Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon National Park


In 1600 B.C., a Babylonian artisan sat in front of a stone tablet and, with a practiced hand, inscribed the history of his people. That act of recording important events in stone has not, however, been limited to the pursuits of humankind. Millions of years before the Babylonian ever put chisel to tablet, the history of Bryce Canyon was being chronicled in limestone, sandstone and other sedimentary rock.

Geologic History

For the most part, the history of Bryce Canyon is geologic history. As a visitor, you can see more than 60 million years of it revealed in the magnificent, and sometimes bizarre, formations that surround you. On a geologic time scale, the history of Bryce Canyon began after the end of the Cretaceous Period, some time around the disappearance of the dinosaurs. Since that time, the Claron Formation has been deposited, uplifted and eroded by frost (ice), snow-melt, thunderstorms, and the roots of plants and trees. As billions of tons of ground rock moved out of Bryce Canyon and into the Colorado River, amphitheaters of colorful temples, pillars, domes and spires were left standing.

Human History

For centuries, bands of Southern Paiutes lived near Bryce Can-yon. They hunted and fished on the plateau top while inhabiting the warmer valleys. Theirs was a way of life that left few artifacts; and as a result, little is known of humans' early use of the area. We may surmise, however, that the Paiutes had a special reverence for Bryce Canyon and told vivid oral traditions to explain how the canyon came to have its phenomenal characteristics.

In the early 1870s, the Kanarra Cattle Company used the plateau adjacent to Bryce Canyon for grazing. It was not until the Fall of 1875 that Ebenezer Bryce, a Scottish immigrant and millwright, became one of the first settlers. It seems that Bryce, who ran cattle in the area and gave the canyon its name, was quite a pragmatic man. When asked about the canyon, he reputedly said, "It's a hell of a place to lose a cow."

Others saw Bryce Canyon as having tourism potential. In 1919, Reuben C. Syrett built accommodations for tourists and became the first postmaster of Bryce Canyon. Syrett didn't arrive until nearly 40 years after Bryce left.

In 1923, public pressure convinced President Warren G. Harding to set Bryce Canyon aside as a national monument. Bryce Canyon National Park was established by Congress in 1928. The Rim Road was completed in 1934 by the Civilian Conservation Corps. By 1942, the park reached its present size of 35,835 acres. 

Bryce Canyon was not widely known, even within the state of Utah, until the 1920s and early 1930s, when the park was extensively advertised by the Union Pacific Rail-road who built a lodge and provided transportation to the area.

Today, Bryce Canyon is easy to get to  and can be enjoyed by everyone. We are fortunate to be able to witness the effects of the grand interplay between earth and water, time and the elements—a drama that enchants us with its vision of the past and stirs us with its uncommon beauty.