Moab is a city in Grand County, in eastern Utah, in the western United States. It is 233 miles (374 km) southeast of Salt Lake City and 354 miles (569 km) west of Denver, Colorado, just off of Interstate 70 at the intersection of U.S. Route 191 and State Route 128. The population was 4,779 at the 2000 census. It is the county seat of Grand County. Moab hosts a large number of tourists every year, mostly visitors of the Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, which are located close by. The town is also a popular base for mountain bikers who come to ride the nearby Slickrock Trail, and off-roaders who come for the annual Moab Jeep Safari.
During the 1800s the area around what is now Moab served as the Colorado River crossing along the Old Spanish Trail. Mormon settlers attempted to establish a trading fort at the river crossing called "Elk Mountain Mission" in 1855 to trade with travelers attempting to cross the river. Later that year and after repeated Indian attacks, the fort was abandoned. A new round of settlers established a permanent settlement in 1878. Moab was incorporated as a town on December 20, 1902.
In 1883 the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad main line was constructed across eastern Utah. The rail line did not pass through Moab, instead passing through the towns of Thompson Springs and Cisco, forty miles to the north. Later, other places to cross the Colorado were constructed, such as Lee's Ferry, Navajo Bridge and Boulder Dam. These changes shifted the trade routes away from Moab. Moab farmers and merchants had to adapt from trading with passing travelers to shipping their goods to distant markets. Soon Moab's origins as one of the few natural crossings of the Colorado River were forgotten. Nevertheless, the U.S. military deemed the bridge over the Colorado River at Moab important enough to place it under guard as late as World War II.
Moab's economy was originally based on agriculture, but gradually shifted to mining. Uranium and vanadium were discovered in the area in the 1910s and 1920s. Potash and manganese came next and then oil and gas were discovered. In the 1950s Moab became the uranium Capital of the world after geologist Charles Steen found a rich deposit of uranium ore south of the city.
The city population grew nearly 500% over the next few years bringing the population to a near 6,000 people. The Explosion in population lead to a great deal of construction of both homes and schools. Charles Steen donated a great deal of money and land to create new houses and churches for the people of Moab.
With the winding down of the Cold War Moab's uranium boom was over. Many people left the city in high numbers by the early 1980s many homes stood empty and nearly all of the uranium mines had closed.
In 1949 the famed Western movie director John Ford was talked into using the area for the movie Wagon Master. Ford had been using the area in Monument Valley around Mexican Hat, Utah, south of Moab, since he filmed Stagecoach there 10 years earlier in 1939. A local Moab rancher went, found Ford, and persuaded him to come take a look at Moab. There have been numerous movies filmed in the area ever since, using the beauty of Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park as backdrops. Since the 1970s tourism has played an increasing role in the local economy. Partly due to the John Ford movies, the area has become a favorite for photographers, rafters, hikers, and most recently mountain bikers. Moab is also an increasingly popular destination for four-wheelers as well as for BASE jumpers, who are allowed to practice their sport.
In recent years Moab has seen a surge of second home owners. The mild winters and enjoyable summers have attracted many to build throughout the area. Controversy has arisen over these new temporary citizens and their homes which remain unoccupied through most of the year. Many citizens in Moab are concerned that Moab may soon become like Vail or Aspen in Colorado.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 3.6 square miles (9.4 km²), all of it land.
A toll ferry service across the river ended when a permanent bridge was built in 1911. This bridge was replaced with the current bridge in 1955. The highway that uses this bridge has been renumbered multiple times and is presently numbered U.S. Route 191.
Moab gained freight railroad access in 1962, when a spur railroad line (now the Union Pacific Railroad's Cane Creek Subdivision) was built to service the Cane Creek potash mine. Moab has never had passenger rail service, although the California Zephyr has advertised service to Moab in the past via the stops at Thompson Springs (no longer a scheduled stop), Green River or Grand Junction, Colorado.
Air service is available at Canyonlands Field.
As of the census of 2000, there were 4,779 people, 1,936 households, and 1,169 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,313.1 people per square mile (506.9/km²). There were 2,148 housing units at an average density of 590.2/sq mi (227.8/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 90.35% White, 0.36% African American, 5.46% Native American, 0.29% Asian, 0.08% Pacific Islander, 1.88% from other races, and 1.57% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 6.44% of the population.
There were 1,936 households out of which 30.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 44.4% were married couples living together, 12.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 39.6% were non-families. 31.3% of all households were made up of individuals and 11.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.43 and the average family size was 3.10.
In the city the population was spread out with 27.6% under the age of 18, 8.7% from 18 to 24, 28.5% from 25 to 44, 21.6% from 45 to 64, and 13.6% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females there were 95.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 92.7 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $32,620, and the median income for a family was $38,214. Males had a median income of $35,291 versus $21,339 for females. The per capita income for the city was $16,228. About 12.0% of families and 15.7% of the population were below the poverty line, including 19.1% of those under age 18 and 10.5% of those age 65 or over.
The following public schools serve Moab area Students:
In addition the following schools have branch campuses in Moab
Movies:Rio Grande (1950), Warlock (1958), The Comancheros (1961), Cheyenne Autumn (1963), The Greatest Story Ever Told (1963), Once Upon a Time in the West (1968), Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1988), Thelma and Louise (1990),City Slickers II (1994), and Mission: Impossible II (2000). The course for the pod races in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999) is a computer-generated imagery montage of Moab area landmarks, including Angel Arch.
TV programs: Unearthed, an episode of the television series, The Amazing Race, Prison Break, MacGyver, The second episode of Man vs. Wild, and was a stop of point in Dave Gorman's 'America Unchained' which was shown on More4 in April 2008 and won the Audience Award for Best Documentary Feature at the Austin Film Festival.