Great Lodges of the National Parks
Canyon Lodges: Zion Park
Zion National Park and Zion Canyon Lodge are both wonderful settings. And like most places in the "old" West, strange stories and curious facts abound there. Explore some of the local lore here.
John Wesley Powell (1834-1902)
An 1872 survey party, commanded by John W. Powell, made the first maps of the region that would become Zion National Park. It was the last in a series of Powell expeditions, begun in 1867, to explore the Rocky Mountains and canyons of the Green and Colorado rivers. During his most famous expedition, his small party of men made a daring 900-mile river journey in four small wooden boats. Powell's career wasn't limited to exploration. He was a faculty member and museum curator at two major universities, and wrote a number of scientific books. Powell was also a great advocate for Western conservation and land use planning. He founded the Smithsonian Institution's Bureau of Ethnology, and was instrumental in creating the U.S. Geological Survey. His was a life of study and service, made more impressive by the fact the he'd lost his right arm at the battle of Shiloh in 1862.
Park 19 in 1919
On November 19, 1919, Zion became the nineteenth National Park. Stephen Mather, Director of the NPS at the time, described the new Park thusly, "There are lofty mountains sheltering fertile valleys; cliff dwelling ruins telling of a bygone phase of civilization; sites where heathen deities were worshipped; hidden trails, unexplored regions and unread geological volumes; natural bridges of great size and beauty - the work of millions of years of erosion; walls covering thousands of square feet of smooth surface on which are sometimes found fantastic designs – domes, temples, columns, and even animals and birds, as though painted or carved."
Hiking the Narrows
The Virgin River carved out a spectacular chasm called the Zion Narrows. This canyon is 16 miles long, up to 2,000 feet deep, and in places just 20 feet wide. Hikers describe the walk through sandstone grottoes as an unforgettable experience, but this route is not for the unprepared. About 60% of the route requires wading, and on rare occasions swimming. The current is swift, the water is cold, and the rocks underfoot are slippery. Flash floods can occur anytime, but are more common in mid-summer and early fall. From November to May, the water is cold enough to require wet or dry suits. As an alternative, the Park's very accessible Riverside Walk provides a sense of what it's like inside the Narrows, but visitors get to keep their feet dry.
The Temple of Sinawava
The last stop on the Zion shuttle bus route is at the Temple of Sinawava. The name is probably derived from the Southern Paiute word for the powerful Coyote spirit. The setting is one of indescribable beauty, but a 1915 publication of the Park Service made a valiant attempt: "This is a great natural amphitheater, encircled with walls that appear to close behind as one enters. The floor is lined with deciduous trees accompanied by a remarkable assortment of other vegetation. In the center of the circle stand two large stone pillars. The larger is the altar, the smaller one the pulpit. The south side of the altar bears the profile view of a great stone face known as the Guardian of the Temple, and is chiefly remarkable for the change of expression which takes place as one enters the sacred confines which he guards."
An Explorer's Lake
Lake Powell lies about 100 miles due east of Zion National Park. The second-largest manmade body of water in the U.S., Lake Powell was named in honor of explorer John W. Powell. The lake is 186 miles long, with 1,960 miles of shoreline (longer than the entire West Coast). The water is contained behind Glen Canyon Dam, which extends nearly a third of a mile across the canyon. The dam took almost 10 years to build. Ladybird Johnson dedicated the structure on September 22, 1966. The reservoir is so large that it took 17 years to fill Lake Powell to its final water level, starting in March 1963, and ending in June 1980. Water released from Lake Powell empties directly into the Colorado River, at the northern end of Grand Canyon National Park.