Zane Grey and Rainbow Bridge

Zane Grey sits and marvels at Rainbow Bridge.
[click the image to enlarge]
(Utah State University, Merrill-Cazier Library, Special Collections & Archives, Zane Grey Rainbow Bridge photograph collection, P0672, Box 1, Image 002)

To Zane Grey, Rainbow Bridge and its surrounding areas were a source of inspiration for many of his books, including: The Heritage of the Dessert, Riders of the Purple Sage, The Rainbow Trail, and The Vanishing American. It is no wonder that Zane Grey took interest in Rainbow Bridge, the world’s largest natural stone arch, which at the time, few Anglo Americans had seen.

Zane Grey made several trips to Rainbow Bridge—in 1913, 1922, 1923, and 1929—but previous to Grey’s first trip in 1913, Rainbow Bridge had only been “discovered” for four years. Sometime in 1907, a Navajo man known as The One-Eyed Man of the Salt Clan told Louisa Wade Wetherill, a trader and friend of the Navajo, of a large stone bridge that was North of Navajo Mountain. The One-Eyed Man had died before he could guide Louisa’s husband John Wetherill to the bridge, but other American Indians were also familiar with its location.[1] In 1909, a Piute man named Nasja Begay led a party including John Wetherill and the University of Utah professor Byron Cummings to Rainbow Bridge, making them the first Anglo Americans to view the natural structure.[2] John Wetherill and Nasja Begay were Zane Greys guides on several of his trips to Rainbow Bridge.

[1] Hank Hassell, “Rainbow Bridge: an Illustrated History” (Logan, UT: Utah State University Press, 1999), 43, accessed May 17, 2020, https://digitalcommons.usu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1124&context=usupress_pubs
[2]Hassell, “Rainbow Bridge,”46-52.