A Look at Utah Most Significant Earthquakes

Utah, situated in the tectonically active western part of the North American plate, is susceptible to earthquakes. Since pioneer settlement in 1847, the state has encountered 17 earthquakes exceeding magnitude (M) 5.5. Geological studies reveal a long history of significant earthquakes of M 6.5 and above prior to settlement. These earthquakes pose risks of damage, injuries, and fatalities, along with triggering secondary hazards like landslides, liquefaction, and tsunamis. In this blog post, we’ll delve into some of Utah’s most notable earthquakes and their impacts on the state and its inhabitants.

The 1901 Richfield Earthquake

The 1901 Richfield earthquake, Utah’s largest recorded earthquake with an estimated magnitude of 6.5, struck on November 13, 1901, near Richfield in central Utah. Its tremors were felt across the state and neighboring regions, causing damage to structures, chimneys, and water systems. Additionally, landslides, rockfalls, fissures, and springs emerged. Though no fatalities were reported, falling objects and debris caused injuries.

The 1934 Hansel Valley Earthquake

Utah’s second-largest recorded earthquake, the 1934 Hansel Valley earthquake, registered a magnitude of 6.6. Occurring on March 12, 1934, near the Great Salt Lake, its effects were felt across a vast area, causing severe damage to buildings, roads, bridges, and railways. Liquefaction, subsidence, and flooding further exacerbated the impact. Tragically, two individuals lost their lives—one due to a heart attack and another from a collapsing chimney—while many others suffered injuries or displacement.

The 2020 Salt Lake City Earthquake

The most recent and widely felt earthquake in Utah, the 2020 Salt Lake City earthquake, measured 5.7 in magnitude. Striking on March 18, 2020, near Magna, west of Salt Lake City, it affected millions across Utah and neighboring states. The quake inflicted damage on buildings, utilities, and infrastructure, particularly in the Salt Lake Valley. Disruptions occurred at the Salt Lake City International Airport, Utah Transit Authority, and Utah State Capitol. Though there were no reported fatalities, some individuals sustained injuries or experienced quake-related distress.


Utah’s geographical location renders it highly vulnerable to seismic activity, with a history of significant earthquakes and a likelihood of future occurrences. Notable events like the 1901 Richfield earthquake, the 1934 Hansel Valley earthquake, and the 2020 Salt Lake City earthquake have left lasting impacts, including damage, injuries, fatalities, and secondary hazards. Hence, it is imperative for Utah residents to be well-prepared and informed about earthquake threats, equipped with knowledge on survival and recovery strategies for these inevitable events.

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