The Bryce Canyon region has a long and illustrious human history that began many thousands of years ago with Ancestral Puebloan (Anasazi) inhabitants and has evolved to the entrance of modern man in the 1700 and 1800’s.
Settling of the Panguitch Valley
Mormon pioneers entered the area in 1864 and first named their community Fairfield. They later adopted the name Panguitch, ‘big fish,’ from the Paiute Indian language and aptly named for the large fish that were acquired in nearby Panguitch Lake. When winter snows came early freezing crops prior to their harvest, the new settlement faced starvation and sent seven volunteers over the mountains in deep snows to acquire flour. Unprepared to walk in the deep snows, the men used their bedding (quilts) to spread across the snow so they could walk without sinking. Their effort successfully brought needed flour back to the starving early setters. Today the annual Quilt Walk Festival is an annual celebration in Panguitch.
Where did Bryce Canyon get its name?
In 1875 a man who had settled in the Paria Valley went looking for some of his lost cattle. He wandered west of his home and entered what is now known as Bryce Canyon. His name was Ebenezer Bryce and soon the canyon began to be known as Bryce’s Canyon. After losing too many cows to the grand maze of rock formations, Bryce is quoted as saying that the area was “one hell of a place to lose a cow.” Bryce shepherded the construction of a seven-mile irrigation canal from Paria Creek, bringing more water to the Paria Valley for farming. A skilled carpenter Ebenezer Bryce helped to build the oldest Mormon/LDS chapel, still in use, in the small mountain community of Pine Valley which is just north of St. George, Utah. It wasn’t until 1928 that the area was officially designated as a national park.
The Famous Hole In The Rock Expedition
Mormon settlers from St. George, Parowan, and Cedar City gathered in already settled Escalante, Utah, in the fall of 1879, to attempt to find a new route to southeastern Utah. A journey that was expected to take six-week became a very challenging six-month expedition. Pioneers cut their way through the rock at the rim of the Colorado River, and lowered wagons to barges where they crossed and continued their journey across 200 miles of some of the roughest terrain a wagon has ever crossed.
The Outlaw Butch Cassidy
Robert Leroy Parker, the now famous Butch Cassidy, was raised in Bryce Canyon Country and he returned infrequently to visit his family. His fame grew most significantly with the making of the movie “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” which starred Paul Newman and Robert Redford.