I have visited Bryce Canyon National Park several times over the years. Each visit is always unique, regardless of extraneous variables such as season, weather, and even park construction projects. A major part of the grand spectacle comes from the many contrasts inherent in this place. Although one of the smallest national parks at 56.2 square miles, its high elevations (8,000-9,000 feet) mean the park occupies three different climate zones as it ascends 2,000 feet. In addition, the drive into Bryce Canyon National Park is deceptive: visitors first encounter meadows and sparse forests that hide the stupendous vistas that eventually erupt, offering 200 miles of visibility.
Of course, there is also the fact that Bryce Canyon National Park is not really a canyon. Instead, the area is comprised of a series of amphitheaters, each one cut 1,000 feet into the sandstone cliffs. Its 18-mile scenic drive takes visitors to numerous scenic overlooks and hiking trails, providing dramatic overviews of the park’s stark vistas and red cliffs.
SOME FLOWERS & ANIMALS THAT CAN OFTEN BE SEEN
SOME TYPICAL VIEWS
GEOLOGICAL MAP OF THE COLORADO PLATEAU
This magnificent park is one of many national parks scattered throughout Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona. This four-state area is part of the expansive geological feature called the Colorado Plateau that—millions of years ago (mya)—was formed from sedimentary buildup, tectonic activity and ongoing erosion. Bryce Canyon National Park, however, is one of the areas that was initially situated at the bottom of an inland sea. The combination of this area’s special features—initially underwater, ongoing wind erosion complemented by the impact of freezing temperatures and annual rainfall—gives rise to park’s the most unique feature: hoodoos.
Hoodoos are bulbous spires eroded out of the sandstone cliffs that are unique in the world to this national park in southern Utah. These statuesque rock features look almost human as they populate the cliffs and terraces. In 1936, Indian Dick was recorded sharing part of a Paiute Legend about the formation of this area and it ghostly apparitions:
“Before there were any Indians, the Legend People, To-when-an-ung-wa, lived in that place. . . . Coyote turned them all into rocks. You can see them in that place now; some standing in rows; some sitting down; some holding onto others. You can see their faces, with paint on them just as they were before they became rocks. . . . The name of that place is Agka-ku-wass-a-wits (Red Painted Faces).”
I love to sit and observe these hoodoos. They seem so human that I swear I can hear their whispers as they huddle against the wind. Some of the works by my favorite artists show individuals at one with nature who would be at peace wandering the trails that meander through these impressive cliffs.
Although these artists did not live in Utah, their work captures the spirit and people of the Southwest and along with the hoodoos themselves remind me that past and present, nature and families, history and culture intertwine together in this special place called Bryce Canyon National Park.
If you have never been, consider visiting Bryce Canyon National Park. It is a truly wondrous place. Although native tribes had populated the area for centuries, this wondrous location was officially named Bryce Canyon National Park after a Mormon pioneer named Ebenezer Bryce. The area was first preserved as a National Monument in 1923, becoming a National Park in 1928. As a visitor brochure explains, “This dynamic mesmerizing place is like no other.”