Pipe Springs National Monument

WRITTEN BY: MEGAN KOPP

Travelling from St. George, Utah to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, Arizona, we were looking for a place to pull over to make lunch when we saw a sign for Pipe Spring National Monument. Washrooms and maybe a picnic table – perfect!

We didn’t know anything about the site, but with hunger sated and a National Park Pass already in hand, we thought we’d pop in and have a quick look.

Two hours later we managed to pull ourselves away.

Overlooking Pipe Spring National Monument. (Photo: B. Kopp)
Overlooking Pipe Spring National Monument. (Photo: B. Kopp)

A Mormon Tithing Ranch
Pipe Spring National Monument was established in 1923, but it started as a Mormon Tithing Ranch. Mormon pioneers in the 1870s often paid their tithes to the church with livestock – not cash. The Southern Utah Tithing Office often accepted cattle as tithes and the stock was sent to Pipe Spring.

In 1870, the Mormons began building a fortified ranch house at Pipe Spring. Master stone masons Elijah and Elisha Averett and dozens of workers laboured for over a year and a half to build Winsor Castle, named after the first ranch manager.

Catwalk joining the buildings of Winsor Castle. (Photo: B. Kopp)
Catwalk joining the buildings of Winsor Castle. (Photo: B. Kopp)

The “castle” is made up of two separate two-storey buildings that face each other. Rock walls at either end enclose the courtyard and join the buildings together. Large wooden doors on either end are wide enough for a wagon to pull through. One building was the home of the ranch manager and the other offered extra bedrooms, cheese and butter-making rooms built over the spring, and a telegraph office.

A Telegraph Office
When the transcontinental telegraph went through Salt Lake City in 1861, Brigham Young was inspired to create a communication network owned by the Mormon Church.  After 1864, Civil War-surplus telegraph materials were cheap. The Deseret Telegraph system was started in 1866.

The Desert Telegraph (Photo: B. Kopp)
The Desert Telegraph (Photo: B. Kopp)

Pipe Spring became a telegraph station in 1871. Sixteen-year-old Eliza Luella (Ella) Stewart was the first telegraph operator at Pipe Spring. From 1871 to 1888 at least seven women operated the telegraph instruments at Pipe Spring.

Interpretive panel photo of Ella Stewart - the first telegraph operator at Pipe Spring.
Interpretive panel photo of Ella Stewart – the first telegraph operator at Pipe Spring.

A National Monument
The Mormon Church sold the property to a private owner in 1895. In 1920 the newly appointed Director of the National Park Service, Stephen Mather, passed by the spring on a road trip. Mather believed that one day Americans would explore the West in their own cars and he believed that Pipe Spring would be a perfect stop in between Zion and Grand Canyon. It took him three years of lobbying – and money from his own pocket to help buy the Pipe Spring property – before it was declared a national monument.

If You Go:

  • Don’t miss walking the Ridge Trail. It’s a short climb up to the top of the low cliffs that overlook the monument. The views are spectacular.
  • Pipe Spring is 45 miles east of Hurricane, Utah on AZ State Route 389. For more information about Pipe Spring, visit the National Park Service website. http://www.nps.gov/pisp/index.htm

 

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