Incorporation & Recent History
Moab town was platted in 1884. By 1890 Grand County was created by the Utah Legislature and on December 20, 1902, Moab became incorporated as a town.
Mining has historically been the major local economic activity. Vanadium was first identified in 1912 near Cisco. By 1920, the southeastern Utah area had produced up to 2.4 million dollars in uranium; however, this was only the first of a boom/bust cycle for uranium mining. Potash and manganese mining have also played a role in the mining industry in Moab, along with oil and natural gas.
By the end of World War II, the area was also getting a small amount of attention in the media as a tourist destination and a fair amount of use from the film industry, but the real economic boom was still to come. In the early 1950s, fueled by the Cold War, the uranium industry exploded.
Charlie Steen, a down-on-his-luck prospector, made a dramatic uranium strike south of town and Moab became the center of activity for uranium mining. By 1964, however, the demand for uranium had decreased. The largest mine closed and the mill laid off hundreds of workers. Beginning in the 1970s, the community began seeing tourism as the only salvation for Moab's economy. I-70 was completed between Floy Wash and Crescent Junction making access to this part of the country easier. In 1975 there were 313,000 visitors to Arches National Park. In spite of the promise of an economic safety net on the horizon, Moab saw a 15 percent unemployment rate in 1984 as local mining companies continued to cut back. At the same time, Moab's population decreased by 23%.
By the end of the decade, tourism was viewed as the future of Moab and a whole-hearted effort was made to promote Moab as a tourist destination. Today, resource extractive industries such as oil exploration may continue to boost the local economy, but Moab is predominantly a tourist based economy. It is estimated that over a million people visit Moab each year.
Moab's population in 2014 is approximately 5,200.