Desert Pearl Inn History

“Desert Pearl Inn is not a chain hotel, but a love affair.”

Dear Guest,

My wife, Robin, and I would like to share our history with Zion Canyon and how that connection inspired us to build, own, and manage the inn that embodies my family’s love of this canyon beginning more than 100 years ago.

My ancestors were among the original settlers of southwestern Utah in the mid-1800s. My father, Jethro Palmer—Cedar City sheep rancher and Utah history buff—would, as a young man, walk over Cedar Mountain through the gorges and tributaries that feed the Virgin River and into Zion Canyon. From these forays, he gained a love for and knowledge of Zion Canyon’s Markagunt Plateau and was well suited to be a driver/guide of a tour bus in the early days of the Utah Parks Company. He transported visitors arriving by train at Cedar City to the southwestern national parks of Bryce, Zion, and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.

My mother graduated from college at the onset of the Great Depression when jobs were scarce everywhere. Mom accepted a position with the State of Utah to help the needy in the remote towns of Virgin, Grafton (now a famous ghost town), Rockville, Schoenberg, and Springdale. Traveling regularly throughout this rugged country, she developed a special connection with Zion Canyon. Even at the age of 100, my mom still anticipated a day trip to the area.

While we were growing up, my parents shared their love for southern Utah with my siblings and me. Like our father, my older brother drove a tour bus through Bryce, Zion, and the North Rim Parks. My sister worked for six summers at one or another of the three lodges and to this day especially treasures her summers at Zion. And I too, as a teenager, spent several wonderful summers working at Zion Lodge.

When Robin and I married, I introduced her to Zion National Park which immediately became her favorite place. Although we lived in Salt Lake City, we spent as much time as possible in Springdale, hiking Zion’s trails and enjoying the magnificent views. We spoke often of moving to Springdale and dreamed of building a special destination point that would enhance a visitor’s stay in one of the most beautiful and spectacular places on earth.

In 1985, we purchased land for the inn, but it would take another decade for our dream to become reality. Thanks to many wonderful friends who helped with zoning, permits, and design, along with substantial doses of encouragement and support, Desert Pearl Inn officially received its first guests on June 1, 1998. We fondly and gratefully remember many Springdale friends who wholeheartedly championed our labor of love, especially Jim Jones, Larry McKown, Virginia Dennett, Walter Hosey, Robert Ralson, and the Crawford sisters: Beulah, Elva, and Della. We are thankful as well to our Salt Lake City friends: Gary Max Collins, Chrisanne Olsen, Jutta Gellersen, and Laurie Downing for their excellent taste, talent, and commitment to our project.

To you, our valued guest… may your stay at Desert Pearl Inn be part of a treasured memory of your visit to Zion Canyon. Our wonderful staff joins us in thanking you for making Desert Pearl Inn your lodging choice. We extend our wishes to you for a most enjoyable stay.

Kent and Robin Palmer