Origins of Bryce Canyon National Park

The land around Bryce Canyon was owned by Paiutes, Mormon settlers, the Union Pacific Railroad, and the federal government before it became a national park in 1924. This gorgeous geological wonder is now enjoyed by millions of visitors each year.

According to archaeological surveys, Bryce Canyon has been inhabited for at least 10,000 years. Paiutes hunted small game and gathered pine nuts in the area. After the Black Hawk War in the 1860s, Mormon settlers moved into areas previously occupied by the Paiutes. One such settler was Ebenezer Bryce, who built a road through the canyon that adopted his name. Mormons in the small settlement of Tropic built the Tropic Irrigation Ditch through Bryce Canyon in 1892. For decades, the beautiful scenery of Bryce Canyon was largely kept private due to the difficulty of travel and the harsh conditions of the area.

S. Forest Service Supervisor J.W. Humphrey pushed for Bryce Canyon to become a National Park after he first visited the land in 1915. He said, “You can perhaps imagine my surprise at the indescribable beauty that greeted us, and it was sundown before I could be dragged from the canyon view. You may be sure that I went back the next morning to see the canyon once more, and to plan in my mind how this attraction could be made accessible to the public.” After sending photographs and film to the federal Forest Service and the Union Pacific Railroad, the canyon began to attract national attention. Ruby and Minnie Syrett bought land along the rim of Bryce Canyon and built a lodge and an inn for tourists in the 1920s. The Union Pacific Railroad bought much of the land from the Syretts, but Ruby’s Inn still stands today.

Bryce Canyon was declared a national monument in 1923 by President Warren G. Harding. On February 25, 1928, Bryce Canyon officially became a national park by an act of  Congress. The size of the park was increased in 1931 by President Hoover, to the current 35,835 acres. Today, over 2 million people visit the park each year to enjoy southern Utah’s stunning scenery and recreational opportunities.

Images

Snow on the Rim of Bryce Canyon
Snow on the Rim of Bryce Canyon Source: Cameron, Renae E. "Snow on the Rim of Bryce Canyon." Digital Image. January, 2023. 
1950 Bryce Canyon
1950 Bryce Canyon Source: Lindberg, Paul F. “1950 Bryce Canyon.” Digital Image. Wikimedia Commons. February, 2020. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:1950_Bryce_Canyon,_Utah,_Vacation.jpg
Bright Winter Sun in Bryce Canyon
Bright Winter Sun in Bryce Canyon Source: Cameron, Renae E. "Bright Winter Sun in Bryce Canyon." Digital Image. January, 2023.
Early Home of Ebenezer Bryce
Early Home of Ebenezer Bryce Source: Grant, George A. “Early home of Ebenezer Bryce.” Digital Image. Wikimedia Commons. September, 1929. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Early_home_of_Ebenezer_Bryce._Additional_data_on_79-ZBC-BC19._-_NARA_-_520234.jpg 

Location

Metadata

Renae Cameron, Brigham Young University, “Origins of Bryce Canyon National Park,” Intermountain Histories, accessed July 24, 2024, https://www.intermountainhistories.org/items/show/784.