MATHER POINT

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Mather Point is one of the first canyon overlooks that visitors coming into the park through the south entrance will encounter. Visitors getting their first glimpse of the Canyon here can marvel at the 10 mile distance between where they are standing and the North Rim, gaze into the mile-deep abyss, ponder the power of the Colorado River snaking below, and admire the colorful Kaibab Limestone, Coconino Sandstone, and Vishnu Schist rock layers that are visible.

The point has two overlooks with safety rails built on rocks that project out into the Canyon. The view spans from Bright Angel Trail (west of the point) to the South Kaibab Trail, which begins at Yaki Point to the east. In between, Pipe Creek, O’Neill Butte, and the Tonto Trail are also visible. If looking towards the North Rim, Bright Angel Creek can be seen as it flows for 10 miles among various buttes and ravines.

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Visitors view the sunset at Mather Point on the South Rim after a dusting of winter snow.

Credit: Mike Quinn, NPS photo.

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Stephen Mather, first director of the National Park Service, helped laid the foundation for the national park system Americans enjoy today.

Credit: Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-3863 DLC.

Mather Point is named after Stephen Mather, the first director of the National Park Service and one of the main advocates for establishing a Grand Canyon National Park. His work in the borax industry made Mather a millionaire, and as hobbies he enjoyed hiking and mountaineering. He later became part of the campaign to create a single federal agency that would oversee all national parks, which at that time were managed by a variety of agencies including the Forest Service and War Department. His advocacy and influence were instrumental in the creation of the National Park Service in 1916. As a reward for his efforts, in May 1917 Mather was named the first director of the new National Park Service. Mather believed that landscapes of magnificent scenery and unusual beauty should be preserved, but he also encouraged the development of tourism, cooperating with railroads and concessionaires to help get visitors to remote parks and provide them with desirable comforts. He also spent a great deal of his own money building much-needed infrastructure in many of the early parks.

In 2000, the NPS opened Canyon View Information Plaza, a new visitor center, just south of Mather Point. The site offers indoor facilities for talks and programs, a bookstore, food vendors, and many outdoor exhibits that offer a variety of information about the park and suggestions for what to see and do.

The NPS is currently working on several visitor improvements in the Mather Point area, such as constructing a rim-side amphitheater, adding a new shuttle bus stop and picnic areas, and creating more parking spaces. Visitors can reach Mather Point by hiking along the rim trail east from Grand Canyon Village, driving their personal automobile, or taking the park’s free shuttle system.

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The NPS opened Canyon View Information Center just south of Mather Point in October 2000. Revegetation projects have since helped to restore the natural landscape that was disturbed by construction.

Credit: Sarah Bohl Gerke.


written by Sarah Bohl Gerke


Suggested Reading:

  • Anderson, Michael F. Living at the Edge: Explorers, Exploiters and Settlers of the Grand Canyon Region. Grand Canyon Association, 1998.

  • Anderson, Michael. Polishing the Jewel: An Administrative History of Grand Canyon National Park. Grand Canyon Association, 2000.

  • Shankland, Robert. Steve Mather of the National Parks. New York: Knopf, 1951.