Livestock grazing has held an important place in history on the Arizona Strip since the 1850's. While early cattle operations ended in disaster as raiding Navajo and Paiute fought to regain their land, federal negotiations brought peace in the late 1860's and the opportunity for grazing operations to be established.
The first noted cattle operation, within what is today the Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument, was established by the Whitmore family in an area near Oak Spring on the flanks of Mt. Logan. In 1879, the Canaan Company established a dairy ranch at Oak Grove. Other settlers followed suit, and as cattle herds expanded, overgrazing and misuse of water resources resulted.
In 1883, declining profits prompted the Canaan Company to sell the Oak Grove ranch to Benjamin F. Saunders. Initially, he concentrated his investments in the Shivwits region, but expanded his holdings eastward. His entry marked the beginning of this region's cowboy era and the reign of cattle barons. Saunders sold his Parashant claims to Preston Nutter, a wealthy Utah cattleman. By 1900, Nutter had acquired control of almost all of the Arizona Strip, with an estimated 25,000 cattle, maintaining his dominance until his death in 1936.
Before federal regulation limited the number of livestock permitted on public lands, ranchers ran in excess of 100,000 head of cattle. Additionally, in the 1930's sheep men grazed more than a quarter-million head of sheep. As was the case in much of the west, conflict rose as both pursued the limited forage and water. The passage of the Taylor Grazing Act in 1934 gave order and federal administrative authority to public grazing lands, preventing overgrazing and bringing stability to the livestock industry dependent upon the public range.
Today, there are 117 cattle permit holders on Arizona Strip public lands administered by the BLM and NPS. Where there were once more than 100,000 head of cattle, permits are now issued for 15,000 cows and no sheep. Grazing remains an important component of the multiple-use management in Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument. For the new generation however, ranching is a sideline, a labor of love performed on weekends and days off while the regular paycheck is earned in town. Few full-time residents live in this remote area today.
Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument
345 East Riverside Drive
St. George, UT 84790-6714
Phone: (435) 688-3200
Fax: (435) 688-3258
Monument Manager: Pam McAlpin
Hours: 7:45 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., Monday-Friday
10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m., Saturday