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Mantua is a "Little Valley" in the mountains of northern Utah an hour's drive from Salt Lake City. The town was first settled in the 1860s by 12 Danish families who were invited by church authorities to grow flax in the area to help supply cloth to the Church of Latter Day Saints. The town's many names – Flax Ville, Little Copenhagen, and Geneva, among others – reflect its founding heritage before it was renamed Mantua or “beautiful gown” by one of the church’s elders.
Lying by a reservoir, Mantua’s mountain village charm is enhanced by its lakeside location. You don't have to leave town to reel in an exciting haul of bass, bluegill, and yellow perch from the 500-acre Mantua reservoir. But if you came here for the birds, you’re in the right place. Find the best RV rentals in Box Elder County and head to the shores of the Great Salt Lake. The massive shoreline measures 10,000 miles, and not surprisingly attracts millions of resident shorebirds and migrants. Keep a sharp eye out and expect to be blown away.
At the 74,000-acre Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, about 15 minutes' drive by camper rental from Mantua, you won't see just a handful of birds or even hundreds: More than 200 species of birds can be scoped out here, and you don't even have to get out of your motorhome rental in Mantua to see waterfowl and shorebirds.
Bring your binoculars and drive the 12-mile Auto Tour Loop to see black-necked stilt, American avocet, and Clark's grebe chicks in early summer and tundra swans in the fall. Time your visit from April through October and you'll encounter a huge colony of white-faced ibis, the largest colony in North America.
To view a variety of wildlife and take in the spectacular views of the Great Salt Lake, head to the Antelope Island State Park two hours' drive away. The island encompasses more than 28,000 acres and is the largest in the lake. The antelope are not the only animals that call this park home: American bison can be spotted along the trail along with bighorn sheep and mule deer. Some 25 miles of backcountry trails wind through the park, so you also have plenty of space to explore whether on foot, bicycle, or horseback.
Shift gears and take your campervan rental from Mantua, UT to the Timpanogos Cave National Monument a 90-minute drive out of town. Twist and bend your way to enter stunningly decorated chambers and come face to face with coral-like limestone formations. Learn how water, minerals, and time come together to create these stunning works of natural art. The 1.5-mile entrance to the cave is paved, but the elevation gain requires anyone joining the tour to be in good physical condition.
There are two RV parks in town: the Little Valley Country Store and RV Park by the reservoir, and the Box Elder Campground on the outskirts of town. The former has numerous full hookup sites, restrooms, and showers while the latter provides drinking water and flush toilets. The Box Elder Creek flows through the forested campground, which also has trails nearby ideal for hiking. Time your visit in summer when the fields burst into bright red as large poppies bloom.
Leaving town, your other camping option is in Brigham City where Golden Spike RV Park has several dozen full hookup sites, restrooms, and showers. If your RV trailer rental from Mantua doesn’t need to connect to anything, consider spending a night or two at a Walmart parking lot in Perry five miles out of town. Get the store manager’s approval, and you can have a convenient parking space in a pinch.
Rent a motorhome in Mantua and experience the town’s sights and sounds during the Little Valley Days' celebration in summer. Each year, activities vary, but invariably revolve around the Mantua Reservoir, whether it's a fishing derby, a kayak race, or fireworks over the lake. Join a historical tour, catch a car show, or watch a lighted boat parade during this multi-day event.
Gas, groceries, and “gourmet grub” (luscious burgers, sandwiches, and fries) are available at the Little Valley Country Store and RV Park, but to be sure, make a fuel or grocery stop at one of the several gas stations and convenience stores in Brigham City. It also has American, Mexican, and Asian fusion culinary offerings, so it’s worth the short drive. You don’t need to rough it here as there’s also a fine dining place, as well as several fast food joints, to go to.
One hundred fifty years of Box Elder County's history is on display at Brigham City Museum of Art and History. The museum also houses a growing art collection of works by Utah artists like colorist David Howell Rosenbaum, painter and art professor Florence Ware, and landscape painter Russell Case. Every year, the museum also showcases one or two national traveling exhibitions, which are almost always hands-on and child-friendly.
Relive railroad history and take your travel trailer rental from Mantua to the Golden Spike National Historical Park. The park marks the location where the steam locomotives Jupiter (of the Central Pacific Railroad) and No. 119 (of the Union Pacific) met on May 10, 1869, to complete the United States’ first transcontinental railroad. Witness volunteers reenact the “Driving of the Last Spike” in the summer (usually Saturdays) and even take part in this historic event, as audience members are sometimes recruited to join in.
Mantua’s flax didn’t prove suitable for clothing, and the town’s "raison d'être" should have vanished in Utah’s crisp mountain air. But it didn’t. Book an RV rental in Mantua today and see why this tiny village in a mountain valley has existed far longer than originally planned. (Hint: It wasn’t called a “beautiful gown” for nothing.)