Area: 3,904 square miles; population: 6,046 (in 2000); county seat: Kanab; origin of county name: after Thomas L. Kane, an influential supporter of the Mormons; principal cities/towns: Kanab, Orderville, Glendale; economy: tourism, services; points of interest: Lake Powell, Coral Pink Sand Dunes, Kodachrome Basin, Old Paria, Navajo Lake, Hole-in-the Rock. The high desert landscape of Kane County belongs to the Colorado Plateau geographical province. The waters of man-made Lake Powell on the Colorado River form the county’s eastern border, and, with the exception of the Virgin and Sevier rivers, all of the streams in Kane County are part of the Colorado River system. The northwest corner of the county is forested.
The county’s prehistoric Indian dwellers were part of the Anasazi Culture. Archaeologists have recorded hundreds of sites on Fifty Mile Mountain within the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, but few have been excavated because of their remoteness. Historic Indian groups are primarily Southern Paiute.
Several towns, including Kanab, were first settled in the mid-1860s and then abandoned. Kanab was resettled in 1870 by Levi Stewart and others at the request of Brigham Young. In March 1874 Young encouraged the formation of a United Order at Orderville. Although United Orders were organized in many Utah towns, including Kanab, the Orderville experiment in communal living was more successful and longer lived than all the others, making this town unique among Utah settlements. By the 1880s Mormon Church support had become lukewarm, and the United Order of Orderville was dissolved.
During the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries a majority of the county’s residents were either farmers or raised livestock. In 1922, when Deadwood Coach with Tom Mix was filmed in Kane County, the Parry brothers of Kanab led in the development of lodging, food, and other services for film crews; and by the 1930s Kanab was called “Little Hollywood” because so many movies were made there.
The 1920s and 1930s also saw Kanab become a tourist center for visitors to Bryce Canyon, Zion, and Grand Canyon national parks. During the construction of Glen Canyon Dam near Page, Arizona, which began in 1956, Kanab’s population doubled and the economy boomed. The creation of Lake Powell, one of Utah’s major recreational sites, brought new service industries connected with boating and fishing to the area, especially the Bullfrog Basin marina in the extreme northeast corner of the county.
Enormous coal reserves in the Kaiparowits Plateau and Alton fields are Kane County’s most important natural resource and may, if environmental issues are resolved, dictate a new economic future based on mining.
Miriam B. Murphy