Framing Nature


Framing Nature

The Creation of an American Icon at the Grand Canyon

Yolonda Youngs

America’s Public Lands Series

408 pages
79 photographs, 35 illustrations, 26 maps, 3 graphs, 1 chronology, 2 appendixes, index


June 2024


$35.00 Pre-order
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June 2024


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eBook (PDF)
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June 2024


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About the Book

The Grand Canyon of the Colorado River is an internationally known feature of the North American landscape, attracting more than five million visitors each year. A deep cultural, visual, and social history has shaped the Grand Canyon’s environment into one of America’s most significant representations of nature. Yet the canyon is more than a vacation destination, a movie backdrop, or a scenic viewpoint; it is a real place as well as an abstraction easily summoned in the minds of Americans. The Grand Canyon, or the idea of it, is woven into the fabric of American cultural identity and serves as a cultural reference point—an icon.

In Framing Nature Yolonda Youngs traces the idea of the Grand Canyon as an icon and the ways people came to know it through popular imagery and visual media. She analyzes and interprets more than fourteen hundred visual artifacts, including postcards, maps, magazine illustrations, and photographs of the Grand Canyon, supplemented with the words and ideas of writers, artists, explorers, and other media makers from 1869 to 2022. Youngs considers the manipulation and commodification of visual representations and shifting ideas, values, and meanings of nature, exploring the interplay between humans and their environments and how visual representations shape popular ideas and meanings about national parks and the American West. Framing Nature provides a novel interpretation of how places, especially national parks, are transformed into national and environmental symbols.

Author Bio

Yolonda Youngs is an associate professor in the Department of Geography and Environmental Studies at California State University, San Bernardino. She is the coeditor of The American Environment Revisited: Environmental Historical Geographies of the United States.


“An excellent book that advances an understanding of how places such as the Grand Canyon are socially constructed over time, an important and enduring theme within geographical research.”—Lisa Benton-Short, author of The National Mall: No Ordinary Public Space

“In an era of accelerating global climate change, the enhanced understanding Yolonda Youngs provides—of how past manipulations of the Grand Canyon’s visual representation influenced our understanding and management of a signature American national park—will assist us as a society in making appropriate decisions about how to manage such natural resources in the future.”—Peter J. Blodgett, H. Russell Smith Foundation Curator of Western American History at the Huntington Library

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
List of Abbreviations
A Selected Chronology of Grand Canyon National Park
Introduction: A View from the Rim
Part 1. Finding the Grand Canyon
1. The Greater Grand Canyon Region
2. A Great Innovation in Modern Ideas of Scenery: The Emergence of the Grand Canyon on the American Cultural Scene, 18869–892
3. The Viewmakers: The People Behind the Scenes of Postcard Manufacturing
Part 2. Creating the Grand Canyon
4. Nature as Tourism
5. Scenic Drives
Part 3. Framing the View
6. Editing Nature
7. People In (and Out of) Place
8. Canyon Be Dammed
9. Where Is the “Real” Grand Canyon?
Conclusion: From Rim to River and Beyond
Appendix A: Annual Visitation Statistics for GRCA
Appendix B: Park Visitation Statistics, Content Analysis Decoded, Data Tables

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