America’s Spectacular National Parks

Hugh Lauter Levin Associates/Random House, 1999

Edited by Letitia Burns O’Connor & Dana Levy

Introduction by Michael Duchemin

Essays by Susan Burke, Leslie Croyder, Mike Macy, Susan J. Tweit

Principal photography by Tom Bean, Craig Blacklock, Liz Hymans, David Muench, Marc Muench, Pat O’Hara, Mike Sedam, Scott Smith

Imagine yourself taking in the stunning scenery and magnificent natural features of California’s Yosemite National Park. Marvel at the panoramic view of the glacier-carved canyon from Inspiration Point. Applaud the thunder of springtime ice and melting snow cascading over Yosemite Falls. Feel mesmerized by the mist rising off the Merced River. Drink in the scent of morning dew. Retire from the hot sun to walk among the shadows of Giant Sequoias in Mariposa Grove. travel through these pages and discover the fascinating wonders of America’s Spectacular National Parks.

From my essay on Bryce Canyon National Park:

Bryce Canyon is named for Mormon settlers Ebenezer and Mary Bryce, who homesteaded in the area between 1875 and 1880. After moving away Ebenezer Bryce reportedly said of the pastel-colored galleries of sculptured rocks that now attract 1.5 million visitors a year: “It’s a hell of a place to lose a cow.” Thanks to lobbying by supporters like J. W. Humphrey, then Supervisor of the surrounding Sevier National Forest, who once offered a skeptic ten dollars if he wasn’t impressed by the view, Bryce Canyon National Monument was established in 1923; five years later, it was enlarged to its current size and designated a national park. 

At fifty-six square miles, eighteen miles long and only five miles wide at its widest, Bryce Canyon is Utah’s smallest national park. Geologically, it is not really a canyon, but a series of amphitheaters or natural bowls carved into the edge of the 9,000-foot-high Paunsaugunt Plateau, one of string of high plateaus (Zion National Park occupies another) that rise above the slickrock desert of southwestern Utah. …

Paiute Indians, who summered in what is now Bryce Canyon National Park until they were driven out in the 1870s, believed the sculptured rocks were once birds, animals and lizards that had the power to turn themselves into humans. According to the Paiutes, these early residents took to gambling and quarreling, so angering the god Shin-Owav that he turned them into stone. There they stand today, for all to see.