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Vernal, Utah
East entrance of Vernal (2012)
East entrance of Vernal (2012)
Location within Uintah County and Utah
Location within Uintah County and Utah
Country United States
State Utah
County Uintah
Settled 1876
Named for Vernal
Area
 • Total 4.62 sq mi (11.97 km2)
 • Land 4.62 sq mi (11.97 km2)
 • Water 0.00 sq mi (0.00 km2)
Elevation
5,328 ft (1,624 m)
Population
 (2010)
 • Total 9,089
 • Estimate 
(2019)
10,438
 • Density 2,258.33/sq mi (871.95/km2)
Time zone UTC−7 (Mountain (MST))
 • Summer (DST) UTC−6 (MDT)
ZIP codes
84078-84079
Area code(s) 435
FIPS code 49-80090
GNIS feature ID 1433885
Website vernalcity.org

Vernal, the county seat and largest city in Uintah County is in northeastern Utah, approximately 175 miles (280 km) east of Salt Lake City and 20 miles (32 km) west of the Colorado border. As of the 2010 census, the city population was 9,089. The population has since grown to 10,370 as of the 2018 population estimate.

History

Vernal, unlike most Utah towns, was not settled by Mormons. Brigham Young sent a scouting party to Uintah Basin in 1861 and received word back the area was good for nothing but nomad purposes, hunting grounds for Indians and "to hold the world together." That same year, President Abraham Lincoln set the area aside as the Uintah Indian Reservation, with Captain Pardon Dodds appointed Indian agent. Dodds later built the first cabin by a white man in the Uinta Basin about 1868. Settlers began to filter in after that and build cabins in various spots on or near Ashley Creek. In 1879 many came close to perishing in the famous "Hard Winter" of that year.

Geography

Vernal is in the Uintah Basin, bordered on the north by the Uinta Mountains, one of the relatively few mountain ranges which lie in an east–west rather than the usual north to south direction. The Book Cliffs lie to the south, and Blue Mountain to the east, while Vernal itself lies in Ashley Valley, named in honor of William H. Ashley, an early fur trader who entered this area in 1825 by floating down the Green River in a bull boat made of animal hides.

Vernal is located at 40°27′17″N 109°32′08″W / 40.45472°N 109.53556°W / 40.45472; -109.53556 on the northern edge of the Colorado Plateau and south of Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area on the Utah-Wyoming state line. The city is in a high desert area of the Great Basin Desert.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 4.6 square miles (11.9 km²), all land.

Climate

Vernal has a cold semi-arid climate (Köppen: BSk ) with low humidity. The average annual temperature is 45 °F (7.2 °C) with a mean high of 61 °F (16.1 °C) and a mean low of 29 °F (-1.6 °C).

Climate data for Vernal, Utah (1981–2010)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 61
(16.1)
64
(17.8)
79
(26.1)
85
(29.4)
106
(41.1)
106
(41.1)
103
(39.4)
102
(38.9)
97
(36.1)
89
(31.7)
72
(22.2)
65
(18.3)
106,
Average high °F (°C) 30.6
(-0.78)
37.9
(3.28)
52.5
(11.39)
62.3
(16.83)
71.7
(22.06)
82.2
(27.89)
89.3
(31.83)
86.9
(30.5)
76.8
(24.89)
62.4
(16.89)
46.3
(7.94)
32.4
(0.22)
60.9
(16.06)
Average low °F (°C) 8.5
(-13.06)
14.6
(-9.67)
25.5
(-3.61)
32.7
(0.39)
40.7
(4.83)
48.1
(8.94)
54.2
(12.33)
52.8
(11.56)
44.1
(6.72)
33.6
(0.89)
22.3
(-5.39)
11.3
(-11.5)
32.4
(0.22)
Record low °F (°C) -38
(-38.9)
-38
(-38.9)
-18
(-27.8)
-5
(-20.6)
12
(-11.1)
24
(-4.4)
25
(-3.9)
32
(0)
19
(-7.2)
6
(-14.4)
-16
(-26.7)
-32
(-35.6)
-38
(-17.8)
Precipitation inches (mm) 0.49
(12.4)
0.51
(13)
0.69
(17.5)
0.82
(20.8)
0.88
(22.4)
0.79
(20.1)
0.62
(15.7)
0.75
(19.1)
1.11
(28.2)
1.39
(35.3)
0.58
(14.7)
0.61
(15.5)
9.23
(234.4)
Snowfall inches (cm) 5.2
(13.2)
3.6
(9.1)
1.2
(3)
0.2
(0.5)
0.0
(0)
0.0
(0)
0.0
(0)
0.0
(0)
0.0
(0)
0.4
(1)
1.1
(2.8)
6.8
(17.3)
18.6
(47.2)
Source: NOAA

Demographics

Historical population
Census Pop.
1880 799
1890 1,305 63.3%
1900 664 −49.1%
1910 836 25.9%
1920 1,309 56.6%
1930 1,744 33.2%
1940 2,119 21.5%
1950 2,845 34.3%
1960 3,655 28.5%
1970 3,908 6.9%
1980 6,600 68.9%
1990 6,644 0.7%
2000 7,714 16.1%
2010 9,089 17.8%
2019 (est.) 10,438 14.8%
U.S. Decennial Census

As of the census of 2000, there were 7,714 people, 2,709 households, and 1,977 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,683.4 people per square mile (650.3/km2). There were 2,957 housing units at an average density of 645.3 per square mile (249.3/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 94.52% White, 0.18% African American, 2.31% Native American, 0.34% Asian, 0.05% Pacific Islander, 1.18% from other races, and 1.43% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 4.45% of the population. There were 2,709 households, out of which 41.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 57.8% were married couples living together, 12.1% had a female householder with no husband present, and 27.0% were non-families. 22.9% of all households were made up of individuals, and 9.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.77 and the average family size was 3.28.

In the city, the population was spread out, with 32.3% under the age of 18, 13.0% from 18 to 24, 24.8% from 25 to 44, 17.6% from 45 to 64, and 12.3% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 28 years. For every 100 females, there were 96.4 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 91.1 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $30,357, and the median income for a family was $34,453. Males had a median income of $32,137 versus $20,938 for females. The per capita income for the city was $13,497. About 14.7% of families and 14.8% of the population were below the poverty line, including 20.6% of those under age 18 and 8.7% of those age 65 or over.

Transportation

Highways

Vernal is along an east–west federal highway, U.S. Route 40, and a north–south federal highway, U.S. Route 191. (The two highways overlay each other heading west from the city.)

Airport

The city's Vernal Regional Airport has scheduled nonstop air service to Denver (DEN) operated by United Express with CRJ-200 jet aircraft. Passenger service is subsidized by the Essential Air Service (EAS) program.

Public Transportation

Vernal is served by two out of the three Basin Transit Association routes, the Vernal - Roosevelt route (connection available to the Duchesne route in Roosevelt), and the Vernal Circulator, as well as a Salt Lake Express route to Salt Lake City

Attractions

Special events

The Dinosaur Roundup Rodeo is an annual rodeo held in Vernal in July. It is the most famous event held in Vernal and has been running for years.

Games, Anime, and More (G.A.M.) is a biannual fan convention. It is a multi-genre convention having video games, card games, cartoons, costumes, tournaments, tabletop gaming, and similar activities. The G.A.M. Convention is held during March and August in Uintah County, Utah. In 2015 it was the first anime convention held in Vernal as well as the first gaming convention held there, making it the first convention of its type in Vernal. In 2016 it was held in Naples, Utah for the first time, making G.A.M. the first convention of its type in the city of Naples.

The Home, Garden & Outdoor Sports Show is an annual event presented by the radio stations KLCY and KVEL. It features lots of gardening, home improvement, and outdoor equipment and information. It is held on the first Friday and Saturday of April.

The Gun & Knife Show happens the first Saturday and Sunday of March.

The Outlaw Trail Festival of the Arts, which features a juried art contest & show, has been running in Vernal for the last 26 years. It runs for several weeks every June.

The Uintah County Fair occurs Thursday through Saturday each year in the second week of June.

The Outlaw Trail Theater presents stage plays during the summer in June and July.

The Dinoland Car Show happens annually in July.

The Ashley Valley Farmers' Market occurs from July through September.

The radio station KNEU presents Alive After 5 events in the summer.

A number of 5K runs and other outdoor walking events occur throughout the year.

July plays host to the annual craft fair on the Uintah County building's front lawn.

Vernal features yearly parades for certain holidays such as Independence Day on July 4th and Pioneer Day on July 24th.

There is an Easter Egg hunt at the Utah Field House of Natural History each year on the Saturday before Easter.

Points of interest

Lookout Point rests on the western edge overlooking Ashley Valley, the valley in which Vernal is situated.

The Vernal branch of Zion's Bank was mailed through USPS one brick at a time.

Dinah the Pink Dinosaur, the welcome sign on the east side of town

Notable people

  • Ron Abegglen, former Weber State men's basketball coach, born and raised in Vernal
  • Earl W. Bascom, inventor; Hall of Fame rodeo cowboy, "father of modern rodeo," Hollywood actor, international artist and sculptor
  • Texas Rose Bascom (1922-1993), rodeo performer, fancy trick roper, Hollywood actor, National Cowgirl Hall of Fame inductee
  • Clair Burgener, U.S. Representative from California (1973–1983)
  • Lane Frost, rodeo star, PRCA Bull Riding Champion of the World, attended junior high school in Vernal
  • E. Gordon Gee, academic who held more university presidencies than any other American
  • Douglas Kent Hall; writer and photographer; Academy Award winner
  • Dallin H. Oaks, president of Brigham Young University, Utah Supreme Court Justice, member of the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
  • Dennis Preece, Hall of Fame wrestling coach at local high school in Vernal
  • James Woods, film and television actor, was born in Vernal

Economy

Vernal's economy is based on extracting natural resources, including petroleum, natural gas, phosphate, and uintaite (more commonly known as Gilsonite). This has led to the establishment of branch offices of companies such as Halliburton and Schlumberger.

Tourism also plays a role in Vernal's economy due to the town's roots in the Old West and being a large site of ancient dinosaur fossils. Vernal and the surrounding area are popular among outdoor enthusiasts as they are situated near plentiful spots for fishing, fly fishing, hunting, and other outdoor activities.

Education

Vernal's public schools include Ashley Valley Education Center, Uintah High, Uintah Middle School, Vernal Middle, Ashley Elementary, Discovery Elementary, and a branch of Utah State University. In 2015, the Terra Academy opened as a K–12 charter school. Private schools include White House Academy and Uintah Basin Christian Academy. In 2007, Uintah School District built new buildings for two elementary schools, Maeser and Naples Elementary, in the nearby communities to accommodate increased enrollment and eliminate unsafe older buildings. Other area schools include Davis Elementary, Lapoint Elementary, and Eagle View Elementary (pre-K–8). The National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) Rocky Mountain River Base.

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