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Deseret News archives
Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon wasn’t always accepted as the name to a scenic wonderland in Southern Utah. In 1920 — even before Bryce was a national monument — there was a strong movement to rename the area something different to better conform to factual geology and geography.

"New name wanted for Bryce Canyon" was a June 8, 1920 headline in the Salt Lake Herald-Republican newspaper.

Ravell Call, Deseret News
A Bryce Canyon National Park hike on Navajo Loop is photographed Sept. 14, 2007.

A statewide contest was held by the Utah State Automobile Association to find a more suitable title for Bryce, because it wasn't really a "canyon," but an "amphitheater."

At that time, the early 20th century, Bryce was also sometimes referred to as "Temple of the Gods," since that is how place was referred to on official federal maps.

Others referred to it as "Bryce's Canyon."

Since Colorado boasted a place named "Garden of the Gods," the "Temple of the Gods" name was considered confusing and not suitable.

The winner to the contest to rename Bryce would earn an all-expenses-paid trip to Bryce and Zion National Park.

"Bryce Canyon to be renamed" was a June 8, 1920, headline in the Ogden Standard-Examiner newspaper, as all major Utah papers carried the news of a big contest.

Apparently, many early visitors to Bryce had been complaining that Bryce Canyon was not an accurate title for the scenic marvel and that a new title was needed before Bryce gained worldwide fame in coming years.

Bryce Canyon was named for Ebenezer Bryce, a Mormon pioneer who homesteaded in the area in 1874. He also reportedly proclaimed it was a "helluva place to lose a cow."

Bryce became a national monument in 1923 and a national park in 1928.

Ravell Call Personal Photo
A Bryce Canyon National Park hike on Navajo Loop is photographed Sept. 14, 2007. Personal photo by Ravell Call

The renaming contest, however, did not go smoothly.

"Garfield County protests renaming of Bryce Canyon" was a June 12, 1920, headline in the Salt Lake Herald-Republican.

That story reported that the Utah State Automobile Association agreed that Garfield County, home to Bryce Canyon, should have a strong say in the renaming process, but that the new name contest would continue.

"We are not trying to dictate the name of anything and we would not attempt to foist an undesirable name upon any section of the state," W.D. Rishel, manager of the Utah State Automobile Association, stated in the Herald story.

He continued, "Our efforts in securing a more suitable title were solicited by hundreds of visitors, who declared that Utah is hiding the most singular scenic attraction in the world under the most commonplace title."

When the renaming contest had run its course a few weeks later, it was concluded that the judges could not find a more suitable title, despite hundreds of suggested names by the public.

"Bryce name to stand" was a July 8, 1920 headline in the Salt Lake Telegram.

"No better title that the present name of Bryce Canyon was found by the board of judges," the story concluded.

Ruby's Inn

Ruby's Inn, a commercial establishment located just north of the entrance to Bryce Canyon, has been around since 1916 and even predates nearby Bryce Canyon National Monument by seven years.

Provided by Ruby's Inn
Guests stand in front of Ruby's Inn prior to the extension of the State Highway 12 in 1925. In June of that year, Bryce Canyon officially opened as a national park.

By the time Bryce Canyon was a national monument in 1923 (or national park in 1928), Ruby's Inn was already well-established and serving as a focal point for the area.

Given its legacy, the first newspaper mention of Ruby's was not for anything relating to Bryce Canyon, but for an area Halloween party on Oct. 31, 1924. The Garfield County News on Nov. 7, 1924, stated that the event was a big success.

The Garfield County News of Jan. 16, 1925, described Ruby's as a "homelike headquarters for the weary traveler" and a "wonderful resort."

In that era, Ruby's not only had plenty of water for visitors, but also cabins, food and even a dancing hall. It was also in 1925 when the resort received its first electric lighting system.

By the spring of 1925, Ruby's had a U.S. Post Office, a monster porch for relaxation, supplies, campgrounds and even access to horses and guides to explore the area.

In July 1925, the Panguitch Orchestra played at Ruby's Inn and attracted a large crowd.

It was the namesake, Reuben C. “Ruby” Syrett and his wife who started Ruby's, and their descendants still operate the business today.

Comment on this story

Ruby's Inn was the most popular destination in the area, though as the decades went by the place became more and more synonymous with Bryce Canyon National Park.

Indeed, you had to travel past Ruby's Inn to enter Bryce Canyon and that's how it remains today.

Bryce Canyon does have its own inside-the-park accommodations available, but Ruby's was there first and is literally just a few hundred yards north of the Bryce Canyon entrance.

A tragic fire in 1984 destroyed the lodge and erased some of the inn's history, but it was rebuilt and even expanded after that.