Those Who Came Before
One of the first questions people ask when visiting the rugged wilds of southern Utah is, "Who would live here?" The answer is, "Many different cultures over thousands of years."
A recent archaeological survey of Bryce Canyon National Park and the Paunsaugunt Plateau shows that people have been marveling at Bryce's hoodoos for at least 10,000 years. It is suspected that throughout history, just as today, most people were just passing through. Bryce Canyon winters are so harsh that even modern year-round habitation is difficult. Yet Paleoindians hunted huge mammals here at the end of the Ice Age. Pueblo peoples hunted game in the forests and meadows of the plateau. Paiutes frequented the plateau to harvest pine nuts and conduct broad scale rabbit hunts called rabbit drives. Mormon pioneers diverted water from the plateau top into the valley below by digging a 10-mile (16 km) long irrigation ditch through the forests and rocky cliffs of what would later become the park. Their efforts made the dry valleys below the cliffs of Bryce suitable for agriculture, and gave them reason to name the town of Tropic, Utah.
Later in 1924, designation as a national park put Bryce Canyon on the map. But it was the Union Pacific Railroad and the Civilian Conservation Corps that made Bryce accessible to modern day travelers. Such improvements quickly made Bryce Canyon first a national attraction, and later an international "must see." Today 1.5 million people come each year to see this little park with enormous appeal.