River Jordan | Urban Living
Support the Free Press.
Facts matter. Truth matters. Journalism matters.
Salt Lake City Weekly has been Utah's source of independent news and in-depth journalism since 1984.
Donate today to ensure the legacy continues.

River Jordan



There are two famous Jordan Rivers in the world, one here and the other in Israel. If you're a history buff and/or a Jew, Christian or Muslim, the river that flows mostly north to south in the Middle East through the Sea of Galilee to the Dead Sea is real and a thing of so many stories and legends. The Israelites crossed it into the Promised Land, and Apostle John baptized Jesus of Nazareth in its waters. The 156 miles of river touches Lebanon, Syria, Israel, Palestine and Jordan. It provides water for millions of people and their crops, so much so that it's reducing what goes into the Dead Sea, which is causing the Dead Sea to continually shrink in size—just like what's happening with the Great Salt Lake.

Cross over to this continent and our very own Jordan River, which pales in size at only 40 miles long, connecting Utah Lake to the Great Salt Lake. We don't know what the Utes, Goshutes and ancient peoples called this fresh water source, but it was named the "Western Jordan" in 1847 by a white man named Heber C. Kimball. It has been used as a water source for crops and to transport the granite blocks mined in Little Cottonwood Canyon used to build the Salt Lake Temple.

Sadly, this river, like so many in the world, was used to carry sewage to the ending lake. It flooded many times over the centuries onto farms and into cities, and after a particularly bad flood in 1952, a dam was built, and the Army Crop of Engineers dredged and straightened parts of the river.

According to Wikipedia, the Jordan continued to be used as a waste disposal canal for area slaughterhouses, packing plants, mineral reduction mills and laundries during the 1960s and 1970s. Our Legislature "came to Jesus" in a way to save the Jordan waterway by creating the Provo-Jordan River Parkway Authority that is helping to enhance water quality, reduce pollutions and create parks along the river for fishing, canoeing, golf courses and trails.

Now we have a wonderful Jordan River Parkway running the length of the river, and it's just going to get better with something called Three Creeks Confluence near 900 West and 1300 South. Here there are three creeks (Parleys, Red Butte and Emigration) that have been hidden under ground for decades that are now going to be "daylighted" and seen as a sweet part of the trail system in a new park paid for with Salt Lake City funds. This new water eddy/park may not be the kayaking experience like on the South Platte River near downtown Denver, but it is a great example that the Jordan can be enjoyed by canoe or kayak now and more so soon.

Our Jordan certainly isn't as long or wide as the one in the Middle East, but it could be just as old. Both are precious to a history of peoples and necessary to help feed peoples and animals. Bravi to the counties and cities here in Utah that have helped restore, clean up and beautify our Jordan!