Bryce Canyon
Historic Resource Study
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By the early 1920s four major parties recognized Bryce Canyon's scenic potential. These included: (1) the influential citizens of Salt Lake City, acting through Utah's State government; (2) the National Forest Service; (3) the National Park Service; and (4) the Union Pacific System. Each party was interested in the Canyon's development for different reasons, and each was thus apt to rate its importance differently. All parties, however, were unanimous on two issues. First, if Bryce Canyon's development was pursued, the cooperation of the remaining three groups was essential. Second, any meaningful physical plan for Bryce Canyon was inseparable from the more general economic development of southwestern Utah.

On paper the State of Utah stood to gain the most from nationally popularizing Bryce Canyon. In the summer of 1922, however, Salt Lake City's most important boosters had temporarily directed their attention elsewhere. They were captivated by the Wasatch summit drive project, and were convinced that this attraction near the capital would hold up westbound motorists for several days. A good chunk of the tourist auto traffic might not even bother going on to the coast. For the time being, substantial investments in southwestern Utah by the State would have to wait.

One high ranking Forest Service official, Acting Forester F. A. Sherman, considered that the Salt Lake people were on the "wrong tack." [46] In Sherman's opinion, Utah's version of an Alpine scenic highway was unlikely to hold up more than 25 percent of the westbound motorists. Even those who took the drive could tear through it in a day and continue westward. Sherman's contention was that tourists from east of Colorado were psychologically primed for California. These people were only inclined to stop in Salt Lake City to see the Mormon Tabernacle, maintenance their automobiles, gas up, and move on.

Sherman firmly stated where he thought the State should place its primary emphasis:

It is my feeling that Utah's best bet, which is also Salt Lake's best bet, is to emphasize and capitalize the very unique attractions in the southern part of the State, such as Bryce's Canyon, Cedar Breaks, Zion National Park, and the Grand Canyon. Their aim should be to divert the west-bound traffic south from Salt Lake through their State to Bryce Canyon, Grand Canyon, Zion Canyon, Cedar Brakes [sic], and then westward. Of course they (tourists) will not be spending their money in Salt Lake City, but you will see enough of Utah to realize that most of the money left in the State eventually finds its way into the capital city. [47]

The Forest Service realistically knew that leadership in the development of southwestern Utah was not going to come out of Salt Lake City. Nevertheless, whoever took charge would have to lend a sympathetic ear to public opinion emanating from the capital.

A report monitoring recreation problems in District 4 was presented to Forest Service officials in Washington, D. C., during the fall of 1922 by "collaborator" Frank A. Waugh. He noted the geographic unity of southwestern Utah, the acute need for better roads, and the assessment that Bryce Canyon presented the most urgent problems in the entire District. Waugh thought it incumbent on the Forest Service to take lead in making Bryce Canyon a national monument. By effecting an exchange of Forest Service lands, the agency was in a position to acquire Section 36 from the State with a minimum of delay. Waugh recommended the prompt appointment of a Forest Ranger for the area, a topographical survey, and careful reconnaissance for available water. [48] His well thought out report also presented the first known physical plan for Bryce Canyon.

I . . . recommend that, in order to avoid serious mistakes, a development plan for this area be worked out at the earliest possible opportunity. This plan should cover, amongst other features, the following:

1. Location of hotel and attached camps, with ground plan for the same.
2. Location and equipment of public camp-ground for automobile tourists.
3. Location, distribution and allocation of water supply.
4. General sanitary plans.
5. Suitable approach to camp and to rim view.
6. Trails along the rim of the Canyon.
7. Trails into the Canyon.
8. Location of store, post office and other services.
9. Location of public garage and service station.
10. Aeroplane landing. (Someone has already been at the Canyon looking for such a landing.)
11. All night camps in the Canyon. [49]

Steven Mather, the first Director of the National Park Service, was undoubtedly interested in the scenic region of southwestern Utah. He was, however, against including Bryce Canyon in the National Park System. [50] Mather preferred to have Bryce Canyon become Utah's first State park, and urged this course of action upon Governor Charles R. Mabey and the State Legislature. On December 19, 1921, a general meeting of all interested parties was convened in Salt Lake City to create a State Park Commission. In accordance with Mather's wishes, the "Committee on Legislation and Geographic Boundaries" recommended that Bryce Canyon be made the first of a series of State parks. [51] Only in 1924, when the State failed to do anything with Bryce, did Mather agree to Bryce Canyon's acquisition as a national monument. Given this status it would be provisionally administered by the Forest Service.

Because of its considerable financial resources and the company's willingness to invest in projects that promised to turn a tidy profit, the Union Pacific was probably the party most actively interested in Bryce Canyon. There were, however, formidable problems involved in the development of Bryce Canyon, and these the company had to carefully weight against future gains. The Union Pacific had two immediate problems. The first was to assess its relationship to the State of Utah, the Forest Service, and the National Park Service and determine how cooperative these agencies would be to one another. The second involved ascertaining the intentions of the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad (D.& R.G.), whose existing track to Marysvale, Utah, positioned it to outflank a major developmental project by the Union Pacific.

Section 36 rightfully appeared to Union Pacific officials as the key to Bryce Canyon's future development. If the State refused to implement a conciliatory policy, the railroad's investment in Bryce Canyon was an unjustifiable risk. Major difficulties were not anticipated with the Forest Service. In fact, the Union Pacific would have preferred to deal exclusively with the Forest Service, in lieu of the National Park Service. [52] Mather's opinion of Bryce Canyon was probably known to Union Pacific officials, which implied that friction over Bryce Canyon between Federal agencies would be minimal.

Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad

J. W. Humphrey once made an effort to interest the Denver and Rio Grande (D. & R.G.) Western Railroad in Bryce Canyon, shortly after its "discovery" in the spring of 1916. He explained how tourist traffic could be easily linked to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, and "other attractions down that way." [53] At about the same time the Union Pacific reputedly received the pictures and color movies shot in Bryce Canyon by Forest Service photographer George Goshen. [54] Why one railroad had its interest aroused and the other did not is an issue worth examining.

The growth of southern Utah's livestock industry and the promise offered by metallic ore deposits in the area prompted the D. & R.G. to extend its trackage from Thistle, Utah, to Marysvale. The first train entered Marysvale on August 7, 1890, [55] and construction of Marysvale's depot followed 9 years later. [56] In 1915 a big mining boon struck Marysvale. Gold was discovered in the mountains near town, although workable claims proved short lived. A more important resource proved to be nonmetallic alunite ore, from which alumina oxide and potash as a by-product were extracted. As long as the German embargo of potash lasted during World War I, an Armour subsidiary—Mineral Products Corporation—prospered. Three additional companies outside Marysvale concentrated exclusively on mining crushed potash ore for the manufacture of ammunition and fertilizer. [57]

Within a few short years Marysvale grew from a town of a few hundred to several thousand.

Horse drawn carriages and hacks met the train each morning to pick up the passengers and cart them off to either the Bullion Hotel, the Pines, the Grand Hotel, the Marysvale Hotel or the Straw Place. [58]

At this juncture the D. & R.G. supposedly executed plans to push its trackage all the way to Flagstaff. [59] Marysvale's economy again took a radical turn when the war's end dramatically braked the demand for high-cost aluminum. Potash could be imported more cheaply than mined in Utah. The town's economy began to slip into a steady decline. By the early 1920s both freight and passenger traffic were way off standards set during the teens.

During the clement months of 1922, however, some tourist traffic was still routed through Marysvale. Touring automobiles from three outfits eagerly met the morning Salt Lake City mail train. Arthur E. Hanks operated out of Marysvale. He conducted a 1-1/2 day tour to Bryce Canyon, as well as a 4-1/2 day junket to the North Rim via Bryce Canyon. H. I. Bowman headquartered his touring service out of the Highway Garage in Kanab, Utah. Given his location, it was necessary for him to base tours on the number of miles traveled:

50 cents per mile 5 passenger car (4 passengers and driver);
60 cents per mile 7 passenger car (6 passengers and driver); a minimum of 20 miles will be charged for each day. Two children under six years of age carried in lieu of one adult; 25 pounds baggage per capita carried free. [60]

Only Parry Brothers of Cedar City offered tours to Bryce Canyon, the North Rim, Zion National Park, and Cedar Breaks. Touring was expensive in the early 1920s. The Parry Brothers' North Rim-Bryce Canyon excursion, a 5-day affair, cost each adult $80; the 8-day Bryce, North Rim, Zion, Cedar Breaks loop $140. [61]

Notwithstanding the light volume of tourist traffic conducted through Marysvale, the Union Pacific (UP) was deeply concerned about the D. & R.G.'s future plans for Marysvale. On October 17, 1921, W. S. Basinger, Passenger Traffic Manager of the company, directed a brief report to H. M. Adams, Vice President in charge of traffic for U. P.; in it Basinger frankly expressed his uncertainty over the matter:

The construction of a railroad only a part of the way into the scenic territory would simplify very materially the problem of developing it in that respect, in that it would decrease the distance for auto transportation. The general impression exists that most of this territory is valueless except for its scenic attractions. The fact is quite the contrary and I feel sure that the opportunities for successful development, both from a freight and passenger standpoint, are large and are well worth careful consideration.

The D. & R.G. now have a line extending south from Thistle, Utah, to Marysvale, which is situated at the north end of the territory described. From time to time there are rumors that this line will be extended. Some of these rumors state that the extension will be on account of the large amount of lumber available. Others are based on oil development of which there are some indications. Whether, however, the D. & R.G. have ever given serious consideration to the extension of this line, I am unable to say. [62]

As early as 1916 J. W. Humphrey had gotten the distinct impression from D. & R.G. officials in Salt Lake City that any plans to build a tourist hotel at Marysvale, or to provide company bus service to scenic attractions, was out of its line. Humphrey inferred from his interview with unspecified personnel that "possibly financial difficulties of their H. H. System prevented them from undertaking a new project of that kind." [63] An examination of D. & R.G. archival materials does suggest that the company was in and out of financial trouble during the early 1920s. [64]

An intracorporate letter, dated August 22, 1922, proves that by this time the Union Pacific felt it could accurately ascertain the D. & R.G.'s position regarding the southern Utah tourist trade. This key piece of correspondence was directed from Union Pacific President Carl H. Gray to Judge H. S. Lovett, Chairman of the company's Executive Committee in New York City.

I have discussed the question of D. & R.G.W. competition with Mr. J. H. Young [unidentified]. He tells me they will be glad to enter into the same arrangement with us that they now have for Yellowstone Park excursions, establishing a line of rates which would permit passengers to go from Denver to Salt Lake City via the D. & R.G.W., to be delivered to our line at that point, in which event, they would not put in any excursion rates permitting a side trip to Marysvale. This would bring all excursion business which moves via either line, to one railroad from Salt Lake City to Cedar City. I would regard this as a satisfactory arrangement from both standpoints, because I cannot believe they can ever satisfactorily handle passengers over this long branch with the character of service which they could afford to provide. I think we can safely disregard Marysvale as an element of competition. [65]

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Last Updated: 25-Aug-2004