With Arches National Park just outside the city limits, and Canyonlands National Park a short drive to the west, and the 12,000-foot La Sal Mountains, the Colorado River, and hundreds of square miles of red-rock cliffs surrounding it, Moab is a tourism Mecca for Southern Utah. It lies in Moab Valley, lined by thousand-foot-high sandstone cliffs, on the banks of the Colorado River. The valley extends for miles to the southeast where it ends at the feet of the La Sal Mountains. Beyond Moab, the valley is called Spanish Valley.
Moab was settled in 1855 by Mormon settlers, under the name of Elk Mountain Mission. This original settlement was abandoned after a fatal Indian raid five months later, and the permanent settlement was established in 1877. When Grand County was organized in 1890, Moab was designated the county seat. As of the 2010 census, 5,046 people live at Moab. U.S. Highway 191 serves the city, connecting to Interstate 70 to the north, and leading to Monticello to the south. Utah Highways 279 and 128 follow the Colorado River through its gorge to the southwest and northeast, respectively. Other minor roads lead into the mountains and surrounding country.
In the 1960s and 70s, Moab was a major Uranium mining capitol. Today, recreation is the hub of Moab’s economy. The elevation is 3,960 feet near the river, and the city extends up the valley to about 4,700 feet, and possibly higher in the surrounding hills.