‘Trailblazers and Travelogues’ brings Zion National Park history to life

Tichnor Brothers postcard of Zion National Park, circa 1930-1945 | Public domain, St. George News

CEDAR CITY — The personal stories of three Zion National Park pioneers will come to life Thursday in “Trailblazers and Travelogues,” an hour-long performance that retells first-person accounts of the world renowned Southern Utah park before it became the tourist haven it is today.

Daring Isadora "Dora" Montague dangles off the side of a cliff to sketch the landscape before her in Zion Canyon National Park, Southern Utah, Date unspecified | Photo courtesy of Melissa Clark provided by SUU Outdoor Education Series, St. George News
Daring Isadora “Dora” Montague dangles off the side of a cliff to sketch the landscape before her in Zion Canyon National Park, Southern Utah, Date unspecified | Photo courtesy of Melissa Clark, provided by SUU Outdoor Education Series, St. George News

The presentation was organized by Southern Utah University Outdoor Education Series coordinator Ashley Starr in celebration of the National Park Service centennial. It will begin at 11:30 a.m. in the Sharwan Smith Living Room at Southern Utah University.

“Trailblazers and Travelogues” will include tales of Isaac Behunin, the man credited with naming Zion; Frederick Dellenbaugh, the artist who put Zion on the map; and young Isadora “Dora” Montague, a fearless woman who became the the face of Zion adventure in the early 1900s. Stories will be told by actors such as Michael Bahr, education director for the Tony Award-winning Utah Shakespeare Festival.

“(Dellenbaugh) went into Zion and took all of these pictures, did sketches and then went home and made these amazing paintings that were in the 1904 (St. Louis) World’s Fair,” Starr said, “and people were like, ‘This place doesn’t exist — you’re making it up.’”

Between the vivid depictions of Zion’s ethereal landscapes and an article published in the 1904 edition of Scribner’s Magazine, Starr said, Dellenbaugh’s passion for the colorful canyon ignited a curiosity in would-be explorers and pioneers across the country, enticing them to visit the vast canyonland.

According to the National Park Service, Dellenbaugh introduced Zion Canyon to the nation with these words:

One hardly knows just how to think of it. Never before has such a naked mountain of rock entered into our minds! Without a shred of disguise its transcendent form rises preeminent. There is almost nothing to compare to it. Niagara has the beauty of energy; the Grand Canyon, of immensity; the Yellowstone, of singularity; the Yosemite, of altitude; the ocean, of power; this Great Temple, of eternity—

Proximity was only one of the reasons Starr chose to focus on Zion so heavily in Thursday’s education series lecture, she said.

“Also, one reason that Zion is particularly fascinating is (because) it was, during the time of John Wesley Powell’s expeditions, it was the only uncharted, unmapped territory in all of the United States,” Starr said.

The “Outdoor Education Series” is a collaborative endeavor between the Southern Utah University Outdoor Engagement Center and biology department in an effort to bring the public a new education series that focuses on the environmental world surrounding Southern Utah.

Half of the series is dedicated to biology discussions every other Tuesday in the university’s science center building, Room 114, at 4 p.m. The other half of the series features a casual “lunch and learn” atmosphere every Thursday at 11:30 a.m. in the Sharwan Smith Living Room.

“On occasion, extension activities are planned for the weekend following a lecture to apply practical application,” Starr said in an email.

Attendance at “Outdoor Education Series” lectures can range from eight to 30 people of all ages. Audience participation is encouraged through rhetorical questions, hands-on activities, probable scenarios, printouts and post-lecture question-and-answer discussions.

The series will continue until April 14, offering Southern Utah University students, faculty and staff — as well as the general public — an opportunity to learn more about the natural playground available in the region.

Upcoming March “Outdoor Education Series” lectures:

  • What: Lecture: “Spotlight on Grand Canyon – Parashant National Monument”
  • When: March 24 | 11:30 a.m.
  • Where: Sharwan Smith Living Room on the Southern Utah University campus
  • This event is free and open to the public

Upcoming March biology seminars:

  • When and what:
    • March 15, 4 p.m. | Department of Natural Resources Southern Region Habitat | Presented by Garry Bezzant
    • March 29, 4 p.m. | Prairie Dog Recovery | Presented by Adam Kavalunas and Jess Van Woeart
  • Where: Southern Utah University Science Center | Room 114
  • How much: Free | Open to the public

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

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