Bryce Canyon National Park

Looking Back

Dispatch by S. Bedford
Photo by Jimmy Martinello

Bryce Canyon has been inhabited by various indigenous groups such as the Basketmaker Anasazis, the Pueblo Anasazis, the Fremonts and the Paiutes for at least 10 000 years—yet its far-flung and inaccessible location kept European explorers at bay until the late 1700s.

In the 1850s, Mormon pioneers scouted the area, and Scottish Mormon Ebeneezer Bryce (the area's namesake) was sent to settle by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. When asked about his new homestead, Ebeneezer is reported to have summarized the chimerical scenery with, “It's a helluva place to lose a cow.”

In 1916, ranch owner Reuben “Ruby” Syrett and his wife visited Bryce Canyon and were so smitten by the sunset-coloured hoodoos that they immediately built an inn near the rim; although it has since moved locations to just outside the national park, Ruby's Inn is still run by Reuben's great-grandchildren.

Bryce Canyon was initially promoted as a scenic destination by railroad companies in the second and third decade of the twentieth century via magazine articles that lured the inaugural wonder-starved travelers to the phantasmagorical landscape. The Union Pacific Railroad expanded service to the area in the 1920s and a subsidiary company constructed the Bryce Canyon Lodge in 1925 as part of a series of guesthouses built to promote tourism throughout southwest.

The rustic-inspired lodge has since been declared a national historic landmark and is still accommodating guests, and if you're stopping in for a meal, be sure to save room for their signature carrot cake.

Bryce Canyon officially became a national monument in 1923 and a national park in 1928. 

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