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Vernal, Uintah County's largest city, is located in eastern Utah near the Colorado State Line, and 175 miles east of Salt Lake City. It is bordered on the north by the Uinta Mountains, one of the few mountains ranges in the world which lie in an east-west rather than the usual north to south direction. The Book Cliffs lie to the south, and Blue Mountain to the east, while Vernal itself lies in Ashley Valley, named in honor of William H. Ashley, an early fur trader who entered this area in 1825 by floating down the Green River in a bull boat made of animal hides. Vernal, unlike the majority of Utah towns, was not settled initially by Mormon pioneers. Brigham Young sent a scouting party to Uinta Basin in 1861 and received word back the area was good for nothing but nomad purposes, hunting grounds for Indians and "to hold the world together." That same year, President Abraham Lincoln set the area aside as the Uintah Indian Reservation. Captain Pardon Dodds was appointed Indian agent for this reservation.
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