In 1848 Parley P. Pratt unsuccessfully petitioned Salt Lake City for $800 to construct a road through Big Canyon Creek in the Wasatch Mountains, just south of Emigration Canyon. Pratt thought Emigration Canyon was much too difficult and that the city needed another entrance into the valley. The city refused his request for money, but he obtained the deed to the canyon and late in July 1849 began road construction in earnest.
Not surprisingly, the canyon became known as Parley’s Canyon, and the road he built was known as the Golden Pass Road because of all the gold miners who used it on their way to California. Pratt sold the rights to the road early in 1851 for $1,500 to finance a missionary trip to California and Chile. By 1862 a cutoff was constructed through Silver Creek Canyon, which diverted much of the traffic on the Golden Pass Road. Today it is the route of Interstate 80.
Parley P. Pratt
March 18, 1849
“I devoted the fore part of the summer to farming; but my crop failing, I commenced in July to work a road up the rugged canyon of Big Canyon Creek. I had the previous year explored the canyon for that purpose, and also a beautiful park and [mountain] passes from Salt Lake City to Weber River eastward, in a more southern and less rugged route than the pioneer entrance to the valley. Emigrants now came pouring in from the States on their way to California to seek gold.”
Captain Stansbury, U.S. Government Surveyor
“Followed up Pratts golden pass all day. The ascent is not as steep as I expected, although the road is very crooked. The valley is very narrow, scarcely affording room for a turbulent little mountain stream which comes rushing down and winding its sinuous course at the base of the mountains on either side. Thro’ a growth of ceder, oaks, maple, service berry, quaking asp, bitter cottonwood & willows, with a gurgling mu[r]muring sound, which after the dead silence of the sand flats off the lakes and the barren flatness of the sage plains was peculiarly pleasant and refreshing.”
Mary Ann Weston Maughan
July 17, 1850
“This morning we entered the canyon and traveled on the most dreadful road imaginable. Some places we had to make the road before we could pass. Passed the toll gate and paid for passing over the road we had made. We had a view of the Valley, and it delighted me much to think I was near my long journey’s end.”