Visit Bryce Canyon, and your eyes will be treated to Mother Nature’s vast palette of colors splashed in vivid ribbons from the valley floor to the tops of the surrounding mountains. Look a little more closely, and you will notice towering stacks of multi-hued stone that widen and narrow as they tower toward the sky. These are the hoodoos that visitors by the thousands from all over the world come to see every year. Oohs and ahs, gasps of disbelief, and remarks about the indescribable beauty can be heard as those who have never visited this place behold it for the first time. And while it is true that science can explain this natural wonder with terms like erosion, climate, limestone, siltstone, dolomite, mudstone, the ancient sedimentation, and the Cretaceous and Tertiary Periods, the legend is so much more interesting.
Tradition has it that the Legend People lived in the area long before Europeans walked on this portion of the earth. Theirs was the time of the gods when the trickster god Coyote ruled over this land. The Legend People were a gluttonous bunch and would never be described as conservationists. They ate, drank, and made merry as they plowed through the region like a hoard of hungry locusts. Before long, they had stripped the plants and pine trees of all the pine nuts and other naturally-occurring foods, the water was gone, and there was nothing left for the animals to help them through the rapidly approaching frigid winter.
Devising a way to get back at the Legend People, Coyote feigned admiration and invited them to a celebration feast. There would be food, music, dancing, and all sorts of other things, making this a festival no one wanted to miss. The Legend People came in their most elaborate warpaint and their finest, most colorful clothing. As they awaited the feast, Coyote cast a curse on them that would turn them to stone.
Learning about the ruse, the Legend People fled the canyon floor in a desperate attempt to save their lives. But none would escape. Some quickly turned to stone while others climbed over their petrifying corpses only to be turned to stone as well.
These are the hoodoos that rise from the canyon floor and cling to the sides of the cliffs. They are as vivid and colorful as the Legend People were that fateful day. Coyote found a way to contain the gluttony that threatened to destroy the area, and in so doing, provided a way for the plants and animals to thrive.
If you want to see the hoodoos that were once the Legend People, pack up your car, take plenty of water, lace up your walking shoes, polish your camera lens, and head on over to Bryce Canyon. You won’t be disappointed.