The Project Gutenberg eBook of Zion National Park, Utah (1951)

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Title: Zion National Park, Utah (1951)

Creator: United States. National Park Service

Release date: July 6, 2019 [eBook #59867]

Language: English

Credits: Produced by Stephen Hutcheson, Lisa Corcoran and the Online
Distributed Proofreading Team at


Zion National Park • Utah


Open All Year


Oscar L. Chapman, Secretary

Arthur E. Demaray, Director



The Great White Throne Cover
Formation of Zion Canyon 3
Wildlife 6
Park Season 6
How to Reach Zion 6
Roads in the Park 8
The Trail System 10
Administration 13
Naturalist Service 13
Museum 13
Free Public Campgrounds 15
Accommodations 15
Transportation 15
Saddle Horses 15
Post Office and Communication Service 15
Miscellaneous Services 15

Historic Events

1776 Father Escalante in search of route to Pacific crossed Virgin River near Hurricane.
1826 Jedediah Smith, fur trader, with a party of about 16 men exploring the region, traversed Virgin River.
1847 Brigham Young and his band of Mormons founded Salt Lake City and began the colonization of Utah.
1858 The colonization of Utah’s “Dixie” begun by the Mormons.
1858 Zion Canyon discovered by Nephi Johnson, a Mormon scout.
1861 Joseph Black explored the canyon and 1 or 2 years later was followed by a few settlers who farmed in the canyon, which they called “Little Zion.”
1872 Maj. John Wesley Powell visited the region and gave name “Mukuntuweap” to north fork and “Parunuweap” to east fork of Virgin River.
1909 Mukuntuweap National Monument established by Presidential proclamation.
1914 Frederick Vining Fisher visited Zion Canyon and gave names to many of the outstanding formations, such as Great White Throne and Angels Landing.
1917 Wylie Way Camp, first tourist accommodations, constructed.
1918 Monument enlarged and the name changed to Zion by Presidential proclamation.
1919 Monument changed to a national park by act of Congress.
1923 President Warren G. Harding visited the park on June 27.
1930 East Rim road and tunnel completed and dedicated.
Illustrated drop-cap

Zion National Park, located in the heart of the spectacular desert and canyon country of southern Utah, has as one of its chief features the great multicolored gorge, Zion Canyon. The sandstone cliffs, rising sheer to form the canyon walls and encircle the valley, are awesome; but it is the vivid coloring which most amazes. The deep red of the Vermilion Cliffs is the prevailing tint. Two-thirds of the way up these marvelous walls and temples are painted varying shades of red; then, above the reds they rise in startling white, sometimes surmounted by a cap of brilliant red.

Formation of Zion Canyon[1]

Zion Canyon, the best known example of a deep, narrow, vertically walled chasm readily accessible for observation, was made by the north fork of the Virgin River, the stream which now flows through it. Before this stream established its course there was no canyon. During the long period since its course was established the river has slowly deepened its channel and extended it headward until its original shallow valley has become a long narrow trench between towering walls. Though now deeply entrenched in the rocks of the Kolob Plateau, the river maintains substantially its original pattern. It flows in the same direction, and the curves and straight stretches of its present walls duplicate the meanders of the stream when it flowed some 5,000 feet above its present level.

For many thousands of years the Virgin River and its tributaries have been busy with two tasks, namely, deepening their channels and transporting material weathered from the canyon walls. At present the Virgin carries away from the park each year about 3,000,000 tons of ground-up rock at an average rate of 180 carloads a day. For such effective work the many-branched river seems incompetent. But though relatively small in volume, this stream system falls from 50 to 70 feet per mile (nine times the fall of the Colorado in Grand Canyon) and is at work on rock, chiefly sandstone, that disintegrates with exceptional ease. Many tributaries are on bare rock, little retarded 4 by vegetation, and are fed by short but violent showers. Consequently, they are brought to flood stage not only seasonally but with each period of heavy rainfall. Because they flow only in response to showers, the smaller tributaries are unable to cut channels as deep as the perennial master stream. From their mouths high on the canyon walls, they descend as waterfalls.

Though they are primarily responsible for the depth and position of the canyons, the Virgin River itself and the other streams heading on the adjoining plateaus are only incidentally concerned with the detailed carving that makes Zion Canyon unique. The walls are retreating in consequence of ground water which emerges as springs and seeps, rain which falls directly into the canyon, water that spills over the rim, frost and tree roots which pry off slabs, and chemical agencies which weaken the rock by the removal of the cement about individual grains. Continuous sapping at or near the contact of the porous Navajo sandstone and the more impervious underlying beds has developed alcoves in the canyon walls at Wiley Retreat, the Stadium, Weeping Rock, Emerald Pool, Birch Creek, Oak Creek, and elsewhere.

Generalized section of sediments in Zion and Bryce Canyons.

Age of rocks Formation
Eocene Wasatch: Pink Cliffs ROCKS IN BRYCE CANYON PARK
Cretaceous Undifferentiated: Gray Cliffs
Carmel limestone
Navajo sandstone: White Cliffs cross-bedded sandstone ROCKS IN ZION PARK
Chinle: Vermilion Cliffs shale, sandstone, ash and limestone
fossil wood
Shinarump conglomerate
Moenkopi: Belted Cliffs shale
Permian Kaibab limestone

In the development of the amazing variety of architectural features on the canyon walls, the composition and structure of the Navajo formation have served as controlling guides. In addition to the bedding planes—horizontal, oblique, and curved surfaces—the Navajo has developed parting planes (joints) that extend downward for short distances or pass through the formation from top to bottom. These bedding planes and joints determine the shape and size of the blocks that spall off from the towering cliff walls. Unlike that of humid regions, this type of erosion progresses from below upward; it causes the canyon to widen and still retain its vertical walls.


(Union Pacific Railroad photo) The Sentinel viewed from the West Portal of the Mount Carmel Tunnel.



With the lower reaches of the park extending into the desert regions to the southward, and the northernmost portions reaching into the spruce-covered highlands, Zion offers the visitor a wide variety of wildlife forms. Among the larger mammals, the mule deer are especially numerous and can frequently be observed along the floor of Zion Canyon in late evening. A few bighorn are present but spend their time in the relatively inaccessible canyons, hence are seldom seen. Other mammals, such as the mountain lion, bobcat, coyote, and fox, are resident within the park, but are rarely encountered because of their timidity. Ground squirrels and chipmunks are numerous and frequently tame. It is wisest to enjoy them without actual contact, however, for some rodents have been known to carry dangerous diseases.

Several species of birds are resident on the floor of the canyon, the best known being the spurred towhee, robin, canyon wren, and yellow warbler. Among the ponderosa pines back of the canyon rims are such colorful songsters as the western tanager, Audubon’s warbler, and western warbling vireo.

Of absorbing interest are the many varieties of harmless reptiles in the canyon. Lizards, such as the blue-bellied swift and brown-shouldered uta, are commonly observed around the brush-covered slopes, while the Boyle’s kingsnake and wandering gartersnake are to be found in the dense vegetation near the river.

Park Season

Each season of the year is distinctive in Zion. In winter, the colored cliffs stand out in startling contrast to the snow-covered levels and slopes; in spring, melting snows cascade over the cliff faces in foaming white waterfalls. Summer brings with it the greens of the valley as a foreground for the colorful formations; and in autumn when the skies are deepest blue, the trees of the valley floor and slopes take on variegated hues.

Although Zion Lodge is open only during the summer season, the Camp Center, with cafeteria, store, and cabins, and the public campground at the south entrance are operated throughout the year.

How to Reach Zion

Zion National Park is reached from Cedar City, Utah, on the Union Pacific Railroad. From this point motorbus service is provided by the Utah Parks Co. to Zion National Park, as well as to Bryce Canyon and Grand Canyon (North Rim) National Parks and Cedar Breaks National Monument. Passengers traveling on main bus lines may transfer to Utah Parks Co. buses at Cedar City. On advance notice, connections can be made with the Santa Fe Trails System at Mount Carmel Junction.


Roads connecting Bryce Canyon, Zion, Grand Canyon, and Cedar Breaks


Motorists on the Arrowhead Trail, United States Highway No. 91, from the north may turn off at Anderson Junction, 33 miles south of Cedar City, and those from the south may turn off at Harrisburg Bench Junction, 10 miles north of St. George, and reach Zion over State Route No. 15. Motorists on United States Highway No. 89 should turn off on State Route No. 15 at Mount Carmel Junction, entering Zion by the east entrance.

United Air Lines serves Salt Lake City, and from there passengers may go by Union Pacific Railroad or bus to Cedar City. Air service is also available from Los Angeles by Western Air Lines, with stops at Las Vegas, Cedar City, and Salt Lake City.

Roads in the Park

There are 20 miles of improved roads in Zion National Park. One road leads from the park’s entrance to the Temple of Sinawava, a distance of 8 miles. No one has really seen Zion Canyon until he has made a trip over this road. Visitors in closed cars should make frequent stops so that they may get out and enjoy the magnificent view.

(Union Pacific Railroad photo) Overhanging trees frame the formation known as The First Patriarch.




Within the park there is a section of the remarkable Zion-Mount Carmel Highway, 11½ miles in length. Running east from the Virgin River Bridge, this road forms a connecting link between United States Highways Nos. 91 and 89. Of special interest along this highway is the Zion Tunnel, started in 1927 and completed in 1930. Its total length is 5,607 feet. While the tunnel is the most spectacular portion, other sections are of even greater scenic interest.

The Trail System

Approximately 26 miles of trails lead to the more important sections of the park which are not reached by roads. These trails are well maintained and can be used at all seasons of the year, with the exception of those to the rims of the canyon which are closed by snow during the winter months.

The most popular of the footpaths, which have been constructed at different levels in the canyon, is the one extending a mile up the canyon from the end of the road at the Temple of Sinawava to the beginning of the Narrows. Other short and interesting trails recommended for easy hiking include Weeping Rock, Emerald Pool, and Great Arch.

Below are listed a few trail distances. These data are for trails at their best. Since the weather affects the condition of trails, inquiry should be made before attempting any of them.

Name of trail Length one way Starting point Aver. time (round trip) Remarks
The Narrows 1 mi. Temple of Sinawava 2 hrs. Easy, no steep grades. All-weather trail. Fine view of river flood plain. Trailside exhibit near Temple of Sinawava.
Weeping Rock ¼ mi. Weeping Rock parking area ½ hr. Easy surfaced trail. Water drips from overhanging cliff; springs issue from it. Hanging gardens; travertine deposits.
Emerald Pool (lower) 1 mi. Zion Lodge or Grotto Campground 2 hrs. Cross river on footbridges. Small pool formed by 2 falls. Loop or 1-way trail.
Emerald Pool (upper) 1½ mi. do. 3 hrs. ½ mi. above lower pool. Mostly easy walking; few steep grades. Loop or 1-way trail.
Great Arch ½ mi. Parking area, upper end of large tunnel 1 hr. Mostly easy walking. Excellent view of Pine Creek Narrows and west side of canyon.
Hidden Canyon 1 mi. Parking area, Weeping Rock 2½ hrs. Fairly strenuous; steep grades, switchbacks. Cross footbridge, climb to East Rim Trail sign, follow to turn-off into Hidden Canyon.
East Rim 3½ mi. do. 5 hrs. Fairly strenuous foot and horse trail. Carry water, lunch. Cross footbridge and climb to East Rim Trail sign.
West Rim 6¼ mi. Grotto Campground 8 hrs. Strenuous foot and horse trail. Carry water, lunch. Cross river on footbridge.
Angels Landing 2½ mi. do. 4 hrs. Fairly strenuous; steep climb. Half of trail hard-surfaced. Cross footbridge over river. Excellent view of canyon.
Lady Mountain 2 mi. Zion Lodge 4½ hrs. Strenuous mountain climb even for experienced hikers. Cross footbridge over river. Carry water.

(Union Pacific Railroad photo) Angels Landing, rising approximately 1,500 feet above the canyon floor.


(Union Pacific Railroad photo) Trail to the West Rim.


De luxe cabins, Zion Lodge


Zion National Park, containing 94,241 acres of Federal lands, is one of the areas of the National Park System owned by the people of the United States and administered for them by the National Park Service, Department of the Interior. In these areas the scenery and the objects of historic, prehistoric, and scientific interest are carefully preserved and displayed for public enjoyment.

The representative of the National Park Service in immediate charge of Zion National Park is the superintendent, whose post office address is Springdale, Utah. All comments regarding service in the park should be addressed to him.

Naturalist Service

During the summer season ranger naturalists conduct parties into the field several times each day to interpret the natural features of the area, leaving the Temple of Sinawava according to schedules posted by the naturalist service. Each evening talks on the natural features of the park are also given by ranger naturalists. Schedules of nature walks, talks, and other activities are posted in public places throughout the park. All visitors are urged to avail themselves of this free service.


The National Park Service has established an official information 14 office and museum at park headquarters which is open daily throughout the year. Here park visitors may secure information and publications regarding this and other national parks free of charge. The museum exhibits are arranged to give a general idea of the outstanding features of Zion National Park. These exhibits cover such subjects as geology, biology, archeology, and history.

The Three Patriarchs.


The Zion-Bryce Natural History Association maintains a stock of publications, maps, and transparency slides which are for sale at reasonable prices in the museum. They are designed to assist in a better understanding and appreciation of the region.

Free Public Campgrounds

Free public campgrounds are maintained throughout the year for visitors carrying their own equipment. Camping is limited to 30 days a year for each party.


An attractive lodge is operated by the Utah Parks Co., from about May 30 to September 25. It consists of a central building and a number of standard and de luxe cabins. The de luxe cabins have private bath, porch, and fireplace. Meals are served in the lodge dining room.

There is also a cabin development which is open all year. Here may be found a cafeteria, food store, and sleeping cabins.

As prices change from season to season, no rates are included in this booklet, but they may be obtained from the Utah Parks Co., Cedar City, Utah.


Motorbus transportation and all-expense tours to Zion, Bryce Canyon, and Grand Canyon (North Rim) National Parks, Kaibab National Forest, and Cedar Breaks National Monument are furnished by Utah Parks Co., during the summer season and by special arrangement throughout the remainder of the year. An automobile trip from Zion Lodge to the Temple of Sinawava is offered during the summer season.

Saddle Horses

Saddle horses may be hired in the park by the hour or day. Escorted trips to the East or West Rim of Zion Canyon are made daily. Escorted half-day horseback trips to The Narrows or Angels Landing may be enjoyed, and special guide service, when available, may be obtained for a day, a half day, or less. Riding outfits for women may be rented at the lodge.

Post Office and Communication Service

Zion Lodge is provided with post office and telegraph service. Long-distance telephone service is available at both the lodge and cafeteria. The summer post office address is Zion National Park, Utah; during the remainder of the year it is Springdale, Utah.

Miscellaneous Services

In the lodge, fountain service is available. A full line of photographs is on sale and laboratories are maintained for developing and printing. Curios and post cards are sold here.

Garage service, including storage and repairs, is provided near Zion Lodge during the summer season. A regular service station near the Camp Center furnishes gasoline, oil, tires, and batteries from approximately May 1 to October 30. Garages and service stations in Springdale, which is outside the park, operate throughout the year.

A registered nurse is on duty at the lodge during the season.


Let no one say, and say it to your shame,

That all was beauty here until you came.

National Parks are established “to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wildlife therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.” Please cooperate in maintaining and protecting this park. The following observations are made for your guidance:

Preservation of Natural Features.—Trees, flowers, vegetation, rocks, mineral formations, or any animal, bird, or other life may not be disturbed, injured, or destroyed; and formations, rocks, and other natural features, may not be defaced by writing, carving, or otherwise marring them. Since the park is a sanctuary for wildlife, hunting and the use of firearms are prohibited.

Camping.—Camp only in established campgrounds. Keep your camp area clean. BE CAREFUL WITH FIRE. Picnicking in the galleries of Zion Tunnel is not permitted. Lunching and picnicking prohibited, except in public auto camp.

Disorderly Conduct.—Proper conduct is required of all visitors for the benefit of others who are entitled to get the fullest enjoyment from the park.

Pets.—If you are carrying a dog, cat, or other pet, you may take it into and through the park provided it is at all times kept on leash or otherwise under physical restrictive control. Pets are not permitted in public buildings or on trails.

Trails.—Do not attempt to make short cuts; to do so you may endanger yourself as well as others using trails. Before attempting more difficult trails seek advice from a park ranger.

Mountain Climbing.—Mountain climbing away from established trails may not be attempted without permission of the superintendent.

Automobile Regulations.—(a) Permit.—A charge of $1 for each automobile is made at Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks. One permit is good for both parks, and may be used during the remainder of the year in which issued. Trailer fee, $1 extra.

(b) Careful driving.—The roads in the park are built purely for scenic purposes, not as high-speed thoroughfares. Observe speed limits and the usual rules of the road; keep to right; do not park on curves; pass cars going in the same direction only when the road ahead is clear and the vision unobstructed. Maximum speed limit, 35 miles per hour.

(c) Lights.—Because of mile-long highway tunnel, your car must have its lights in proper condition before you will be permitted to enter Zion National Park.

Park Rangers.—The park rangers are employed to help and advise visitors as well as to enforce regulations. When in doubt, ask a ranger.


[1]Condensed from “A Geologic and Geographic Sketch of Zion National Park” by Herbert E. Gregory.

For sale by the Superintendent of Documents, Government Printing Office, Washington 25, D. C.—Price $3.75 per 100 copies

REPRINT 1951 O-F—933840

Transcriber’s Notes