Salt Lake City, often shortened to Salt Lake or SLC, is the capital and the most populous city in the state of Utah. With an estimated population of 189,314 in 2012, the city lies in the core of the Salt Lake City metropolitan area, which has a total population of 1,175,905. Salt Lake City is further situated in a larger urban area known as the Wasatch Front, which has a population of 2,350,274. It is one of only two major urban areas in the Great Basin (the other being Reno, Nevada), and the largest in the Intermountain West.
Before Mormon settlement, the Shoshone, Ute, and Paiute had dwelt in the Salt Lake Valley for thousands of years. At the time of the founding of Salt Lake City, the valley was within the territory of the Northwestern Shoshone; however, occupation was seasonal, near streams emptying from Canyons into the Salt Lake Valley. The land was treated by the United States as public domain; no aboriginal title by the Northwestern Shoshone was ever recognized by the United States or extinguished by treaty with the United States.
The first US explorer in the Salt Lake area is believed to be Jim Bridger in 1825, although others had been in Utah earlier, some as far north as the nearby Utah Valley (the Dominguez-Escalante expedition of 1776 were undoubtedly cognizant of the Salt Lake valley). U.S. Army officer John C. Frémont surveyed the Great Salt Lake and the Salt Lake Valley in 1843 and 1845. The Donner party, a group of ill-fated pioneers, had traveled through the Great Salt Lake Valley in August 1846.
Salt Lake City has a total area of 110.4 mi2 (285.9 km²) and an average elevation of 4,327 feet (1,320 m) above sea level. The lowest point within the boundaries of the city is 4,210 feet (1,280 m) near the Jordan River and the Great Salt Lake, and the highest is Grandview Peak, at 9,410 feet (2,868 m).
Museums and the arts
Salt Lake City is home to several museums. Near Temple Square is the Church History Museum; operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the museum contains collections of artifacts, documents, art, photographs, tools, clothing and furniture from the history of the LDS Church, which spans nearly two centuries. West of Temple Square, at the Gateway District, is the Clark Planetarium, which houses an IMAX theater, and Discovery Gateway, a children's museum. The University Of Utah campus is home to the Utah Museum Of Fine Arts as well as the Natural History Museum Of Utah. Other museums in the area include the Utah State Historical Society, Daughters of Utah Pioneers Memorial Museum, Fort Douglas Military Museum, the Social Hall Heritage Museum, and The Leonardo, a new art, science and technology museum.
Salt Lake City provides many venues for both professional and amateur theatre. The city attracts many traveling Broadway and Off-Broadway performances which perform in the historic Capitol Theatre. Local professional acting companies include the Pioneer Theatre Company, Salt Lake Acting Company and Plan-B Theatre Company, which is the only theatre company in Utah fully devoted to developing new plays by Utah playwrights. The Off-Broadway Theatre, located in Salt Lake's historic Clift Building, features comedy plays and Utah's longest running improv comedy troupe, Laughing Stock.
Salt Lake City is the headquarters for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) and has many LDS-related sites open to visitors. The most popular is Temple Square, which includes the Salt Lake Temple (not open to the general public) and visitors’ centers that are open to the public, free of charge. Temple Square also includes the historic Tabernacle, home of the World-famous Mormon Tabernacle Choir. The modern LDS Conference Center is across the street to the north. The Family History Library, the largest genealogical library in the world, is located just west of Temple Square. It is run by the LDS Church and is open to the public and free of charge. Adjacent to Temple Square is also the Eagle Gate Monument.