For over a hundred years Jacob Lake Inn has been taking care of travelers from all over the world. Nestled in the towering pines of the Kaibab National Forest we are the gateway to the North rim of the Grand Canyon. “Travelers are our guests and are welcome in our home. “
When Harold and Nina N. Bowman established Jacob Lake Inn in 1923, their families had been involved in the exploration and settling of much of southern Utah and the Arizona Strip. Nina’s grandfather, Franklin B. Woolley, wrote the 1866 cavalry exploration report of the territory from St. George to the Kaibab Plateau to the mouth of the Green River. The report included the first official descriptions and map of the area. Harold’s father, Henry E. Bowman, engineered and supplied the cable tram that crossed the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. Henry also built (with a lot of help from the people of Kanab, Glendale, and Orderville) the first road from Kanab, Utah to Mt. Carmel. This made the area more accessible to travelers and tourists.
Franklin B.’s brother, Edwin D. Woolley Jr was one of the first white men to see the Grand Canyon from the North Rim. Upon seeing it he almost fell off his horse and exclaimed “This is one of the wonders of the world! People will come from all corners of the globe and pay large sums of money to gaze at what we now behold.” As a local community leader and a man of wonderful vision, Woolley saw the importance of tourism in the growth of Southern Utah and the Grand Canyon area. Due to the lack of water for large scale agriculture, this region had limited economic potential.
Edwin D. continually sought to plan and develop ways to open Southern Utah and the North Rim area to people from around the world. He organized many expeditions to the North Rim, bring- ing groups of dignitaries, important businessmen and important politicians to the area. Some of his more illustrious guests included Buffalo Bill Cody and Zane Grey. In 1890 Edwin D. convinced a group of English noblemen accompanied by Buffalo Bill to invest in developing this prime hunting ground. However, the lack of adequate roads spoiled the deal.
After riding in an automobile for the first time in 1908, Edwin D. planned and guided the first automobile trip in 1913 to the North Rim. This incredible feat was accomplished by building the road as they went. This also required gas to be shipped 320 miles from the closest gas station which was in Salt Lake City. President Teddy Roosevelt also frequented the Kaibab. In 1903, Roosevelt, with his two older sons and nephew, made an expedition from the South Rim to the North Rim. Roosevelt’s impressions of the Grand Canyon, together with his hunting experiences on the Kaibab, led him to push for a change in the status of the Grand Canyon. In 1908 this national forest and game reserve became a national monument, which led to its eventual designation as a National Park in 1919.
In 1923, Harold and Nina Bowman, realizing the improved mobility the automobile afforded travelers, started a business selling gas from a fifty-gallon barrel in the back of a truck. This venture, originally located on the “shores” of Jacob Lake, began a short two years after their marriage. They each had a heritage of pioneering men and women and neither was daunted by this enterprise.
The first lodge was built a year later on the ridge above the lake (across from what is now the Kaibab Kamper Village) at the head of Jacob Canyon. As Harold stated in his personal history “Jacob Lake Inn was quite an experiment at first. We built a two room cabin, and Nina moved out there and just used quilts for doors. She took care of the place and her brother Ezra Nixon ran the service station. If we could sell a barrel of gas in one day, we thought we had had good business.” As described before, the first lodge had two rooms, a main room in which root beer and Native American crafts were sold and a kitchen where meals were prepared for visitors, family and staff. This lodge remained by Jacob Lake unti11929 when the highway, which had come up through the narrow Jacob Canyon, was moved. This old road was an enlargement of the original trail used by Jacob Hamblin and the Piutes as they trekked the shortest distance to water at Jacob Lake. With the increase in travel, thanks to the automobile, a highway was engineered and constructed to allow safe travel up the spine of the mountain. With this new highway changing the route of travel, the Bowmans built the new Jacob Lake Inn at its present location, what is now the junction of Highway 89a and Highway 67.
When Harold learned that the location of the new highway junction was positioned at the base of a large hill, and that it would be an inconvenient location for travelers headed to the Grand Canyon, Harold borrowed a BPR grader and built a better road. This shifted the junction of the road from the base of the hill to the flatter land right in front of the Jacob Lake Inn. Harold’s road became the more traveled route, and when the highway was paved In the mid thirties, it became the official highway.
Effie Dean Bowman (Rich) was born in 1923, the same year as Jacob Lake Inn, so to speak. Harold Jr. was born in 1927. In 1929, Effie Dean and Harold began the lifestyle of spending summers at Jacob Lake and winters in Salt Lake City when Effie Dean entered the first grade. On the Kaibab they had dogs, squirrels and porcupines for pets and each other for friends as they watched their parents work hard. Nina would start the day doing laundry, then move to baking and cooking, then working in the gift shop. Harold Sr. was always building onto the lodge, greeting customers (if a car stopped out in the road, he would go out and give directions and invite the guests in), and helped to keep things running smoothly. Effie Dean and Harold Jr. started working at a young age. Effie Dean, at age seven, started the very important job of emptying slop jars in the rooms. Harold Jr. started at age four taking firewood to all the cabins. They washed dishes, cleaned rooms, emptied slop jars, gathered firewood, and moved on to other jobs. Effie Dean began waitressing at thirteen, and Harold started in the service station at eight.
As more people traveled to see the Grand Canyon North Rim, Jacob Lake Inn’s reputation for hospitality and good food began to grow. The Prince of Siam and his entourage stopped on their way to the Canyon and even though he was a reluctant subject, Nina captured his likeness for posterity. The lodge also expanded with the growing number of tourists, adding a dining room, new motel units, and even relocating the gas station twice. The staff kept growing too, and soon it grew beyond the scope of family and friends. Annual pilgrimages to regional colleges and universities or any place they could find good employees began bringing bright, friendly young people to the Inn to help care for their children and serve their guests.
Effie Dean and Harold Jr. continued working with the family after pursuing an education, military service, and their respective marriages (Effie Dean married John P. Rich and Harold married Afton Kunz). Soon the third generation began. John Jr. and Bonnie, Nina, Steve, Harold III, Chris, Kent, Kim, Genene, Mary Lynne, and Matt all helped keep the business going.
They started out by showing guests to their cabins, washing headlights (they couldn’t reach the windshields), bussing tables, crushing and bagging ice, slicing bread, washing dishes, hauling trash, chopping wood, herding cattle, fixing fences, and any number of jobs that needed doing. During these summers they worked alongside the young people, explored the Kaibab Forest roads on their days off, and traveled back home to Salt Lake for the fall and winter to attend school. Harold Jr. once stated he was neither a country hick nor a city slicker, he had the best of both, and now the fourth generation of the Bowman family has experienced this fortunate life as well.
As time went on, Harold Jr.’s wife and children pursued other interests and professions, while the children of Effie Dean, their spouses, and grandchildren, continue the seasonal trek to the Kaibab.They manage the lodge, hire personnel, and perform the tasks regular employees won’t do. As Jacob Lake’s founding generations pass on, (Nina N. in 1959, Harold Jr. in 1961, Harold Sr. in 1974, and John Rich Sr. in 1995, Effie Dean in 2014), those that remain acknowledge the heritage that their pioneering ancestors set forth. This legacy of hard work, friendly knowledgeable service, excellent products, and a love for the Kaibab, the Grand Canyon, and the red rock deserts they call home.