How did Bryce Canyon get it’s name?
Sometime in the 1850’s, scouts were sent by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) to assess the land for it’s potential agricultural and grazing use. In 1872, U.S. Army Major John Wesley Powell and his expedition explored the area. Mormon pioneers soon came to settle the area. In 1873, the Kanarra Cattle Company began grazing cattle around Bryce Canyon. Eventually, one of these Mormon pioneers is how Bryce Canyon got it’s name.
Ebenezer Bryce was born in Scotland and joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at the age of seventeen and left for Utah. He was the only one of his family to join the church and was consequently disowned by his father. Ebenezer Bryce was a shipbuilder by profession, but there wasn’t much use for ships in the Utah deserts.
In a tale of true ingenuity, Ebenezer Bryce used his skills to build churches instead of ships. His design? He took the general design of a ship and turned it upside down. The Pine Valley Chapel in Pine Valley, Utah was built in 1868 and is now the oldest chapel still in use by the church. The church then sent Ebenezer Bryce and his wife Mary to settle in the Paria Valley, near Tropic, Utah.
Ebenezer and his family decided to settle right below what is now called the “Bryce Amphitheater” – today, this is the main part of the Park; the largest collection of hoodoos. Ebenezer grazed his cattle near the hoodoos and canyons and once wrote that this was a “helluva place to lose a cow”. If you’ve ever been to Bryce Canyon, I’m sure you’d agree! Regardless of losing cows, Bryce Canyon National Park is indeed one “helluva place”. Ebenezer Bryce built a road to the top of Paunsaugunt Plateau for hauling timber. Pioneers starting calling the place “Bryce’s Canyon” and that’s how Bryce Canyon got it’s name.
The National Park
In 1916, Union Pacific Railroad along with Santa Fe Railroad published articles about Bryce Canyon in their magazines. Ruby Syrett built a lodge on the Paunsaugunt Plateau to accommodate tourists. This lodge, since renovated, is now known as the famous “Ruby’s Inn”. Years later, National Park Service Director Steven Mather proposed Bryce Canyon as a State Park, but the Utah Legislature as well as the Governor opposed a State Park and pursued national protection instead. On June 8, 1923, President Warren G. Harding declared Bryce Canyon a national monument. After procuring more land, the United States Congress established Bryce Canyon National Park on February 25, 1928.
Looking for something to do in Bryce Canyon? Check out our list of Things To Do in Bryce Canyon!
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