It’s Surprising Who Helped Zion Become A Tourist Destination
Zion National Park has become a destination for millions of people and that was just this last year. With over 5 million visitors annually and still growing, all these are coming to bask in the park’s majestic scenery. How did this area of canyons and rock become known worldwide? You can blame it partly on the railroad.
But there’s no railroad through Springdale. There aren’t any tracks running through Washington County. And yet, it was the vision of the Union Pacific Railroad that helped put Zion National Park on the map and it goes back to the 1920’s
In 1923 the railroad company built a spur from Lund to Cedar City in part, because they recognized the potential of Bryce Canyon and Zion as tourist destinations. Zion had received National Park status four years before. People would ride the train to Cedar City and then catch a bus that would take them around Southern Utah.
To make it more accessible for people visiting, the Utah Parks Company, a subsidiary of Union Pacific Railroad, built Zion Lodge in the center of the canyon. This created a place for people to stay when they came to visit. In fact, you can still stay in the Lodge today with amazing views out your window.
Though it burned down in 1966, it was quickly rebuilt and still stands in the park today. It had a big impact on the number of visitors coming to Zion. When you see the tourists streaming into Springdale and hopping on shuttles to explore the scenic wonder, remember the railroad thought of it first.
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Gallery Credit: Alexander Raeburn