On a little corner of 1700 South 500 East in Salt Lake City, passersby might get a glance of a large rock garden. Upon further examination you will learn that this spot has significant history to the Salt Lake Valley and the first group of pioneers that arrived here.
The First Encampment Park is the main group of the Pioneer Company camped on July 22, 1847. Other groups camped at other various locations. Scattered around the park on rocks are the names of the 109 men, three women, and eight children thought to have slept here the first night in the valley.
On that night, Thomas Bullock, the company clerk, recorded in his journal: “…We descended a gentle sloping table land to a lower level where the soil and grass improved in appearance…The wheat grass grows six or seven feet high, many different kinds of grass appear, some being 10 or 12 feet high – after wading through thick grass for some distance, we found a place bare enough for a camping ground, the grass being only knee deep, but very thick; we camped on the banks of a beautiful little stream (Parley’s Creek) which was surrounded by very tall grass...”
Parley’s Creek still flows underground through the neighborhood that stands there now.
The next morning the company moved to the place where it was decided they would plant crops, two miles to the north at City Creek.
Even the layout of the park is symbolic of the pioneers and their journey. The granite boulders on the east side of the park represent the Wasatch mountains. The path through the mountain rocks represent Emigration Canyon, which is the canyon the pioneers passed through to get to the valley. The dry streambeds represent Emigration and Parley’s creeks.
The park was dedicated on July 22, 1997 by Elder M. Russell Ballard exactly 150 years after the group of pioneers camped here. It was presented as a city park to the people of Salt Lake City and to all who honor the pioneer heritage.
Visit the park and read the plaques placed around the rocks and park to learn more about this park and how it came to be. To learn about the pioneers’ trek into the valley and their night camping here, you can join experts on a First Encampment Hike in July during the Pioneer Day commemoration activities. Read more about exact date and how to register on the Days of 47 website.