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City Creek Park

This landscaped acre in downtown Salt Lake City sat north of Brigham Young’s farm. In the 1990s, City Creek Park was developed by Church and city leaders to honor the nineteenth-century pioneer settlers of the Salt Lake Valley.

City Creek Park

It was also designed to complement the Brigham Young Historic Park across the street. “We’re happy to be participating with Salt Lake City in this undertaking [and develop it into] what will be a beautiful facility and a great attraction for this community,” President Gordon B. Hinckley said at the ground-breaking ceremony held on June 12, 1995.

President Hinckley noted that the park projects were undertaken as Utah approached its centennial in 1996 and preparatory for the sesquicentennial (150th anniversary) celebrations of the pioneers in 1997.

A beautiful bridge spans City Creek as it passes through the park area.
Photo by David M. Whitchurch

City Creek is significant to the history of the city and the Church. The advance party entering the Salt Lake Valley dammed up City Creek and flooded the area to the south to water the ground for the potatoes that had been planted. The water was channeled to the area of Second South and State Street, where it was used to irrigate the first crops of potatoes, beans, corn, buckwheat, and turnips. More than twenty thousand acres were under cultivation within six months of the pioneers’ arrival.

Crossing Creeks and Ditches

Several ditches diverted water from City Creek. Elder James E. Talmage (1862–1933), a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, had an interesting incident while serving as president of the University of Utah in the 1890s. He had obtained a bicycle, which was then the new wave in transportation.

James acquired one of the new machines, not as a hobby or physical conditioner but as a practical means of transportation. . . .

Sometime after James had achieved reasonable proficiency in handling his machine on standard roads, he showed up at the front door one evening a full hour late for dinner and scarcely recognizable.

May [his wife] nearly went into shock, for her husband was a frightening sight. Battered, bruised, and bleeding profusely, clothes torn in a dozen places and covered with dust and mud, James looked as though he had been caught in a riot or at least a fight of unusual violence. Neither, it developed, had been the case.

A photograph of the young James E. Talmage.
Photo by Daughters of Utah Pioneers

Half a block from the Talmage home a single-plank footbridge crossed the ditch of running water that separated the street from the footpath. Until now, James had dismounted when he reached this point in a homeward journey and crossed the narrow bridge on foot. Today, he had decided that he had reached the point in his development as a cyclist where he should no longer resort to this prudent maneuver, but rather ride over the bridge in the manner of an accomplished veteran of the two-wheeler.

Having so decided, James approached the bridge resolutely, confident that he would negotiate the tricky passage in a manner to be proud of and to impress neighbors, if any should chance to be watching, with his skill and casual daring. He turned sharply from the road toward the bridge with scarcely any diminution of speed. The result was spectacular and observers, if any there were, must indeed have been impressed, but in a very different way from that intended. The professor’s bicycle went onto the plank at an oblique angle and quickly slid off the side, throwing its rider heavily into the ditch bank.

Dazed, bruised, bleeding, and humiliated, Dr. Talmage was not convinced that the difficult maneuver was beyond his skill. Rather, he was stubbornly determined to prove that he could and would master the difficulty. For the next hour, the president of the University of Utah might have been observed trundling his bicycle fifty yards or so down the road from the bridge, mounting and riding furiously toward the plank crossing, turning onto it with grim-lipped determination— and plunging off it in a spectacular and bone-shaking crash into the rough ditch bank. Uncounted times this startling performance was repeated, but in the end, mind triumphed over matter, will power over faltering reflexes, and the crossing was successfully made. Not just once, but enough times in succession to convince James that he was capable of performing the feat without mishap at any time he might desire to do so. From then on, he never again dismounted to cross the bridge, albeit he never made the crossing without experiencing deep-seated qualms which he kept carefully concealed from any who might be watching.

Crimson Mill Site and Veteran Volunteer Fireman's Hall

The waterwheel of Crismon Mill was powered by water from City Creek.
Photo by Richard K. Winters

One block north of City Creek Park, following Canyon Road, is a monument honoring the site of the Crismon Mill, the first gristmill built in the territory of Utah. The mill was built by Charles Crismon in the fall of 1847, just months after the pioneers entered the valley. This mill ground the wheat brought across the plains by the pioneers. Brigham Young’s sawmill originally stood nearby. Much timber came from a toll, or assessment, of those using City Creek Canyon to harvest timber. The tollhouse was located on the west side of City Creek.

Another block north on Canyon Road is Ottinger Hall. This social hall for firemen formerly housed the first manually operated fire pump in the West (the pump is now at This Is the Place Heritage Park), and was named after Salt Lake City’s first full-time fire chief, George M. Ottinger.

Interesting Facts

  • President George Albert Smith was baptized in City Creek.
  • The settlement of the valley began here at City Creek, and today the Church’s satellite system is situated near the top of City Creek Canyon, making it possible for general conference addresses to be transmitted in over sixty languages simultaneously around the globe.

Memory Grove

Just north of the Ottinger’s Hall is a secluded grove of trees planted in 1920 to honor war veterans. It was here that City Creek was diverted through the downtown area for irrigation purposes. Memory Grove is a beautifully landscaped park lying in City Creek Canyon containing a number of monuments dedicated to Utah’s soldiers who lost their lives in America’s wars.

The tree-lined road up the canyon above Memory Grove is popular with bicyclists, joggers, and hikers. A tornado that touched down in Salt Lake City on August 11, 1999, severely damaged many of the trees in this area, and efforts to repair the damage are still evident. Occasionally, moose and deer are spotted in the park. Located in the park is a full-scale replica of the Liberty Bell, one of only one hundred casts by the original maker. Read more about Memory Grove at: