City of Ogden – Historical and Adventuresome
- Posted On
- Apr 08, 2010
By Shane Osguthorpe
Upon the completion of the transcontinental railroad in 1869, railroad officials determined that Ogden would become their junction point. Quite literally, Ogden became the spot where east met west. You simply couldn't go anywhere without going through it. As a result, Ogden was Utah's most cosmopolitan city throughout the century of railroad's dominance.
Local old timers still talk about the chaos and bustle of 25th Street as virtually every soldier deploying and returning from World War II awaited their connecting trains. City icon and philanthropist, John Lindquist, tells of a particular Friday night while on a 5-day pass from his military assignment in Texas on the eve of the war. Linquist took the opportunity to ride the train back to his home in Ogden to get married to his girl before being deployed overseas. He exited the train around midnight at Union Station where Wall Avenue meets 25th Street. On an average Friday night, the sea of humanity crowding 25th Street was reminiscent of New York City's Times Square on New Year's Eve. Lindquist began to navigate the crowd walking the three blocks east to Washington Boulevard. "It was nearly one thirty before I reached Washington," said Lindquist.
The iron horses of the railroad have been stabled, the steam engines have cooled and the only way the walk from Union Station to Washington Boulevard could take 90 minutes these days is if one checked out a few of the five museums in Union Station, stopped into Grounds for Coffee for a latté, gazed at a few of the art galleries along the street, grabbed a beer at Roosters then paused to listen to one of the free afternoon concerts in the Downtown Amphitheater.
Times may have changed, but Ogden's geographic location remains the same and Utah's Junction City has retained its eclectic feel and its diverse population. The town is still situated at the crossroads for travelers of all stripes, but more specifically, it is the jumping off point for the high adventure set.
The National Parks enthusiast can spend the morning in Yellowstone or Grand Teton National Park, take an easy 4-hour drive and make Ogden's brewpubs and eateries before the dinner crowd shows up. After dinner, enjoy an evening hatch on one of the two trout rivers that run through town, take a flat-water paddle across Pineview or a sunset hike up Malan's Peak before turning in for the night anywhere from National Forest campgrounds and budget hotels to four-star accommodations.
The next morning can be singletrack mountain bike trails, whitewater kayaking, climbing or just a good cup of coffee and breakfast alongside the Ogden River at Peleton Cafe before rolling south and making Arches, Canyonlands, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef or Zion National Park for an evening hike once the heat of the day has subsided.
Savvy travelers will recognize some unique opportunities in that scenario and plan more than one day in and around Ogden. Guidebooks and maps exist for the area just like any other. In fact, a few years ago, local mountain athletes created their own adventure guide that can be picked up at the Convention and Visitors Bureau or at random spots around town.
If guidebooks aren't your thing, hang around the local haunts and if you look like the outdoor type, the friendlies will spot you and chat you up about where to go. Put on something with a Patagonia label and grab a handcrafted beer at the bar of the aforementioned Roosters on Historic 25th Street, pull through The Daily Rise on Washington Boulevard with a rack full of gear or stop into the factory outlet for Salomon, Atomic, Suunto and Arcteryx located at 22nd and Lincoln and you'll get the inside scoop. (By the way, that's a real factory outlet for those brands whose headquarters are in Ogden - not simply a full-price retail outlet. Read: awesome deals!)
As passionate as Ogdenites are about their high adventure vibe, they are equally proud of the richness of their history. Those two aspects coexist everywhere you turn. The oldest settlement in Utah is Ogden's Fort Buenaventura, a true mountain man picket enclosure that pre-dates Mormon settlement in the area. Today, the fort is the location of epic mountain man rendezvous gatherings and the most popular stop for the Utah Cyclocross Series.
The past and the present often collide on Ogden's Historic 25th Street as the district hosts such events as the Xterra USA Championships and the Zion's Bank Ogden Marathon, cited by Runner's World as one of its Top Ten "Best of the Rest" races in the country.
The former defense depot complex that boomed during World War II has been converted into a business complex and the campus houses several major outdoor businesses including Scott, Smith, Edge Composites, maker of premium road, mountain and cyclocross wheels and components, and Klymit Technologies, pioneer in noble gas insulating apparel. On summer evenings, the historic complex is the home to the twilight criterium series, so throw your road bike on the rack.
Historical significance and a passion for the outdoors are also evident at Ogden's Weber State University. Alumni like business and hotel magnate, J. Willard Marriott and U.S. Treasury Secretary David M. Kennedy walked the same campus that now hosts modern day recreational events such as World Cup Archery competitions.
As further evidence of the city's eclectic mix of yesterday embracing tomorrow, the iconic Union Station that virtually anchors downtown and oozes history will soon sit adjacent to one of the most unique and modern recreational complexes in the United States, including what will be one of only two indoor velodromes in the country.
Bottom line, whether you come to Ogden as a history buff or an outdoor junkie, you'll find those lines blurred everywhere you look. Additionally, you'll find a diverse town that is large enough to offer amazing arts, culture, cuisine and accommodations, yet small enough to retain its unique personality and friendly atmosphere.