On May 24, 2007, the National Park Service re-dedicated the historic Yavapai Observation Station — originally called the Yavapai Point Trailside Museum — on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. New geology exhibits, consistent with the vision of the building’s designers to “make the out-of-doors intelligible,” were also unveiled.
The current museum exhibits explain the deposition of the rock layers, the uplift of the Colorado Plateau, and the carving of the Grand Canyon. Displays include beautifully crafted artwork, three-dimensional models, powerful photographs, and interpretive panels which allow park visitors to see and understand the complicated geologic story of the area.
A large topographic relief model in the front room of the Yavapai Observation Station mimics the canyon view in remarkable detail. The map is a dimensional, tactile model that has true color and labeling directly applied. Visitors can quickly gain an eye-opening vantage to the three-dimensional nature and scale of the Grand Canyon.
The original structure, which was first dedicated in July 1928, was designed by architect Herbert C. Maier. The building was erected on a site selected by a team of geologists for the express purpose of observing and understanding Grand Canyon geology. Maier designed the Yavapai Point Trailside Museum to blend into its setting, and used indigenous Kaibab limestone and ponderosa pine in its construction.
RANGER NATURALIST RALPH REDBURN SHOWS YAVAPAI MUSEUM VISITORS THE GEOLOGICAL COLUMN.
SEPTEMBER 1932. NPS.
1931 PHOTO OF PARK STAFF PLANTING STEVEN MATHER MEMORIAL TREE AT YAVAPAI OBSERVATION STATION. L TO R: 1) WOMAN NOT IDENTIFIED, 2) MRS EDWIN MCKEE, 3) JAMES BROOKS, CHIEF RANGER, 4) RANGER NOT IDENTIFIED, 5) EDWIN MCKEE, PARK NATURALIST, HOLDING SHOVEL, 6) DONALD MCHENRY, JR NATURALIST, 7) POLLY MEAD-PATRAW, NATURALIST, 8) CARL LEHNERT, RANGER, 9) ART BROWN, RANGER, 10) CLARK CARROL, ENGINEER, STANDING, 11) PRESTON PATRAW, ASST. SUP'T. NPS PHOTO.
Photographs from the 2007 re-dedication ceremony are posted on this page. Historic photos from may also be downloaded above. Click on a photo number and a high resolution version will appear in a new window. (4x6 inches @ 300 dpi)
The re-dedication ceremony took place outside the Yavapai Observation Station, located at Yavapai Point on the South Rim in Grand Canyon National Park. In addition to Park Superintendent Steve Martin, featured guest speakers included Lynn Scarlett, Assistant Deputy Secretary, Department of the Interior, and George H. Billingsley, Geologist, U.S. Geological Survey.
“We are extremely excited about the renovation of Yavapai Observation Station, along with the new exhibits that tell the story of Grand Canyon’s geology,” stated Steve Martin, park superintendent. “This is but the first step, as we continue to forge opportunities for connections between our park visitors and the incredible Grand Canyon.” Download YOS0089Martin
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Lynn Scarlett, Assistant Deputy Secretary, Department of the Interior addresses the audience at the rededication of the Yavapai Observation Station, May 24, 2007.
Nearly 150 years ago, John Wesley Powell careened down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. He was an explorer, scientist, chronicler, even an artist. Powell wrote, as he strived to describe the canyon, “Language and illustration must fail.”
We have all, no doubt, shared Powell’s sentiment. We reach for words: magnificent, awesome, sublime—grand. But the words that sing to me are the words of a child. Peering out across the vast abyss and the painted, textured, layered canyon walls, one child, speaking to his father, simply asked, “Is it real?”
Today, we rededicate the Yavapai Observation Station. Here, a many-faceted reality takes on meaning. We begin to comprehend not simply this place, but a whole planet. Layer by layer, we walk through 1.7 billion years of time – a stretch of time nearly half the age of this Earth.
Geology is, in many ways, our greatest teacher of history, reaching back to what geologists call “deep time.” It is a planetary history that reaches so far back that our human story seems nearly imperceptible. For a moment, we feel small. But then we venture into the canyon or contemplate it from its rim, and we regain our stature. We feel expansive, inspired and alive. We are just a wee point in time. Yet this is our time.
Today, we rededicate the Yavapai Observation Station, which helps us make sense of the striations, the colors and the textures of the canyon. Its architecture reminds us of human achievement and our powers of perception, creation and contemplation. It affirms our power to do great things—to preserve this place, this canyon for generations to come. Its displays remind us of our capacity to understand and to teach. Here, we see the canyon through the insight of scientists and the canvas or lens artists. Seeming randomness is rendered into patterns and deciphered.
I thank our National Park Service for their stewardship, so that we, our children and our grandchildren might continue to marvel at this magnificent canyon. I thank our U.S. Geological Survey, who, following in the footsteps of John Wesley Powell, continue to plumb the secrets of the Earth, and whose scientific inquiry helps us understand this place and a whole planet. And I thank the artists and craftsmen and women who translate ideas into displays, so that when a child asks, “Is this real?” we might lead the child to the observation station and answer, “Yes.” Through these displays, we can see how the processes of climate, water and rock over 1.7 billion years created this canyon.
George H. Billingsley, Geologist, U.S. Geological Survey describes his lifetime of work studying and mapping the Grand Canyon at the rededication of the Yavapai Observation Station, May 24, 2007.
Grand Canyon National Park Superintendent Steve Martin assists as Lynn Scarlett, Assistant Deputy Secretary, Department of the Interior, and George H. Billingsley, Geologist, U.S. Geological Survey, cut the ribbon to unveil the new exhibits at the Yavapai Observation Station. May 24, 2007
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Employees of Southern Custom Exhibits help to deliver a new geological column to the Yavapai Observation Station in Grand Canyon National Park on May 21, 2007. The column was created by Chase Design Studios.
The new exhibits, consistent with the vision of the building’s original designers to "make the out-of-doors intelligible," focus on the geologic story of the Grand Canyon.
The exhibits allow visitors to experience, intellectually and emotionally, the powerful geologic processes still at work in the canyon. Exhibits explain the deposition of the rock layers, the uplift of the Colorado Plateau, the carving of Grand Canyon, and a discussion of geological time.
Employees of Southern Custom Exhibits and Chase Design Studio carefully guide a geological column through the historic doorway of the Yavapai Observation Station on May 21, 2007. The building allows visitors to experience the grandeur of the canyon while giving them the tools to understand the geology.