Fascinating facts<br>behind Canyon place names
GC VILLAGE — Bright Angel Trail ... El Tovar Hotel ... Moran Point. Have you ever wondered just how some of those spots in the Grand Canyon’s South Rim vicinity got their names?
As one could guess, most of the names at Grand Canyon originate with area history.
Grand Canyon pioneer Capt. John Hance was the namesake for the South Rim area that would become Grand Canyon Village. It was originally known simply as Hance's Tank.
Let’s start with Grand Canyon Village itself. The village was originally called Hance’s Tank, named for Capt. John Hance, the first permanent settler on the South Rim. Hance came to the area in 1882 and operated a hotel near Grandview Point.
In 1902, the village became established with the arrival of the U.S. Postal Service. Martin Buggeln was the first postmaster and the South Rim spot became known as Grand Canyon Village.
Maj. John Wesley Powell, the one-armed Civil War veteran who made two expeditions down the Colorado River, named the Grand Canyon on his first trip through in 1869. It had previously been known as the Big Canyon or the Great Canyon by those who knew of its existence.
The most popular trail descending into the Grand Canyon from the South Rim developed area is the Bright Angel Trail. There’s also the Bright Angel Bridge, Bright Angel Lodge and Bright Angel Creek. Just where does this term "Bright Angel" originate?
Once again, the famous Powell expeditions come into play. Powell named Bright Angel Creek, writing "The little affluent we discovered here is a clear, beautiful creek or river ... in beautiful contrast, we concluded to name it Bright Angel."
The creek flows from the northern part of the Canyon into the Colorado River. The bridge was built over the creek in 1970.
The Bright Angel Trail has a long and controversial history. It was built by Ralph Cameron, the U.S. senator, to reach his copper mines and was originally named Cameron Trail. The trail was eventually sold to Coconino County and it was renamed Bright Angel Trail.
Down the trail at the bottom of the Canyon lies Phantom Ranch. The spot was originally called Rust’s Camp, built in 1903 for tourists and hunters traveling from rim to rim. David Rust, along with his father-in-law E.D. Woolley, constructed trails and planted cottonwood and fruit trees. Significant contributions for Rust included the improvement of the Matthes Trail to Bright Angel Creek and a cable car across the river in 1907.
Mary Jane Colter designed the tourist accommodations at Rust’s Camp and in 1922, it was renamed Phantom Ranch.
A popular spot on the South Rim for young couples to wed is Shoshone Point, located east of Yaki Point. This overlook, accessed through a gated road, has an interesting background.
Although the Shoshone Indian tribe lived primarily in California, Nevada, Utah and Idaho, the Hopi Indians of northern Arizona speak a Shoshonean dialect. This is where the name for the point likely originated.
Cremation Canyon, located at the head of Shoshone Point, is a spot where Indians would offer their dead to the Canyon. The spot is still used for wakes and weddings.
The famous El Tovar Hotel has been the setting for a series of historic events and has served as accommodations for many famous public figures at the Grand Canyon since the early 20th century. The hotel is named after Don Pedro Tovar, a captain with the Coronado expedition in the 1540s.
Interestingly, Tovar is said to have never seen the Grand Canyon. Tovar explored the Tusayan forest and visited area Indian tribes in a search for information about the area. He was told about a great river and a group of 12 soldiers was sent to find it. This led to the first visit of Europeans to the Canyon.
Artists have undoubtedly played a role in the popularity of Grand Canyon, particularly in the early days. Thomas Moran was one of those artists.
Moran visited the Canyon in 1881 and did many famous paintings. Between Grandview Point and Desert View is a point named after Moran. Moran Point was formerly known as Ute Point.
Three miles southwest of the village is Rowe Well, off the road to Pasture Wash. The spot was formerly a ranger station. It was named for an early prospector named Sanford Rowe.
(Editor's note: Several sources were consulted in the research of Grand Canyon place names, mainly, the Will C. Barnes book "Arizona Place Names," published in 1988 by the University of Arizona Press).