A Personal Remembrance of Ward J. Roylance

Until Our Paths Cross Again...

Biographical sketches are certainly not my forte. A person’s life, especially the life of someone as dedicated to a significant cause such as Ward, is difficult, if not impossible, to summarize in a few pages of text. I think that it is safe to say that once Ward came under the spell of Red Rock Country, he did everything in his power to increase public awareness and appreciation of this extraordinary land. His contribution cannot merely be measured by the number of books he published or by the amount of environmental legislation he helped to change. Rather, the true contribution must be looked at in terms of the number of people that Ward and his wife Gloria inspired to set out on their own quest in service to the Land. That number, while immeasurable, is immense.

Salt Lake City, Utah - November 19, 1993

I can't help shivering as the brisk air swirls around my body on this very cold November afternoon. I zip up my jacket and quickly tuck my hands into my pockets along with a small bag full of red soil from Red Rock Country. Before me lies the casket of my friend and mentor, Ward Roylance. I look up at the cloudless blue sky which serves as a spectacular backdrop for the snow capped peaks of Wasatch Mountains. Imposing in size and rugged in appearance, it seems impossible not to be awed by the panoramic vista before me. Suspended high in the eastern sky is a quarter moon appearing to gaze down upon the events of the afternoon.

As I stare at the moon I reflect back six months as I stood next to Ward near the Temple of the Moon during a trip into Cathedral Valley. What a splendid trip that was! We spent two days bouncing around the red sand of the valley floor in Ward's truck, gazing upward at the towering monolithic formations in absolute awe at the magnitude of the beauty surrounding us. On that trip Ward heightened my esthetic awareness to an extraordinary degree. I had been on several other trips with Ward and he had taught me a great deal, but in Cathedral Valley I was finally able to truly see. Artistic revelation after revelation pounded my supersaturated senses until I experienced almost spiritual vision of the esthetic perfection of form and design which surrounded us. Much of the art had been there for thousands, even millions, of years. Timeless sentinels, waiting. But waiting for what?

Many a human eye had gazed upon these extraordinary formations and no doubt been impressed by their shear size and form. But how many have seen beyond the rock? How many have seen the traces of divine artistry which lie within the rock? No doubt very few. Few are prepared to have their eyes and souls totally opened. Few are capable of handling the torrent of emotion that accompanies such a revelation. Ward was prepared. He saw what most others could not. But most marvelous of all, Ward could help others to see. In many respects Ward was a lens through which others could sharpen their own focus. He's done it for me and he's done it for others. Anyone who has been touched by Red Rock Country should consider themselves blessed if they had the opportunity to meet Ward.

The following morning Ward and I witnessed a dawn of such unbelievable beauty that much of it was simply beyond the human capacity to absorb. To this day, I struggle with words to adequately express the magnitude of that experience. I think that in our own way, we each had a glimpse of Heaven on that very special morning.

A cold breeze once again encircles my body and tears my thoughts back to the present. As a symbolic gesture of his unity with Red Rock Country, I pour the bag of red sand over Ward’s casket. Several of Ward’s family members and friends do the same. It is hard to not think of a funeral as an end because certainly, in some respects, it is an end. Many things will never be the same. However, for a funeral to represent an absolute end is a tragedy. I find much satisfaction in the fact that Ward's funeral does not fall into this category. Ward has left a legacy for those who continue to walk in his Enchanted Wilderness. Because of the seeds he has sown, his spirit will live on forever.

- Robert F. Riberia
November 1993

The Life of Ward J. Roylance

Born in 1920, Ward spent most of his childhood in northern Utah. It wasn’t until he was 21 years old that he managed to take his first trip into Red Rock Country, just a few weeks prior to his voluntary induction into the army. Sparked by what he had read about southern Utah in a copy of Utah: A Guide to the State and some Zane Grey novels, Ward loaded up his 1932 convertible roadster and headed down to Dead Horse Point. In a scenario that is very familiar to anyone who has been touched by the Land, Ward’s life was changed forever. He was awestruck by what he experienced, both visually and aurally - the silence was mind boggling. In almost a heartbeat, southern Utah was in his blood.

During the following four years of military service, Ward’s travels took him to France, Germany, and Austria. World travel made Ward realize, more than ever, that his heart lay in Utah. He also traveled quite a bit after the war, and he always used his travels to compare Utah, geographically and culturally, with other areas of the world. It made him realize how extraordinarily unique the Red Rock Country of southern Utah really was. There is simply no other place on earth like it.

In the years following his release from the Army, Ward made numerous trips into Red Rock Country, which only proved to strengthen his bond with the Land. His wanderings took him to places such as Glen Canyon (before it was drowned by Lake Powell), the Waterpocket Fold, Circle Cliffs, the canyons of the Escalante, Bryce Canyon and the Aquarius Plateau. Lacking the paved roads of today, those trips were no easy task. Ward wrote, "Those expeditions of the summer of 1946, rather than satisfying my craving to see and learn more about Red Rock Country, only served as appetizers." In 1947 Ward, along with one of his brothers, purchased some surplus Army jeeps and their expeditions penetrated even deeper into Red Rocky Country. They explored such areas as Hole-in-the-Rock, the Needles-Salt Creek area, and places beyond. In 1948 Ward boated the Colorado River through Glenn Canyon on a surplus rubber raft. In his book, The Enchanted Wilderness, Ward wrote:
Glen Canyon in its primeval beauty was a natural wonder of the world, a continual Zion Canyon in miniature, 190 miles of glorious red cliffs ornamented with an endlessly varied assortment of rock forms, relief designs, and color tapestries.
There were miles of sandy beaches and dense willow forests. Dozens of sheer-walled side canyons and narrow slots in the cliffs invited exploration; some of them contained prehistoric ruins and rock art. There were beaver, deer, birds and other wild creatures. There were old log cabins, the Stanton dredge, Hole-in-the-Rock, Halls Crossing, and Old Ute Ford where the Dominguez-Escalante expedition crossed the river in 1776. Those sites are all buried now by water and muck.
Ward’s thirst for knowledge relating to Utah and the Colorado Plateau was insatiable. He began collecting Utah books, a collection that at its peak amounted to nearly 600 titles. More important than the books themselves, Ward was acquiring an enormous amount of knowledge relating to Utah, knowledge that would prove vital for his global vision of the preservation of Red Rock Country as a region.

In 1949 Ward took a tour of duty with the Foreign Service in Vietnam. After returning in 1951, he completed his studies at the University of Utah, graduating in 1952 with a degree in elementary education. Although his career as a teacher was short, his entrepreneurial spirit was intense and he soon began authoring numerous publications relating to Utah.

In 1957 Ward received his Masters degree after writing a thesis relating to Utah. Later that year Ward began one of the most influential periods of his life, his eight years of employment with the Utah Travel Council. During this period Ward authored hundreds of publications relating to Utah, with millions of copies being distributed. During this period Ward traveled all over Utah, by whatever means possible, to research his publications. It was not merely a job, it was a labor of love. Ward left the Utah Travel Council in 1965 and struck out on his own producing, among other things, educational films about Utah geography.

In 1966 Ward married Gloria Olson Holdway, a woman who fully matched his enthusiasm and love for Red Rock Country. Although I never had the opportunity to meet Gloria, it was readily apparent that Ward and Gloria were true soulmates. Again, I quote from The Enchanted Wilderness:
When Gloria became my companion, I became We. No longer was I lonely. I had no more deep depressions. Her vibrancy, happiness, and sheer joie-de-vivre have always buoyed sagging spirits before they could plunge to previous depths. Even now, 20 years later, I cannot believe such love, support and acceptance. Gloria sees the beauties I see, and we share in common not only the physical things of our lives but most of the intangible as well. Such a relationship of perfect compatibility is more than I ever hoped was possible.
In 1969 Ward and Gloria, along with a group of geology professors, formed the Enchanted Wilderness Association. This organization was formed to lead guided tours into canyon country and to promote appreciation and understanding of the Colorado Plateau area. Ward and Gloria even designed a beautiful full-color magazine to promote their organization. Despite enormous financial difficulties, the organization survived for three years and attracted over 1000 members. However, financial distress ultimately resulted in the end of the organization three years after it was formed.

During this period of time Ward continued to develop his vision of preservation of the Colorado Plateau as a region. Ward often called upon his world travels as a means to help put the importance of the Colorado Plateau in perspective. In 1975 Ward and Gloria visited Italy, Switzerland, and France. In 1982 they would visit Egypt. These global wanderings emphasized the unique attributes of the Colorado Plateau as a global treasure. Ward’s vision of a "New World and Millennial Dream" from his initial issue of the Enchanted Wilderness Magazine best describes his global vision:


This maiden issue of The Enchanted Wilderness Magazine is designed as an introduction to a New World.

Not a New World in obvious ways, of course, for this is a very old, very ancient world that reveals the pages of geological time in an almost unbroken sequence for more than a billion years. The "feel" of relative eternity is a pervading, even oppressive atmosphere in the Enchanted Wilderness. Evidences of life all the way up from its primeval beginnings have been found here. And numerous cultures have left their marks throughout this land, some in rich abundance.

Still, as an original concept of "Enchanted Wilderness" this is a new world. Until now the Colorado Plateau as a unit...as an integral whole...as a distinct physiographic province...has not been recognized by more than a handful of visionary people as a world resource, a unique wilderness of true enchantment. Heretofore, "wilderness" to most people has meant the remote fastnesses of lofty mountain ranges, or unviolated pockets of wild lands scattered here and there. But how many have been aware that the Colorado Plateau is the largest wild or near-wild province still remaining in the 48 contiguous states - a vast and, until recently, little known region larger than the State of New Mexico and containing fewer than a half million inhabitants?

Who has had the vision to evaluate this natural World Shrine at its actual and potential worth - not as a shattered entity broken up into political subdivisions, exploited haphazardly and ruthlessly for its removable and manipulative resources, but rather as an integral, homogeneous wilderness having similar but extraordinary physical characteristics over much of its great extent?

Who has had the vision (even a faint glimmer) to recognize the incalculable future worth of the Colorado Plateau as a region - not as bits and pieces of isolated parks...not as a golden opportunity for indiscriminate industrial exploitation and expanding urbanization...not as a newly-discovered playground for uncontrolled travel and recreation...but as a precious wilderness, valuable to the world for its peace and loneliness as well as its minerals, for its inspiring beauty and strange enchantment as well as its boundless opportunities for physical recreation?

A few people have had this exciting vision. It is our dream to increase their numbers. EWA's stated goal is "the preservation of the unique attributes of the Colorado Plateau and its Borderlands - the Enchanted Wilderness - through enlightened public awareness and controlled utilization of its priceless resources.

- Ward J. Roylance

Ward suffered from a painful congenital hip problem, which often limited his physical activity. In 1974, Ward had both hip joints replaced. Feeling like a new man, he began construction of a home in Torrey in 1976, on a lot that Ward and Gloria had purchased seven years prior. Ward wanted to avoid the "monotonous uniformity in walls and surfaces" of conventional design. The resulting log house, which could not have possibly been more difficult to construct, resembled a five sided teepee or asymmetrical pyramid. Inside it is spacious, with large sloping overhead windows, and lots of overhead space. They used beautiful rock from the surrounding area to accent the natural beauty of the wood, resulting in a home that is both a manifestation of Ward and Gloria’s love for each other and their love of the red-rock country that surrounded them. Ward's visionary craftsmanship, Gloria's artistic touches, and the love they shared together made the house a tribute to the spiritual bond between themselves and the land around them.

The Enchanted Wilderness
by Ward J. Roylance
Between 1978 and 1982 Ward spent at least half of his time working on a major revision to the voluminous Utah: A Guide to the State. In 1986 Ward published The Enchanted Wilderness, which may be his greatest legacy of all. Although the book had very limited distribution, it brought together a new generation of people who are inspired and motivated by the Enchanted Wilderness. Many people who read the book felt compelled to stop by Ward and Gloria’s house in Torrey, just to say hello and compliment the book. But most importantly, it brought together many enthusiastic red rock wilderness supporters who might never have met without it. There may never be a way to quantify the consequences of that, but future legislation relating to preservation of the Colorado Plateau my be a direct result of Ward and Gloria’s inspiration.

In 1988 Ward and Gloria started producing video tapes relating to the red rock canyon country. In regard to these videos, Ward once told me, "What we strive for is to convey our sense of wonder that there could be such a place on earth, and that - being such a unique region, integrated in its features (physical personality) it should be treated with the greatest respect before development is allowed to change it."

This Splendid Land - 1990

This Splendid Land: A Red-Rock Scenery Sampler served as an introduction to the region. The Enchanted Wilderness: Art in Stone I was an introduction to the Art in Stone concept. Featuring hundreds of Ward’s photographs, it examined Red Rock Country from the standpoint of art and esthetics.

Art in Stone I - 1988 and 1993

Visions of Beauty: Art in Stone II was a continuation of Ward and Gloria’s visual exploration of the region. The tapes had limited commercial success, which discouraged Ward. It seemed that relatively few people had a sense of landscape esthetics, at least not enough for the videos to be a commercial success. In his understanding way, Ward spoke of his videos limited appreciation (April, 1992)…

…But I should be able to understand why. With us, developing our way of viewing the red-rock country has taken many years of familiarity. Until I was 40 or so I did not begin to see what I see today. It's a matter of evolution or growth, as it is with many things in life where we ‘learn to appreciate’. With respect to our videos, the result is that few people will buy them and we give away more than we sell…

Art in Stone II - 1992

Ward told me these videos were a labor of love for him. I find them to be beautiful and quite inspiring. Luckily, the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance used some of the videos as membership incentives, and distributed at least a thousand copies. If you ever come across a copy of any of these tapes please share it with as many other people as possible.

Gloria’s death in May of 1992 was devastating for Ward. Part of him, at least part of his enthusiasm, seemed to die along with her. She could animate and encourage him like no other person. Ward continued to travel in and photograph Red Rock Country until his death in November of 1993. He is sorely missed by many, but his spirit remains in the heart of the Enchanted Wilderness.

All book quotes taken from The Enchanted Wilderness - © 1986 Ward J. Roylance
Video Cover Art © 1988, 1990 & 1992 Ward J. Roylance


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