Fort Utah Park might be a misnomer.
For years people have assumed the original location of Provo's first settlement was in the park bearing its name at 200 N. Geneva Road. But some local historians have determined that the west-side park in which a replica of the fort sits probably isn't the exact site.Fort Utah actually was closer to the intersection of the Provo River and I-15, near a modern encampment known as Lamplighter Estates mobile home park, 255 N. 1600 West, say Robert and Lynda Carter.
The Carters were among several experts on an ad hoc committee assembled to research the fort's original location for Provo's sesquicentennial celebration. The city will 150 years old next year.
"We've really put it right under the freeway," Lynda Carter said.
That might make it difficult to use a Utah Division of State History grant earmarked for an archaeological dig at the site.
"If it's in that area, we're just out of luck," she said. "I don't think they're going to tear up the freeway."
Brigham Young sent 150 people to establish what is now Provo in March 1849. They started building Fort Utah shortly after the three-day trip from Salt Lake City. Pioneer diaries suggest they chose to settle the area because of good soil and water for crops. They also noted an abundant supply of fish in what are now Utah Lake and the Provo River.
The original fort consisted of several log houses surrounded by a 14-foot high log wall measuring 20 rods by 40 rods (a rod equals 161/2 feet) in size. A cannon sat on a tall deck in the middle.
The Carters pored over writings from pioneers and gold seekers as well as early maps the past few months to pinpoint what they believe to be the site of the fort.
"There weren't a lot of people who kept journals," Robert Carter said.
Taken individually, the old documents didn't reveal much, Lynda Carter said. But putting them together helped develop a picture of what the area was like 150 years ago.
The current generally accepted location of Fort Utah was determined in 1921, the Carters said. The site was excavated in 1968. That archaeological dig, however, yielded only smoking pipes and buffalo bones, indicating Indian, not pioneer presence, they said.
"I guess it's possible that it could be there," Robert Carter said.
But he and his wife, both of whom are retired history teachers, don't think so. They're disappointed that an archaeological dig at the site they identified probably won't work given the interstate and the trailer park.
Nevertheless, they don't intend to give up hope for a chance to unearth remnants of Fort Utah while continuing to search for more definitive documentation of its precise location.
"There are still a lot of question marks," Lynda Carter said.
The ad hoc committee intends to prepare a report of its findings.