5/20/2012 11:22:00 AM Getting in and out The story of the entrance to the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park
California resident Helen Hayes drove her car right into the south entrance to the national park in 1951.
It's all about waiting. Then edging forward a little. Then watching a helicopter, filled with airborne visitors, fly overhead as it heads to the airport in Tusayan. People stand before the large "Grand Canyon National Park" sign while having their photographs taken. Motorcycles zoom in and out of the traffic, hoping for a shot at a quick escape into the park, while all the while the sun beats down overhead.
This is the entrance to the Grand Canyon National Park at the South Rim. Located between the park itself and the town of Tusayan, the entrance to the national park can be a hub of activity at the height of the tourist season, with cars lined up nearly as far as the eye can see them - at least for those with bad eyesight. Often, waits at the entrance can be as long as half an hour or more at the busiest time of the year. In the fall and winter months, those waits are less, if at all.
Vehicles have been lining up at the South Rim for over 80 years. Entrances to the park, throughout that period, have continued to evolve. Cars have been a fixture at the South Rim since the 1930s. Prior to that, train service from Williams to the Grand Canyon served as the primary mode of transportation to visitors seeking the splendor of the Canyon. Unlike today, a single lane of road led visitors into the park with a single lane leading out. Today, multiple lanes can be found at the entrance to the South Rim through Tusayan, though a single lane of road still brings visitors out of the park.
With over five million visitors to the park each year, the entrance to the Grand Canyon can be one of the busiest locales in and around the national park. While rare, accidents have been known to occur from time to time. Once such accident occurred on May 1, 1941, when California resident Helen Hayes drove head-long into the entrance station itself. Such was the damage to the structure that it had to be replaced completely later that year. The replacement structure, called Building 235, came complete with nearly 360 degree views from a number of large windows.
While the entrance to the park once sat much closer to the Canyon's edge, it has moved a number of times throughout the last 100 years. The entrance can now be found roughly one mile north of the Tusayan community.