Historic destinations

The Memorial Day weekend signals an activity shift for Latter-day Saint families living in the United States. For many, it's a warm-weather period to, say, visit the beach, nurse the season's first sunburn, relish time away from school and, for mom and dad, use a few vacation hours and enjoy a few days of rest and relaxation.

But the maiden days of summer can also be a great opportunity for LDS families of all ages to experience Church history together or perhaps enjoy an excursion to a Church-themed museum. Many members will be traveling to Church headquarters in the coming months to visit Temple Square and other neighboring Church attractions in the Salt Lake Valley. But several other Latter-day Saint-themed destinations await a short distance away in neighboring counties. Many are free of charge, while others charge a small admission price. Below are a few LDS historical spots and museums just outside the Salt Lake area that can enrich summertime vacations for visitors and locals alike.

Monument honoring the colonists of Iosepa in Skull Valley, Tooele County.
Monument honoring the colonists of Iosepa in Skull Valley, Tooele County. | Photo by Jason Swensen
The graveyard of deceased residents of the Iosepa colony is all that remains of the original town in
The graveyard of deceased residents of the Iosepa colony is all that remains of the original town in Skull Valley, Tooele County. | Photo by Jason Swensen

The Iosepa ghost town

In the summer of 1889, a group of Saints from Hawaii settled a small town in the Skull Valley of Utah's Tooele County, some 65 miles southwest of Salt Lake City. The town was named Iosepa (pronounced "Yo-SEH-pa") in honor of President Joseph F. Smith (Iosepa is the Hawaiian word for Joseph), who served as a missionary for several years in Hawaii and was beloved by the Polynesian members.

The town offered the residents a blessed benefit — access to the Salt Lake Temple.

The faithful residents of Iosepa worked hard to make their barren surroundings truly blossom like a rose. "This was not the desert we see today," said President Gordon B. Hinckley during a 1989 memorial dedication at the historic site. "Iosepa [stood] as a gem, a paradise, brought from the islands of the Pacific to the desert of the West."

The Iosepa colony functioned until 1917 when the town was abandoned as most of its residents returned to Hawaii to help build and establish the announced temple in Laie. Life was not easy in Iosepa. Residents often battled illness as they eked out a living amid the stark conditions that define Utah's West Desert. Still, many left Iosepa with great reluctance. Today, only the graves of several "Iosepans" remain from the original settlement.

A monument honoring the faithfulness and history of the Iosepa colonists was erected and dedicated in 1989. The monument includes a bronze bust of a Polynesian warrior that sits atop a granite shaft with plaques telling the story of Iosepa and listing the names of the original settlers, along with the names of the dozens interred in the graveyard.

Each year groups of people — including many descendents of the Iosepa colonists — spend Memorial Day weekend at the ghost town in honor of the settlers.

Camp Floyd

Emmitt Crane, 14 months old, wanders around a recreation of a Civil War encampment at Camp Floyd Sta
Emmitt Crane, 14 months old, wanders around a recreation of a Civil War encampment at Camp Floyd State Park in Fairfield, Utah.

In 1858, U.S. President James Buchanan dispatched 3,500 troops — nearly one-third of the U.S. Army — to suppress a rumored rebellion by Mormon settlers in the Utah territory. The feared rebellion, of course, never materialized. But soldiers were ordered to remain in Utah to "monitor" the Mormons, according to the park web site. Camp Floyd was built in the town of Fairfield with the help of local members in the southwest corner of Utah County, some 45 miles south of Salt Lake City.

The U.S. Civil War erupted in 1861 and the troops at Camp Floyd were summoned back to the East to serve in the conflict. Nearly all of the buildings at the camp were demolished prior to the departure, but the camp cemetery and commissary remains. Today the commissary functions as the Camp Floyd Museum and is operated by the Utah State Park Service. Visitors can tour the grounds and the neighboring Stagecoach Inn for a small admission price. The camp also hosts several summer events for Mormon and military history buffs. Visit for more details.

Fort Buenaventura

Ogden's Fort Buenaventura
Ogden's Fort Buenaventura | Photo by Kristan Jacobsen, Deseret News

Located in the city of Ogden on the banks of the Weber River, some 40 miles north of Salt Lake City, Fort Buenaventura offers a glimpse of Mormon "outpost" life in the Utah territory. The enclosed fort was completed by mountain man Miles Goodyear in 1846 and included cabins, shed, corrals and a garden. The fort was occupied by Goodyear and his family and other visitors, according to the Utah park service, which now operates the fort. In 1847, Goodyear met with the first Mormon company visiting the region. Local Church leaders reportedly agreed to buy the fort and the outbuildings for $1,950. The fort would become an anchor for Mormon settlers in the area.

Today Ft. Buenaventura is operated by the state park service and includes a stockade and cabin replicas on the original site, along with a visitors' center and facilities for camping, canoeing and picnics. Visit for additional information, including a schedule of popular summer activities and events.

Crandall Historical Printing Museum

Crandall Historical Printing Museum in Provo.
Crandall Historical Printing Museum in Provo.

Located in Provo, the museum functions as a celebration of the printed word and includes hands-on demonstrations of historic printing presses. Besides learning the history of the printing press and its beginnings with industry pioneer Johannes Gutenberg, LDS visitors will also enjoy a dramatic recounting of E.B. Grandin and his staff as they begin the work of printing the first edition of the Book of Mormon in 1829 in Palmyra, N.Y. Guests are able to witness the setting of historic type and feel a replica of the original Acorn Hand Press used in the printing of the sacred tome.

Contact the museum at or (801) 377-7777 for museum hours and additional information.

BYU Museums

A collection of large African mammals is prominently displayed on the ground floor of the Monte L. B
A collection of large African mammals is prominently displayed on the ground floor of the Monte L. Bean Life Science Museum at BYU. The museum has become a popular destination for visitors of all ages and backgrounds who are intrigued by the natural world. | Jason Swensen, Deseret News
The BYU Museum of Art.
The BYU Museum of Art. | Photo by Jason Swensen

Football season is still months away, but the Provo campus of the Church-owned Brigham Young University remains a popular summertime visitor destination because of its many museums that are free of charge and open to all.

The school's Museum of Paleontology takes guests way back to the Jurassic Period millions of years ago to a time when dinosaurs ruled the land. Fossils of the "terrible beasts" are showcased in the renowned collection. The Museum of Peoples and Cultures offers a more contemporary experience with its celebration of earth's human inhabitants and their diverse cultures.

The Brigham Young Museum of Art is regarded as one of the top art museums in the West, with its ever-shifting collection of inspiring artwork from around the globe. Exhibition highlights this summer include the Western-themed "People in a Hard Land" and "Beauty and Belief" — an exhibit featuring hundreds of objects from Europe and the Middle East illuminating the rich artistic history of Islamic culture.

Summer visitors to the school's Monte L. Bean Life Science Museums will have to hustle to experience the museum's huge animal, bird and insect collection. The museum will close on July 1 for 16 months during a massive remodeling project.

Visit for additional information about the campus museums.

The Daughters of the Utah Pioneers also operate several satellite museums outside their main museum in downtown Salt Lake City. Visit for specific museum information on "satellites" found throughout Utah and neighboring states.

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