Interesting Facts About Bryce Canyon National Park

Located in southwestern Utah, Bryce Canyon National Park is one of 5 Utah national parks.

Featuring a rugged landscape sculpted by years of erosion and weathering, Bryce Canyon has awe-inspiring geological formations.

The towering hoodoos in red, orange, and yellow shades captivated over 2 million visitors in 2018!

From hikers, skiers, campers, photographers, and sight-seers, there’s something for everyone.

Here are cool facts about Bryce Canyon National Park.

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Quick Facts About Bryce Canyon National Park

  • It spans 35,835 acres of rocks and vegetation. 
  • The highest point is Rainbow Point, at 9,105ft.
  • The lowest point is Yellow Creek, at 6,620ft.
  • The largest amphitheater is 240 meters deep.
  • The main attraction is the hoodoos.

Bryce Canyon is part of the Grand Staircase that extends from Bryce through Zion to the Grand Canyon.

But due to Bryce Canyon’s remote location and small size, it receives much fewer visitors than the other parks.

According to the National Park Service (NPS), President Warren G. declared the area a National Monument on June 8, 1923.

But later, on February 25, 1928, it was named Bryce Canyon National Park.

bryce canyon
King of Hearts, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

1. Bryce Canyon National Park Is Not A Single Canyon.

Though the major feature in the park is Bryce Canyon, it’s not the main attraction.

Most visitors come to see the rocks (hoodoos) rising from the canyon. 

The NPS describes Bryce Canyon as a natural amphitheater series carved into the edge of the Paunsaugunt Plateau.

It’s a forest of towering rocks, plants, and animals. Many call it a Silent City.

2. Bryce Canyon Got Its Name From A Scottish Settler

An archeology survey found evidence of human settlement in Bryce Canyon dating back 10,000 years ago.

Paleo Indians hunted the elks, deers, and other large mammals living in the canyon during the final glacial stage. 

Much later, the Mormon pioneers settled in the park’s eastern edge in the 1850s.

Very little development happened until Ebenezer Bryce arrived around 1875 or 76 with his wife.

Bryce was an industrious Scottish settler. He built a 7-mile ditch to redirect water for his crops and animals.

He also made a road to access the forest.

When the locals started using the road, they called the area where it terminated Bryce’s Canyon.

Though Bryce moved to Arizona in 1881, his name remained.

Read more about Bryce Canyon’s history on this Historic Resource Study.

3. Bryce National Park Is An Arid Area.

The region surrounding Bryce Canyon National Park receives very little rainfall.

It’s primarily rocky, with little sand. And the winters are harsh.

However, there are plants and animals adapted to these dry conditions.  

4. Bryce Has 3 Distinct Ecosystems.

There are over 1,000 plant species, over 100 bird species, 59 mammal species, amphibians, and some reptiles (rattlesnakes, short-horned lizards).

This wildlife exists in different altitudes in the park. USGS identifies three ecosystems in the park.

  • The spruce/fir forest. This is the highest and most productive region (the plateau region). It is remarkably cooler and wetter than the lower regions. Here, you will find various trees (spruce trees, fir, and aspens), animals (mule deer, elk, squirrels, chipmunks). Plus a variety of birds and insects. 
  • The Ponderosa pine forest (in mid altitudes). Here, the primary vegetation is the evergreen ponderosa pine trees that grow over 200ft tall.
  • The pinyon-juniper forest (in low altitudes). It’s the lowest region with little soil and steep slopes. Here, the main trees, though sparse, are the Utah Juniper and Colorado Pinyons. 

5. Bryce Canyon’s Main Attraction is The Hoodoos

Hoodoos are typical in hot and dry areas. But the world’s most extensive collection of hoodoos is in Bryce Canyon.

Photographers travel to capture their delicate features.

Also called fairy chimneys or earth pyramids, hoodoos are irregularly shaped stones sculpted by erosion and weathering.

Some hoodoos form distinct features that resemble real-life people, like the Queen Victoria Hoodoo.

But the most popular hoodoo in Bryce Canyon is Thor’s Hammer.

6. Bryce Canyon Is Ever-Changing

As long as there’s still snow and gravity, weathering and erosion do not stop.

More hoodoos form every day.

Naturally, the same process that creates the hoodoos destroys them.

As weathering and erosion eat away the rocks, they get thinner and smaller until they eventually crumble.

When you visit Bryce, you will notice older crumbled hoodoos, newer ones, and other hoodoos that might fall apart in the next few years.

7. Sightseeing Is The Main Activity.

Bryce Canyon is all about viewing the hoodoos from different perspectives.

When you don’t have all day, you can visit the popular viewpoints:

  • Sunset point.
  • Sunrise point.
  • Inspiration point 
  • Bryce point.

When you have more time, you can explore 13 other designated viewpoints and the hiking trails.

Besides sightseeing, Bryce Canyon is famous for camping, hiking, horseback riding, ATV tours, cross-country skiing, biking, sleigh riding, and stargazing.

8. Bryce Canyon Is One Of The Best Places To View The Milky Way.

Bryce Canyon National Park received the International Dark Sky status in 2019.

On a clear night during a new moon, you can see 7,500 stars and the Milky Way.

Bryce’s remote location means minimal air pollution and artificial lighting.

It has one of the darkest and clearest skies. 

More on hoodoos.

How Do Hoodoos Form? 

The extreme winter in Bryce Canyon exaggerates the formation of hoodoos through weathering and erosion. 

Weathering. When the snow melts, the water finds its way into any cracks in the rocks.

But as soon as temperatures fall, the water freezes within the cracks. 

The newly formed ice pushes against the crack’s walls.

This widens the gap, and it weakens the rock.

Erosion. When the ice melts and mixes with carbon dioxide in the air, it forms a weak acid (carbonic acid).

The weak acid dissolves the rock minerals even further as it seeps through the cracks. 

The rocks in the canyon have different mineral compositions. But most of the stones are limestone-rich.

The limestone in the rock dissolves faster than other minerals. This is why hoodoos have irregular shapes.

Why Are The Hoodoos Red?

The limestone-rich rocks also have sandstones.

Most sandstones occur in shades of red because of rust (iron oxide).

This gives Bryce Canyon hoodoos their red, orange, and yellow shades.

Are you planning to visit Bryce Canyon National park?

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