Where Kanab Creek, flowing out of the mountains, passes through the Vermilion Cliffs and into the desert below, Jacob Hamblin built a fort in 1864. It stood atop a steep bank overlooking Kanab Creek, flowing through a deep gully lined by cottonwood trees. Rising a thousand feet high on both sides of the creek were the red-rocks of the vermillion cliffs. To the south a barren expanse of sagebrush stretched to the horizon, at the edge of which lay the depths of the Grand Canyon.
Using the fort as a base and protection from Indians, the area was explored over several years. In 1870, Levi Stewart and a party of Mormon pioneers occupied the fort hoping to establish peace with the Indians and establish a permanent settlement.
The controversial Grand Staircase National Monument lies within a few miles of Kanab, created in 1996 to the dismay of local residents. It is intended to preserve a parcel of the surrounding wilderness area.
Today the spectacular and rugged country surrounding Kanab brings many visitors here, contributing to the success of this small community. As of the year 2000, Kanab’s population is at 3,564. It is the county seat of Kane County. U. S. Highway 89 splits at Kanab, the main route going eastward to Lake Powell, and an alternate route going southward to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. (Technically the alternate route begins at the Arizona border, the section north from there to Kanab being designated Utah Route 11.) The elevation ranges from about 4,900 to 5,040 feet above sea level.