up with the idea, but we do know tht Pratt, Young, and six of the twelve members of the Quorum of the Apostles were all there. They already considered Ensign Peak holy ground, so there was the best scenario. Pratt was ordained and given his temple rituals on the peak, and the site gained even more significance to the members of the LDS Church.

In 1908, there was a plan that was proposed to Salt Lake City government to create a park at the base of Ensign Peak and it was referred to as Ensign Peak Park. The actual peak had a lot of significance to the members of the LDS faith, and there was a desire for something more to show the significance of the peak. The plan to put in a nature park, which would allow for new flora and fauna to beautify the base and make the hike to the peak a pleasurable experience. There was also the idea that there could be a profit gained from these modifications by charging for entrance to the park and access to the peak. There were many voices that agreed with this idea including the Salt Lake Herald and Sen. Reed Smoot. It was an extremely innovative idea, but unfortunately the city did not get around to completing the plan until a few decades later in 1996.

In the twenty-first century, Ensign Peak Park commemorates a significant part of Utah’s history. It is a reminder of all the wonderful things of Utah such as the beauty of the state. It is also a reminder of the struggles and hardships that the members of LDS Church went through to escape persecution. The park is a gorgeous place to go and immerse yourself in the history of Salt Lake Valley and enjoy the natural beauty of the state.  

For Further Reference:

Primary Source

Ensign Peak P.1: Classified Photographs. J. Willard Marriott Digital Library. Utah State Historical Society. Accessed April 7, 2022. https://collections.lib.utah.edu/ark:/87278/s6xh1krb  

 Ronald Walker, Utah Historical Quarterly 1994 – Vol LXII – No 1 – a Gauge of the Times: Historic and Prehistoric Publications. J. Willard Marriott Digital Library. J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah, 1994. https://collections.lib.utah.edu/ark:/87278/s64m93vt/422215 

Secondary Source

Brian Cannon, The Sego Lily, Utah’s State Flower. issuu. Utah Historical Quarterly, Utah State History, November 1, 1995. https://issuu.com/utah10/docs/uhq_volume63_1995_number1/s/165473

Dennis Wright and Rebekah Westrup. Ensign Peak: Religious Studies Center. Ensign Peak | Religious Studies Center. Accessed February 5, 2022. https://rsc.byu.edu/salt-lake-city-place-which-god-prepared/ensign-peak

Jack Duffy, Ensign Peak Historical Marker. Historical Marker, May 27, 2020. https://www.hmdb.org/m.asp?m=150534

 Lee Davidson, How One Utah Hill Became a Mormon Temple — for a Day. The Salt Lake Tribune, March 31, 2015. https://archive.sltrib.com/article.php?id=2298685&itype=CMSID.

Range Plants of Utah. Sego Lily. Utah State University, 2017. https://extension.usu.edu/rangeplants/forbsherbaceous/sego-lily#:~:text=Western%20Indians%20deemed%20the%20bulb,as%20the%20Utah%20State%20Flower

Ronald Walker, Utah Historical Quarterly 1994 – Vol LXII – No 1 – a Gauge of the Times: Historic and Prehistoric Publications. J. Willard Marriott Digital Library. J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah, 1994. https://collections.lib.utah.edu/ark:/87278/s64m93vt/422215 

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