Getting to Know Brigham City

A view of Brigham City in the 1890s or early 1900s, looking north from the tabernacle. (USU Special Collections & Archives, Compton Photograph Collection, P0313 C Board 104)

Brigham City, near the Idaho border, is in Box Elder County in northwest Utah, part of the Great Basin. In ancient times, this region was covered by Lake Bonneville, and many fossils can still be found of the plant and animal life that once inhabited this inland sea. Trilobites are especially abundant in Box Elder County.

A large portion of the Great Salt Lake—the remnants of Lake Bonneville—is in Box Elder County, and Brigham City is near the eastern shore of the lake, where the freshwater Bear River flows into Willard Bay, creating a large marshland. This area is an important stopping point for huge flocks of migrating birds and is now protected as the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge. Historically, the region attracted native peoples hunting and fishing in the area, and today it is still popular with outdoor sports enthusiasts.

Brigham City sits at the mouth of Box Elder Canyon (sometimes confused with nearby Sardine Canyon) at the base of the Wellsville Mountains, the north end of Utah’s Wasatch Front. Water from the mountains helps supply Brigham City, and natural hot springs are found in the area. The region around Brigham City is geologically active as the city sits on the Wasatch Fault line. To the west, the land becomes a cold desert, with most of the precipitation coming in the winter as snow.

After settlers from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (historically Mormons) fled to Utah seeking a haven from religious persecution, some of them settled in the region and founded Brigham City in 1851. They built an agricultural community that is the foundation of the modern city, which is known especially for Utah’s Fruit Way and its peaches. The presence of Bushnell General Military Hospital and the Intermountain Indian School also helped develop industries in Brigham City. Today, Brigham City is home to a campus of Utah State University and Bridgerland Technical College and several tech companies.

Box Elder County is not only known for its peaches and its bird refuge; it is also the home to two famous works of land art: Spiral Jetty by Robert Smithson and the Sun Tunnels by Nancy Holt.

“Box Elder County, Utah facts for kids,” Kiddle Encyclopedia, https://kids.kiddle.co/Box_Elder_County,_Utah.
“Box Elder: Rockets, rails and really good food,” Utah.com, https://utah.com/box-elder.
Linda Thatcher, “Box Elder County,” Utah History Encyclopedia, https://www.uen.org/utah_history_encyclopedia/b/BOX_ELDER_COUNTY.shtml.