1689098428 Bryce Canyon National Park US National Park Service | mnfolkarts

Bryce Canyon National Park (US National Park Service)

A black and white photo of a large columnar rock formation with a woman in a dress standing on a nearby path.
Thor’s hammer circa 1917

JW Humphrey Photo courtesy of his daughter Alice Jensen

Nature’s Fairyland: A Century of Wonders

A lot has happened here in the last 100 years: the rim of Bryce Amphitheater has retreated an average of 22 inches, 18,000 freeze-thaw cycles have shaped and toppled countless hoodoos, the sun has risen 36,889 times above Thor’s hammer (per not to mention countless stars every night), a beloved national park was created, and maybe you got to see it for the first time. Rangers like to call a person’s first sight their « Bryce Moment »: when the wooded edge of the plateau suddenly gives way to a vast, sublime, chromatic expanse. Some have described it as « a cave without a ceiling », others « a stone forest » or « faces painted red ». What do you see in this landscape? What words could ever do him justice?

Throughout this centenary we will provide an opportunity to reflect on this park’s rich past, vibrant present and the next century of wonders to come. We aim to be thoughtful and inclusive and we encourage you to check this webpage throughout the year as we add more stories, events and ways to connect with your park.

A short story

Bryce Canyon National Monument was originally established by President Harding on June 8, 1923 and administered by the United States Forest Service to preserve « unusual scenic beauty, scientific interest, and significance. » On June 7, 1924, Congress would establish Utah National Park with the stipulation that all state and private land within its boundaries must first belong to the United States. On February 25, 1928, Utah National Park was changed to Bryce Canyon National Park. The conditions of the 1924 congressional bill were satisfied that same year, and Bryce Canyon National Park was officially established on September 15, 1928.

  • 1872 – A survey team led by Lieutenant George C. Wheeler maps the geological resources of the Colorado Plateau. The Wheeler Report includes the first written description of the area: « …a perfect desert of red pinnacles, » wrote Grove Karl Gilbert.
  • 1875 – Ebenezer and Mary Bryce and their 10 children join 10 other Latter-day Saint families, settling in the valley east of Bryce Canyon.
  • 1880 – Grazing cattle consumes many plants that are a staple of the Southern Paiute diet and denies them access to arable land near water sources, leaving them with mostly non-arable areas. Paiute populations decline as much as 90% in some areas.
  • 1891 – The Tropic Ditch, an irrigation ditch that diverts water from the plateau through the Mossy Cave area, begins to flow towards the new town of Tropic.
  • 1915 – Sevier National Forest supervisor JW Humphrey sees the canyon for the first time and begins publicity efforts to tell the world. This includes articles, photographs by AW Stevens and a film by George Goshen which were sent to Washington DC
  • August 1916 – The National Park Service was created by Congress to manage parks and monuments in a way that would leave them intact for future generations.
  • 1919 – Utah Legislature passes joint memorial recommending creation of « Temple of the Gods » National Monument.
  • 1920 – Ruby and Minnie Syrett build « Tourist Rest », providing food, lodging and entertainment near today’s Sunset Point.
  • June 8, 1923 – Bryce Canyon National Monument proclaimed by President Warren G. Harding. The boundaries of the 9,760-acre monument extend roughly from modern Sunrise Point south to Paria View.
  • 1923 – Union Pacific Railroad buys Syrett’s Tourist Rest.
  • June 7, 1924 – After Utah Senator Reed Smoot’s persistent campaigning, Congress establishes « Utah National Park » with the proviso that all state and Union Pacific-owned land within its borders must first belong to the United States.
  • 1924 – Construction begins on Bryce Canyon Lodge.
  • 1925 – Governor George Dern and a large wagon train travel through the newly completed Red Canyon Tunnels to visit the new National Monument.
  • February 5, 1928 – A bill changes the name of the park to « Bryce Canyon ».
  • September 15, 1928 – After the requirement that all land within the borders be owned by the United States is satisfied, Bryce Canyon National Park is established. Management transfers from the US Forest Service to the National Park Service.
  • 1929 – The first year the visit is tracked with the park seeing 21,997 visitors. 78% arrive by automobile and 22% arrive by Union Pacific buses.
  • 1930 – The Mount Carmel Tunnel has been completed, drastically shortening the trip from Zion to Bryce Canyon.
  • 1931 – The park boundaries extend south to Podunk Point (now Rainbow Point), doubling the size of the park.
  • 1932 – Union Pacific’s Utah Parks Company (UPC) builds Bryce Inn (now General Store) near Sunrise Point. NPS builds first Administrative Office and Ranger Station (now High Plateaus Institute) also near Sunrise Point.
  • 1933 – North Campground is built. Maurice Cope is hired as the park’s first permanent ranger.
  • 1934 – Civilian Conservation Corps Camp NP-3 arrives. 962 Company occupies a field near the picnic area at Mile 4 on the main road.
  • 1938 – The State Road Commission arranges for the park road to be plowed by state road crews to allow the park to remain open year-round.
  • 1939 – The first year that entrance fees are charged. A $1 pass (about $21 today) is good for admission to both Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park.
  • 1942-1946 – Visits declined during World War II from 103,162 visitors in 1940 to a low of 8,075 visitors in 1943. The Lodge closed from September 1942 to May 1946.
  • October 24, 1947 – United Airlines Flight 608 crashes at the northern end of the park. All 52 passengers on board are lost in the crash.
  • 1954 – The Arrowhead National Park logo is introduced. The Lodge is painted a bright ‘modern’ yellow.
  • 1956 – Bryce Canyon becomes administratively independent of Zion. The park’s first superintendent is Glen T. Bean.
  • 1959 – The modernization plans for Mission 66 include a new visitor center and offices for the park.
  • 1961 – The park’s official non-profit partner, the Bryce Canyon Association, is established.
  • 1962 – Sunset campground is built.
  • 1969 – Don Follows, head of interpretation, initiates first astronomy programs at Bryce Canyon.
  • 1972 – The Utah Parks Company donates all of its buildings to the National Park Service. TWA, a subsidiary of Transworld Airlines, is selected as the fleet concessionaire (a role currently held by Aramark Destinations).
  • 1975 – After being listed as an endangered species in 1972, the Utah Prairie Dog is being reintroduced to the meadows within the park.
  • 1985 – The Sunrise and Sunset motels are built adjacent to the Lodge to provide more modern accommodations. These motels replace most of the park’s standard cabins, although some remain near the Lodge.
  • 1986 – Bryce Canyon Lodge is undergoing a major rehabilitation project. The interior has been gutted to restore its 1920s character. This work continues until 1989.
  • 2000 – The shuttle bus system goes live in Bryce Canyon. The first Astronomy Festival is held.
  • 2001 – The Visitor Center is being expanded and rehabilitated to add additional floors with more office and library space to a Mission 66 building.
  • 2002 – The Olympic torch passes through the park on its way to the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics.
  • May 23, 2006 – An estimated 400 to 500 tons of boulders fall on the Wall Street section of the Navajo Loop. Luckily no one is injured. The stairs are built through the rubble.
  • 2007 – The first Geology Festival is held in the park.
  • 2008 – Last time California condors were documented within the park.
  • 2009 – The 3,947-acre Bridge Fire becomes the largest fire in park history along miles 8 to 10 of the main road.
  • 2015 – Cocoon chambers of Hymenoptera (wasps) around 40 million years old are discovered after an inspection of a landslide.
  • 2016 – Hoodoo « The Sentinel » above Navajo Loop falls. 100th Anniversary of the National Park Service. After surpassing 1 million visitors in 1992, park visits surpass 2 million visitors for the first time.
  • 2023 – Bryce Canyon National Park is celebrating 100 years since its establishment as a national monument.
A tall orange rock spire against a blue sky, the text above the reds helps preserve and protect bryce canyon national park
The Bryce Canyon Association endorses the park as an official non-profit partner.

Support Bryce Canyon

Hoodoo you love? If your experience at Bryce Canyon National Park sounds like an ongoing romance, you’re not alone. The Bryce Canyon Association is here to channel that love into meaningful support.

The Bryce Canyon Association (BCA) is dedicated to assisting the National Park Service in furthering its scientific, educational, historical and interpretive activities. The BCA’s mission is to enhance your appreciation and enjoyment of this national park.

First chartered as an official non-profit partner of the park in 1961, the BCA and its members have contributed more than $10 million in support of:

  • Free publications
  • Annual festivals and special events
  • The Junior Ranger Program
  • Research and resource management activities
  • Citizen science events
  • Cultural programs for young people
  • Scholarships and internship opportunities
  • Search and rescue equipment and supplies
  • infrastructure projects
  • The Bryce Canyon Recycling Program

Visitor Center purchases and memberships directly support Bryce Canyon

Through exclusive publications, merchandising and programs the BCA helps people not only better understand and connect with the park, but directly supports its mission with their purchases.

Ready to do more? By joining the Association, you take an active role in the future of your park. Members also enjoy exclusive benefits, including discounts at more than 400 Public Lands Alliance stores across the country. Learn more about www.BryceCanyon.org

Centennial events

A variety of in-person and virtual activities and events will take place at Bryce Canyon National Park throughout 2023. Browse our list of events below, follow us on social media, and use #BRYCE100 to share your centenary experiences. Events and details will be added and updated throughout the year, so check back often!

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