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Great Lodges

Great Lodges of the National Parks

Canyon Lodges: Bryce Canyon

Lodge | Setting | Trivia


There are many interesting stories surrounding the history of Bryce Canyon Lodge and National Park. Explore a few of these curious facts and interesting anecdotes here.

Extirpated Animals
Many different animals live in Bryce Canyon, including coyotes, mountain lions, gray foxes, pronghorn, mule deer, and even a few black bears. But three animals have disappeared from the area in the past 100 years, probably due to increased pressure from humans. These animals aren't extinct, but they're no longer part of the local ecosystem, a circumstance that biologists call extirpation (from a Latin verb meaning "to root out"). The three animals that have vanished from this landscape are the grizzly bear, gray wolf, and wolverine.

Don't Feed the Animals (This Time They Mean It)
Most people know that feeding wild animals isn't healthy for the animals. But in Bryce Canyon National Park, it can be downright deadly for the humans, and the worst threats come from cute little ground squirrels, chipmunks, and prairie dogs. The Park's prairie dogs are known to carry bubonic plague, also known as the black plague. Disease-bearing fleas can easily jump from prairie dogs to nearby humans. A bite from any of the Park rodents can transmit rabies or Hantavirus, which has recently killed several people in southern Utah. Hantavirus is so contagious that it can also be caught just by inhaling infected dust carried on an animal's fur.

Cryptobiotic Soils
Fragile biological soil crusts, also known as cryptobiotic or cryptoganic soils, provide important functions in the Bryce Canyon landscape. Organisms in the soil produce sticky microscopic filaments and fungal strands that help to bind soil particles, creating the distinctive mat-like crusts. Seeds find a protected place to germinate in the rough surface of the crusts. And the relatively dark color provides a higher soil temperature, allowing seeds to sprout early in the spring, when rainfall is at its peak. The binding process also helps to reduce erosion and improve soil stability. Cyanobacteria in the soil (a species formerly known as blue-green algae) can convert atmospheric nitrogen into a fixed form that other types of plants can use. So in the big picture, cryptobiotic soils are more than symbiotic communities; they are essential to the health of the total ecosystem.

#3 on the List
If you've come this far, you know that Bryce Canyon National Park is a place of exceptional beauty. There are two more things you should know if you're thinking about making a visit. First, the biggest complaint from Park visitors is that they didn't allow themselves enough time to explore. Second, you will have company, because this is one of the most popular Parks in the entire NPS system. In the GORP poll of the Top 10 Favorite Parks, Bryce Canyon comes in third (Zion comes in fifth).

1. Glacier National Park, Montana
2. Big Bend National Park, Texas
3. Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
4. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
5. Zion National Park, Utah
6. Acadia National Park, Maine
7. Sequoia National Park, California
8. Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
9. Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
10. Denali National Park, Alaska

The Forest Service Got it Started
Before it was made a National Monument in 1923, much of Bryce Canyon was under the jurisdiction of the Forest Service. That's why J.W. Humphrey, U.S. Forest Service supervisor for the region, visited Bryce Canyon in 1915. He wasn't excited about going, but once he saw the landscape he became an evangelist. Humphrey made it a personal mission to tell people about the sights and work for the land's protection. With a small appropriation, he built a very basic road to the Canyon rim. Humphrey also hired photographers to draw the attention of railroad companies to the tourism potential of the region. In 1918, the first newspaper account of Bryce Canyon ran in the Sunday Salt Lake Tribune, entitled "Utah's New Wonderland." That title became one of the Union Pacific's best promotional slogans.

Senator Smoot, For Good or Bad
While Forest Supervisor J.W. Humphrey was working to promote the scenery, Utah Senator Reed Smoot (1862-1941) was introducing various bills designed to protect the area. Smoot was instrumental in having Bryce Canyon named as a National Monument in 1923, and later as a National Park. Smoot was the first Mormon elected to the U.S. Senate, and the people of Utah kept him in office from 1903 to 1933. His big mistake came with the Hawley-Smoot Tariff Act of 1930. In spite of wide protest, President Hoover signed the Tariff Act. As a result, other nations introduced retaliatory tariff acts, foreign trade suffered a sharp decline, and the Great Depression intensified. Utah did not send the Senator back to Washington again. The Hawley-Smoot Tariff Act is still on the books today.