If you are a lizard, who likes anything outdoors, this is the place for you.
“A conflict in vision” is how you would describe most Utah small and medium-sized towns. Visions of Mormon temples and chain stores conflict with visions of a great nightlife and local art scene. They don’t have this problem in Moab. Nature constructed the Fisher Towers a zillion or so years ago. The Colorado River doesn’t need more pizzazz, and the locals are mostly non-conformists who came because they merge with the landscape found here.
With close to 50 Small Town Spotlights now under our belt, Utah Stories decided to tackle a town that measures up to the bumper sticker, “Paris, Milan, New York and Moab.” Moab is just as much an international destination as it is a favorite playground for Utahns.
More than just a tourist town, Moab is extremely multi-faceted. The people who live here share a love for the majestic red rock and canyons, but also they seem to share a love of adventure and take pride in their non-conformity.
Moab’s history and culture live in it’s long-time residents. One example is John Williams who operates Navtec Expeditions. His grandfather was Moab’s first doctor, arriving in the late 1800s, just out of medical school. John’s parents started one of Moab’s first river companies. John has been running the rivers in this area for the past 40 years.
Moab (the name is a Biblical reference) came into being from pioneer farms. It was a quiet backwater until uranium was discovered and demand peaked during the Cold War. Moab’s population exploded by 500 percent in just six years.
The Roberts remember when Moab’s population plummeted after the uranium boom to just 1,500 residents. Buildings and houses were boarded up. Today Moab has 5,600 residents, and sees thousands of visitors each year. We find visitors from France around every corner. A French TV station is doing a special on the Moab Monkeys—the world’s best slackliners and base jumpers, who have decided to make Moab their home.
Moab is a place to have fun, but it’s also a place where people don’t forget the value of hard work. The slackliners, or “slackers” enjoy and pursue a completely different lifestyle.
Who knew you could make a living base jumping off cliffs and rock climbing and “rigging” tightropes across canyons? They have found a way. And they are not strange outcasts bringing a foreign element to the town’s population, Instead, they are welcome.
This is because Moab is full of foreigners. Whether from the East, France, Ireland or Mexico, their stories and lifestyles are as different as the rugged LaSalle Mountains are from the Canyonlands.
We did not sense there are a group of “natives” in Moab who fear change. The mighty Colorado runs through the dry desert, it carves the canyons ever deeper and feeds farmer and adventurer, young and old alike. People who live in Moab are here to live, to work to play and enjoy the living landscape. §
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