JFK at the Salt Lake City Municipal Airport

The second public address given by President John F. Kennedy in Utah targeted the state’s development and its potential to become one of the most popular recreation areas in the U.S. At the end of his last speech during the Conservation Tour in the Intermountain West, JFK initiated the first power generator at the Flaming Gorge Powerplant along the Utah-Wyoming border.

The last speech delivered by President Kennedy during his Conservation Tour in the Intermountain West was at Salt Lake City Municipal Airport. In this address, which started at 9:35 a.m. on September 27, 1963, JFK explained how innovative resource conservation and development programs would benefit future generations. According to the President, wise management of resources would make a profound difference to the state of Utah, and preserving natural resources would make the state a great recreational attraction for tourists from all over the United States.

Kennedy dedicated the main part of the speech to the Flaming Gorge Dam on the Green River, one of the six dams that make up the Colorado River Storage Project. The President pointed out that the dam, with almost four million acre feet of capacity, would make Salt Lake City grow and properly organize the distribution of water along the Colorado River Basin. By pushing a buzzer, JFK started the first generator at the dam, making it run at full speed. Thus, the first unit of the Flaming Gorge Dam went into operation on September 27, 1963, at the flip of a switch by the 35th president of the United States.

Kennedy also emphasized the significance of the ceremony for the people of the state of Utah, stating that every drop of water should be organized to be of service to mankind. Using water wisely was not only crucial for the development of the state and the whole county in the 1960s, but also in the years to come. Kennedy was proud to implement the project that people had been thinking of for fifty years and highlighted the significance of the event for the state of Utah.

Before leaving, the president warmly greeted the people who had gathered to hear his speech. At 9:50 a.m. on September 27, 1963, Kennedy departed Salt Lake City Municipal Airport by jet for Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, thus ending his Conservation Tour in the Intermountain West. All of the speeches he delivered were well received, especially when he focused on foreign policy. The president’s visits made lasting impressions on everyday witnesses, thus increasing their understanding of the environment and its value.


President John F. Kennedy Starts the First Generator at Flaming Gorge Powerplant
President John F. Kennedy Starts the First Generator at Flaming Gorge Powerplant John F. Kennedy delivers an address at Salt Lake City Municipal Airport on September 27, 1963. Source: From Reclamation: Managing Water in the West. “Flaming Gorge Unit,” https://www.usbr.gov/uc/rm/crsp/fg/index.html.
Flaming Gorge
Flaming Gorge Source: Walsh, Dave, from Wikimedia Commons, “Flaming Forge,” available at https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Flaminggorge.jpeg.
SLC Airport, 2010
SLC Airport, 2010 Source: Searls, Doc, from Wikimedia Commons. “SLC Airport, 2010,” available at https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:SLC_airport,_2010.jpg.



Anastasiia Shuvaeva, Northern Arizona University
, “JFK at the Salt Lake City Municipal Airport,” Intermountain Histories, accessed July 20, 2024, https://www.intermountainhistories.org/items/show/225.