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Sugar House Journal

Parley’s Historic Nature Park has a rich and varied history

May 10, 2021 11h29 ● By Sona Schmidt Harris

In 1888, a sandstone aqueduct was built to sustain the growing population in the Salt Lake Valley. (Photo by JoEllen Grandy, May 26, 2016)

By Sona Schmidt-Harris | [email protected]

Chances are if you have a dog, you have visited Parley’s Historic Nature Park. But how much do you actually know about the place in which your dog romps and plays?

Nestled below a busy I-215 to the north and I-80 to the west, lies the much-utilized Parley’s Historic Nature Park. In addition to parts of the park being an off-leash area for frolicking dogs, part of it is a nature preserve. If you look carefully, you can see historical markers dotting the area demonstrating a rich and vibrant past.

Prior to the arrival of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints pioneers in 1847, the area, including the park, was referred to by the Native Americans as “Obekokechee” or “The Big Canyon.”

After the arrival of the pioneers, a church leader, Parley P. Pratt, identified an easier canyon in which to enter the Salt Lake Valley. Previously, Emigration Canyon had been used. The name, Parley’s Canyon was born along with the construction of the Golden Pass Road with a tollhouse located on the north end of the creek. In 1850, the new route opened. 

Later, John W. Young, a son of Brigham Young, built a rail line that followed along the Golden Pass Road. While primarily used to haul coal, it also served as a passenger train that took visitors to Park City.  

Also of historic note is Dudler’s Inn established in 1864. In 1870, a brewery was added called Philadelphia Brewery. Later, a wine cellar was added. The daughter of the founder of the inn, Loretta Dudler, who later married Harold Schauer, was the last to live in the inn before it burned down in 1952—an unfortunate victim of vandalism. Parts of the inn still remain including a rock wall, foundation and wine cellar.

In 1888, a sandstone aqueduct was built to sustain the growing population in the Salt Lake Valley.

In the 1970s, there was a push for residential development; this never came to fruition, however, due to overriding interests in nature and open space preservation.

Of special interest to Holladay residents is that Parley’s Historic Nature Park was once home to the Olympus High School cross country team’s own course. It was so difficult, it was noted in the Deseret News as being one of the toughest courses west of the Mississippi. Not only did the course feature a creek crossing, but also a greater-than-45-degree-angle hill. Olympus High School rarely lost a race here as the course was so intimidating. It was affectionately and not-so-affectionately known as “The Pit.”

Ultimately, Salt Lake City purchased the land parcel by parcel, and in 1986, the park was dedicated by Gov. Scott Matheson.

In 2007, the land was officially designated Parley’s Historic Nature Park. 

The park is stunning in all seasons. Though most difficult to navigate during the winter, it is the quietest time to visit. Its crowning glory, however, is in the summer with cavorting dogs and humans. There are two places in which dogs can wade and swim along Parley’s Creek.

The bulk of this article was written from information primarily obtained from SALT LAKE CITY HISTORIC LANDSCAPES REPORT Executive Summary Parley’s Historic Nature Park (Hansen Hollow, Parley’s Hollow, Parley’s Gulch) SLCHLR NO. 36.