Emigration Canyon was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1961. It is significant in Utah history as the original route used by pioneers entering Utah. It was part of the Hastings Cutoff route used by the Donner Party in 1846, and where the Mormon pioneers entered the Salt Lake Valley in 1847. As Brigham Young looked over the canyon, he declared, “This is the right place. Drive on.” These words have become famous in Utah history. The event is commemorated with This Is The Place Heritage Park at the mouth of the canyon. Throughout Emigration Canyon, there are several historic markers designating camps, trail markers and milestone where the Mormon Pioneers passed while on their way to the Salt Lake Valley. One example of these milestones is called Lost Creek Camp.
Emigration Canyon is home to Emigration Township.
A sign in Allen Park tells of some of the history of Emigration Creek and Canyon:
In 1847, the first party of Mormon Pioneers entered the Salt Lake Valley through what we now know as Emigration Canyon. Tradition holds that this is where Brigham Young first views the valley unobstructed and said “This is the right place, drive on.”
Within days of settling in the Salt Lake Valley, the water of Emigration Creek was diverted for irrigation. The diversion established the first water right in the valley.
The hydrology of Emigration Canyon attracted pioneers to take up residence along the creek, clearing dense vegetation in favor of fields and pastures. Pollution from livestock deterred the City from protecting Emigration Canyon as a watershed, opening the area to development.
An early 1800s building boom prompted the extraction of red and white sandstone in Emigration Canyon. An electric railway system was installed in 1907 to meet the high demand but was dismantled a decade later as concrete became the preferred foundation material.
In 1931, Mr. & Mrs. Hogle donated land near the mouth of Emigration Canyon to became the new site for Salt Lake City zoo, now known as Hogle Zoo.
Record snowpacks in 1952 and 1983 caused hundreds of Salt Lake City blocks to be flooded. Excessive spring runoff in 1983 cased 10 million dollars of damage in Parleys, Emigration, and Red Butte Creeks.