Settled by Mormon Ebenezer Bryce and his wife Mary in 1875, he grazed cattle in the maze-like twists of the streambeds. “...a hell of a place to lose a cow!” Ebenezer built a home at the mouth of what his neighbors called “Bryce’s Canyon." He actually earned his living harvesting timber until he got discouraged by failed efforts to irrigate and because he was isolated from buyers. There were no roads, their wagons and wagon wheels were worn out, and their horses or ox teams were poor and unable to make trips. They didn’t have time to enjoy the view. So, they moved to Arizona.
To the Paiute people who have lived in the region for centuries, the remarkable formations came into being in legendary times, when animal people were so displeased that powerful Coyote turned them into stone. Native’s name translates to “red rocks standing like men in a bowl shaped canyon.”
A recent archeological survey of Bryce Canyon National Park and the Paunsaugunt Plateau shows that people have been marveling at Bryce's hoodoos for at least 10,000 years. It is suspected that throughout history, just as today, most people were just passing through. Bryce Canyon winters are so harsh that even modern year-round habitation is difficult. Yet Paleo Indians hunted huge mammals here at the end of the Ice Age. Paiutes frequented the plateau to harvest pine nuts and conduct broad scale rabbit hunts called rabbit drives.
The rugged topography of Bryce was an obstacle to early Euro-American explorers and settlers. We know they traveled in the area and perhaps trappers did too, but there is scant record. It seems likely that trappers came here since Paunsaugant is a Paiute words meaning “home of the beavers.”
Mormon pioneers diverted water from the plateau top into the valley below by digging a 10-mile (16 km) long irrigation ditch through the forests and rocky cliffs of what would later become the park. Their efforts made the dry valleys below the cliffs of Bryce suitable for agriculture, and gave them reason to name the town of Tropic, Utah. As they were establishing farms, ranchers and villages, scientists and surveyors found much interest in the area.
The person most responsible for Bryce Canyon becoming a National Park was J. W. Humphrey. Mr. Humphrey was a U. S. Forest Service Supervisor who was transferred to Panguitch, Utah in July 1915. An employee suggested that J. W. view the eastern edge of the Paunsaugunt Plateau. When Humphrey came to the rim, at the point now known as Sunset Point, he was stunned:
“You can perhaps imagine my surprise at the indescribable beauty that greeted us, and it was sundown before I could be dragged from the canyon view. You may be sure that I went back the next morning to see the canyon once more, and to plan in my mind how this attraction could be made accessible to the public.”
J. W. Humphrey had still photographs and movies of the canyon sent to Forest Service officials in Washington D. C. and to officials of the Union Pacific Railroad. Magazine and newspaper articles were written. In 1916, Humphrey secured a $50 appropriation to improve the road and make the rim accessible to automobile traffic.
In 1924, designation as a national park put Bryce Canyon on the map. But it was the Union Pacific Railroad and the Civilian Conservation Corps that made Bryce accessible to modern day travelers. Such improvements quickly made Bryce Canyon first a national attraction, and later an international "must see." Today 1.5 million people come each year to see this little park with enormous appeal, mostly from foreign countries.
By 1919, tourists from Salt Lake City were visiting Bryce Canyon. Reuben (Ruby) and Minnie Syrett grew up in the Panguich area in the late 1800s. They married in 1905. They homesteader a ranch in 1916 on the edge of the Paunsaugunt Plateau. Roads were dirt trails and the nearby amphitheater was little-known but Ruby and Minnie began taking visitors to the rim which eventually developed into a “tourist rest” when they erected tents and supplied meals for overnight guests near Sunset Point. In 1920 the Syretts constructed the physical Tourist’s Rest, a 30 by 71 foot lodge, with eight or ten nearby cabins and an open air dance floor. In 1923, the Union Pacific Railroad bought the Tourist’s Rest land, buildings and water rights from the Syretts.
Ruby and Minnie established Ruby’s Inn just outside the park.
The Post Office established services at the inn and still serves the area throughout the year.
Ruby’s reputation grew as the National Monument grew to a National Park, and soon Ruby’s Inn became a large business operation. What started with tent houses and a place to serve meals, paved the way for modern facilities and services.
Enthusiasm and love for the Bryce area carried over to Ruby’s son Carl. Today the same western hospitality and friendly service is carried on by Carl’s children and grandchildren, who cheerfully welcome you to Ruby’s Inn.