Friday, May 15, 2009

Utah: Happy Birthday, Whatever Your Name Is

It's not every day that you turn 100 years old. But that's exactly what is happening this summer at Zion National Park.

Or, should I say, Mukuntuweap National Monument, the name given to this southern Utah wilderness when it was first federally protected in 1909. There's still some debate about what mukuntuweap means. Late-19th-century explorer John Wesley Powell thought it was a Southern Paiute word for "straight, narrow canyon." If you've ever thru-hiked the Narrows of the Virgin River, you'll probably agree with him.

Don't worry if you miss Zion's centennial party on July 31, when the historic Grotto cabin, the park's first visitor center, is set to reopen as the new home of the park's artist-in-residence. There are more centennial events later this summer:
  • Free showings of classic films shot in and around Zion, like the Western Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, every Thursday night at 7:30 p.m. starting August 13 at Springdale's Canyon Community Center.
  • A walk through the 1.1-mile-long Mt. Carmel-Zion tunnel. It's a once-in-a-lifetime chance to gaze through those panoramic stone windows that vehicles can't stop at. Advance registration ($12) starts at 9 a.m. (MST) on June 26 online at the Zion Natural History Association (ZNHA) website or call (435) 772-0210.
Other NPS sites celebrating their centennial in 2009 include Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument in New Mexico and Navajo National Monument in Arizona.

And here's my shameless self-promotional plug: you can read about these parks in my book Great Destinations: The Four Corners Region: Where Colorado, Utah, Arizona & New Mexico Meet, available from Amazon.

Photo: Zion Canyon (Sara Benson)

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