SALT LAKE CITY, capital of Utah, is a city of broad tree-lined streets--the first of many Utah towns laid out by the Mormons foursquare with the compass--built on the benches of ancient Lake Bonneville in a sheltered angle of the Wasatch Mountains on the east and on a spur extending from them on the north. Mountains can be seen in every direction-the rugged Wasatch Range to the east and southeast, the more rounded hills of the spur on the north, capped by Ensign Peak, the angular masses of the Oquirrh and Stansbury ranges to the southwest, and the lesser range of Antelope Island, in Great Salt Lake, on the west. The white glare of salt beds and the reflected light from Great Salt Lake rise in the west and southwest, though neither can be seen except from more elevated portions of the city. The Jordan River, a small and tortuous but economically important stream, winds through the western part of the city. A number of canyons open from mountains to the north and east, providing the city with water and offering access to skiing grounds in winter and to fishing, hunting, hiking, riding, camping, and picnicking areas in other seasons.
From most approaches the copper-domed State Capitol, rising from the elevated North Bench, is the most conspicuous building in Salt Lake City. South of it, and lower down, is the six-spired Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, within the seclusion of high-walled Temple Square. From the southeast corner of this square pivots the numbering and nomenclature of the city's streets. Southward from this corner extends South Main Street, through the principal business center of the Great Basin. Blocklike business buildings rise on either side. The shop-fronts are modern, with abundant plate glass, and the exceptionally wide sidewalks are none too roomy for Saturday shopping crowds. Automatic police whistles, mounted on poles at downtown corners, signal for changes in traffic. West of Temple Square is the warehouse, railroad, and industrial area.
East of Main Street the city is primarily residential, its skyline accented by the tall tower of the Romanesque City and County Building and by the twin towers of the Roman Catholic Cathedral of the Madeleine. Wide streets extend eastward from the downtown area to the white and yellow buildings of the University of Utah, and beyond, on East Bench, to the military reservation of Fort Douglas. A few miles south of the city limits is the suburb of Murray. Pretentious residential areas climb the benches to the east and northeast, limited only by the height to which municipal water can be piped. North of South Temple Street the long city blocks are broken up into the smaller squares of the "Avenues" and lettered cross-streets, which cling to the hill-flanks; the more fashionable residential area however, is East Bench.
The capital of an arid State, Salt Lake City presents the paradox of an exceptionally well-watered municipality. Water runs in its gutters, and an ordinance keeps parked cars the width of a streetsweeper's broom from the curb. Drinking fountains bubble day and night. Salt Lake lawns are exceptionally well-flowered and wellturfed, and it is often necessary to detour exuberant sprinkler systems. Another paradox for a town 800 miles inland is the sight of gulls flying over the city.
At night, electric lights give the city a different garb. The capitol dome is sometimes floodlighted, and the Temple spires are illuminated with golden glows. Southward on Main Street from the huge orange beehive atop the Hotel Utah, there is a display of neon in every color of the spectrum. Eastward, on top of a mountain, an airway beacon flashes. From Wasatch Boulevard, on North Bench, there is a view of the city at night that reveals its huge light-sprinkled area, some eight miles square, and the double line of yellow sodium lights on South State Street.
Visitors are usually taken up City Creek Canyon and around Wasatch Boulevard for the best view of the valley. Sloping southward, the city spreads fanwise on the benches and valley floor. In the foreground is the Capitol and the Temple, the business district, and State Street cleaving the city in a straight line from the Capitol for twelve miles. Beyond, the residential areas spread outward, accented by occasional factories, until, thinning at the outskirts, homes give way to valley bottom and lifting brown hills, patterned with scores of farms. On the east stretches the Wasatch Range, its rugged heights in an upward crescendo to the 11,491 feet of Twin Peaks, blocking the horizon twenty miles to the south. Westward, in a northsouth tangent twenty to thirty miles away, the Oquirrh Range stabs the sky. In the foothills and canyons of this range mushrooms of smoke ascend from the smelters at Magna and Garfield. To the west, in the valley, are the burnished stripes of irrigation canals, the crossed runways of the airport, and the waters of Great Salt Lake, obstructed from full view by the mountainous slopes of Antelope Island.