Sometimes, the story behind how a person or place got its name can be just as interesting as the person or place itself. Kanab, Utah has its own fascinating story. The word “Kanab” translates to “Place of Willows” in the language of the Native American Paiute people.
The Paiute are native to Utah, as well as Idaho, Oregon, California and Nevada. They arrived in Utah around 1100-1200 A.D., and settled in the southwestern corner of the state. Rich with their own unique culture and way of life, the Utah Paiutes found great importance in family. They valued unity among each other over leadership. They were talented agriculturalists, and believed in the supernatural powers of animals, particularly wolves and coyotes. Unfortunately, the Paiutes fell victim to the arrival of Europeans, beginning in the 1800s. Traders and trappers exploited the natural resources the Paiutes relied upon for food and materials; missionary settlers sought to convert the Paiutes, altering their traditional lifestyle and beliefs forever.
Despite its demise, the Paiute culture lives on in the name “Kanab.” When you imagine a “Place of Willows,” you might be picturing the gently swaying branches of weeping willow tree—yes, an odd image to be associated with a destination known for its natural desert beauty. The name “Kanab” actually refers to a plant known as a creek willow, or narrow leaf willow. Creek willow grows along Kanab Creek, one of the many tributaries of the Grand Canyon, and is known for the healing qualities of its bark. The bark contains salicin, an extract similar to aspirin that can soothe aches and fevers.
In 2013, the Bob Bon Inn will undergo renovation and reopen as the Willows Lodge, a moniker intended to honor the Kanab’s early history and inhabitants. Keep an eye out for this property next time you visit us here in Southern Utah.