Pipe Spring Offers Insights Into Pioneer and Paiute Lifestyles

Early Pipe Spring visitors included explorers like Jacob Hamblin & John Wesley Powell, Mormon leaders like Brigham Young, U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt and Stephen Mather, the first director of the National Park system.
Early Pipe Spring visitors included explorers like Jacob Hamblin & John Wesley Powell, Mormon leaders like Brigham Young, U.S. Presidents Roosevelt and Harding, and Stephen Mather, the first director of the National Park system.
About an hour’s drive from Nielson RV in Hurricane, Utah, is a small National Monument which is often ignored, even by locals. If you’ve ever driven State Route 59 between Hurricane and Kanab, you’ve driven right past it. So what is Pipe Spring, and what makes it worthy of National Monument status?

Pipe Spring was an important source of water for hundreds of years prior to the arrival of Mormon settlers. Paiute Indians lived near and relied upon the gushing spring for survival, and in the late 1850’s, Mormons quickly learned that if they could control the water, they could control the Indians. They built a fort around the spring and developed a large cattle ranching operation which became essential to all of the Mormons living in and near St. George, the southernmost stronghold of the Mormon Empire which stretched from what is now Idaho to San Bernadino, California and Central Arizona.

In-spite of many small conflicts and cultural mis-understandings, Mormons and Paiutes learned to cooperate and watch out for each other. Raiding Navajos and Utes were a threat to both groups of people, and they found that sticking together was the best way to survive. The Natives taught the Mormons much about the area, including what plants could be eaten, what to expect from seasonal changes in this strange and foreboding land, and how to navigate the maze-like terrain in their travels throughout the region. The Mormons were able to teach Paiutes about their agricultural practices, provided protection and educated them about the ways of the white man, something which would be crucial to the survival of Natives in the coming years.

A visit to Pipe Spring provides a chance to learn more about pioneer life, the Paiute Indians, the development of the southwestern United States, and cultural conflicts among people with vastly different ways of life. A short tour of the fort and other buildings, a walk to nearby petroglyphs from Ancestral Puebloan people who once occupied this region, and a very informative film presentation are essential to your Pipe Spring visit. A small but well-stocked gift shop provides topically relevant books and souvenirs for travelers.

Include Pipe Spring in your visit to Zion, Bryce or Grand Canyon’s North Rim. It will enhance your understanding of the area, and provide cultural context to the stunning scenery of the desert southwest.

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