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Archeologic evidence suggests that portions of the Uinta Basin have been inhabited by Archaic peoples and Fremont peoples. By the time of recorded history its inhabitants were the Ute people. The first known traverse by non-Indians was made by Fathers Dominguez and Escalante (1776), as they sought to establish a land route between California and Spanish America.

By the early nineteenth century, occasional fur trappers entered the Basin. In 1831-32 Antoine Robidoux, a French trapper licensed by the Mexican government, established a trading post near present-day Whiterocks. He abandoned the effort in 1844.

In 1847 the Great Salt Lake Valley, still a property of Mexico, was first colonized by Brigham Young and his followers. In 1861 Young dispatched an exploring party to the Uinta Basin; they reported that “that section of country lying between the Wasatch Mountains and the eastern boundary of the territory, and south of Green River country, was one vast contiguity of waste and measurably valueless.” Young made no further effort to colonize the area.