Social Environment

Social Environment Overview

American Fork Canyon (AFC) has been a valuable resource as long as people have been on the lands. From Native Americans to the Mormon settlers, the canyon has provided food, water, minerals, and timber. The first record of settlement in AFC dates back to 1700BCE. Native American tribes in the area used American Fork Cave as a base camp to hunt big horn sheep further up the Canyon. In July of 1870, the American Fork Mining District was formed. The period of 1872-1876 saw the most productive period in the mining district. During this period two cities grew up around the mining operations of the Canyon—Forest City and Deer Creek City—as well as the American Fork Railroad. In 1878 the American Fork Railroad discontinued, and by 1880 Forest City and Deer Creek City were deserted. By 1950, most mining efforts in the canyon were no longer in operation. Though early post-settlement uses were extraction-based, Canyon use has transitioned to passive and active recreation, and watershed protection.

The Details

  • User demographics- Participants surveyed in American Fork Canyon’s last survey varied from under 16 years old to over 70 years of age. Most recreationists were under 16 years old or between 30-39 years old. The majority of recreationists are traveling to the Canyon from within Utah County (55%) or from other Utah origins (34%). 12% of users were from other states. In the next 25 years, the population of Utah County  is expected to reach one million, which is nearly double the current population. Recreation demand is expected to increase with proportionality.
  • Importance of recreation – According to a survey of Utah, Summit, and Wasatch counties, 54% of participants claimed that outdoor recreation was extremely important to them and their families. The majority of participants traveled over 25 miles for recreational activities.
  • Available recreational activities – There is something for everyone in AFC. There are over 40 known uses in the Canyon, these include hiking, cycling, horseback riding, camping, fishing, rock climbing, picnicking, sledding, hunting, OHV, bird watching, scenic driving, and many more. Importantly, the Canyon offers ATV access and accommodation, unlike nearby canyons. Because of the Canyon’s large availability of uses, it is heavily used by all users types, which may result in users conflicts now or in the future.
  • Timpanogos Cave – became a National Monument in 1922 after the USFS and Timpanogos Cave Committee introduced thousands of people to the natural wonders after the cave discoveries in the late 19th century. In 1933, the cave system was transferred to the National Park Service. In recent years, visitor numbers have averaged approximately 112,000 annually. The Cave is accessed by a 1.5 mile trail that begins at the park’s visitor center. Monument visitation is a primary use of the Canyon, and creates sever specific challenges.

Volunteer Efforts

  • In 2014, Uinta-Wasatch-Cache received the Chief’s Award for the largest volunteer program in the National Forest System. The award is one of the highest honors in recognition of volunteer efforts to assist the Forest Service in accomplishing its mission. Volunteers assisted the Forest with trail maintenance and reconstruction, watershed restoration, heritage resource protection, backcountry trail patrols, visitor service contacts, wilderness monitoring, fire prevention activities, and wildlife habitat restoration, and watershed restoration through the Dedicated Hunter program.

Safety issues

  • In case of a fire, the narrow roads in the canyon limit egress from the Canyon (canyon users) and ingress to
    the Canyon (fire trucks, etc.). This represents a key safety hazard.
  • USFS law enforcement is unable to keep up with needs in the Canyon. Utah County helps with law
    enforcement, but it’s still not enough to meet demand.
  • User conflicts can result in safety hazards simply because they are all using the same areas
    (ie: trails, narrow roadway of SR-92 for vehicles and bicyclists, etc.).
  • Many users come unprepared into the Canyon. Most of the search and rescue efforts are a result of

Future opportunities

As recreation use increases, the Vision must consider where to accommodate additional users and visitors while protecting what’s great about the Canyon. Among the questions the Vision must to address is whether Canyon users and Utah County residents want more caving, camping, hiking, biking, climbing, backcountry and resort skiing, motorized, horseback, or other types of recreation opportunity. What do we think future use of the Canyon should look like? How can we balance increasing demand among different uses in a canyon that’s already near capacity?