April 16-21, 2012 – We spent this week exploring Zion National Park, Utah. Zion sits on the Colorado Plateau and shares a similar geology with the Grand Canyon. In Zion, however, you are at the bottom of the canyon, looking up, instead of at the rim looking down or out.
Humans have lived in Zion’s canyons for thousands of years. The first inhabitants hunted giant sloth and mammoth. About 2,600 years ago, the Ancestral Puebloans moved to this area hunting game and farming. Then, about 800 years ago, the Ancestral Puebloans had moved on and the Paiute Peoples came to live in this area. In the 1860’s the Mormons had explored southern Utah, and sent a group of pioneers to settle here.
All of these peoples were attracted to Zion for the same reason…..water.
The Virgin River, which carved out Zion Canyon, provided a much need source of water for growing crops and attracting game animals, such as mule deer.
The Mormons who settled this area were ‘called’ by their church (not necessarily volunteers) to move to this southern Utah area to grow cotton and other warm season crops which the community needed to be self-sufficient….giving rise to this area’s nickname of ‘Dixie’.
Upon seeing this amazing canyon, they gave it the name of Zion, or place of refuge and sanctuary. They were so awestruck, that the believers felt that God, Himself, and the Angels must live here……
and named the rock formations…..Angel’s Landing, The Great White Throne, The Alter of Sacrifice, The Patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob), and any number of Temples…….
Zion National park has a small, intimate feeling. The main part of the park is centered around the Virgin River Canyon. The park has a wonderful free shuttle system which runs the length of the canyon, stopping at nine stops going up canyon, and the same nine going back down to the Visitor’s Center, taking about 80 minutes to run the round trip.
There were many hiking trails and overlooks where one could get a good feel for this unusual landscape.
This is a park whose grandeur is best appreciated from the bottom looking up, rather than the top, looking down.