Zion National Park
Zion National Park is Magically Unspoiled
By Dixie Brunner
Long before its official designation as Mukuntaweap National Monument on July 31, 1909, Zion was a frequent home to Paiute Indians. The first homesteader to hang his hat at Zion was Isaac Behunin in 1861. Behunin was appreciative of its beauty. “A man can worship God among these great cathedrals,” said Behunin, “as well as in any man-made church – this is Zion.” The park was renamed and established as Zion National Park in 1919, and has become internationally known for its majestic towering rock mountains which rise to awe-inspiring heights. Zion is a lush green oasis, surrounded by startling sentinels of stone. With sheer, milky-white cliffs and pristine, curtained waterfalls, Zion, simply put, is one of the most beautiful places in the west. The park became popular, with visitation numbers at around 1,000 annually by 1919, when many of those tourists arrived by horseback or stagecoach. Last year, the park logged in an amazing 3.2 million visitors from all over the world. Two major changes that affected park visitation the most were when they established the lodge, as well as when the tunnel was completed. The lodge was completed in 1926. The tunnel, a major engineering undertaking, was completed and opened to the public in July 1930. The tunnel was important because it connected the way to other parks to the east, like the Grand Canyon North Rim and Bryce Canyon National Park. The Virgin River also had a hand in the creation of Zion. Slicing canyons as deep as 3,000 feet in some places, the river left buttes and mesas standing as lone islands rising up from the valley floor. Hiking on such trails as the intriguing Narrows, Virgin Towers, Temple of Sinawava, Checkerboard Mesa, Angel’s Landing or Great White Throne often bring tears to those contemplating their beauty. Unlike many of the West’s great scenic attractions, the majority of Zion is seen from the floor of the canyon rather than the rim. Some longer hikes require permits, so check with park personnel concerning long hikes. There are serious dangers associated with flash floods in some of the narrow slot canyons, so also check weather reports before undertaking those amazing adventures. The drive through the mountain tunnel, and down the dizzying switchbacks is a remarkable and sometimes nail-biting treat. A visitor center, shuttle system, lodge and campgrounds are located inside the park, with services and accommodations outside both entrances as well.