Zion National Park History

Early Exploration (19th Century): The first recorded European American to visit what is now Zion National Park was the pioneer Nephi Johnson, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, who explored the area in 1858. Members of this church, once referred to as Mormons, had settled the Utah territory and were among the first Euro-Americans to venture into this region. In his account of his first visit to the Zion area, Nephi Johnson described how his Native American guides would not enter the canyons, because of their beliefs that they were inhabited by various deities, of which they were fearful.

Native Americans: Tribes of Native Americans, which currently inhabit the region, had lived in the Zion area for approximately seven to eight hundred years prior to the arrival of European Americans. Another group of people, referred to as Anasazi or Ancestral Puebloans, lived in the area prior to the current Native American tribes that are found in this region. Whether these people were killed or forced out by newer arriving tribes, or if weather or other factors were involved, is not known. What is known is that the Ancestral Puebloans seem to have gone away at about the same time as the newer tribes arrived. Modern history of Zion National Park; its establishment, and development.

Designation: Due to the combined efforts of local residents, and regional explorers, early in the 20th century President William Howard Taft was encouraged to protect the area that is now known as Zion National Park. It was in 1909 Taft designated the area as Mukuntuweap National Monument. The name Mukuntuweap is from the language of the Paiute Native Americans and means narrow or straight canyon. However because this name was difficult to pronounce, and therefore considered a challenge for marketing, the name was changed a year later to Zion National Monument. Ten years later, On November 19, 1919, the area was redesignated as Zion National Park, becoming Utah's first national park.

Development: During the Great Depression in the 1930s, the Civilian Conservation Corps played a significant role in developing park infrastructure as they built trails, roads, and facilities that are still in use today. After World War II, visitation to national parks, including Zion, began to increase as improved transportation and infrastructure made these areas more accessible to the public. The passage of the Wilderness Act in 1964 helped protect some areas within Zion as designated wilderness.

Over the years, the park has implemented various visitor management strategies to address increasing visitation while minimizing environmental impact such as when park shuttles were introduced in the main canyon to reduce traffic congestion. Ongoing efforts focus on preserving cultural and natural resources within the park. This includes protecting Native American archaeological sites and the reintroduction of the California condor.

Zion National Park Trails