And Now You Know More: Canyonland National Park


by Thomas Best

Last week I began my next series on the amazing western national parks across the American southwest.  Today, I will turn to another close national park near Moab, Utah—this time “Canyonland National Park.”

Both Arches and Canyonland are part of the Colorado Plateau which stretches across the southwest for over 30,000 square miles.  People generally venture here to experience the deep sandstone canyons formed by the erosion of the Green and Colorado Rivers.  With Dead Horse Point State Park also adjacent to Canyonland, visitors can drive to overlooks often hundreds to thousands of feet above the canyons to marvel at the eroding forces of nature by water, wind, and ice.  Dead Horse Point, most famous for its legend of cowboys keeping horses penned up at an outstretched narrow mesa that formed a natural corral, is part of the same system of “red rock” formations that ventures into Canyonland. 

Not as busy as Arches, Canyonland is a vastly larger park which stretches over three regions: the Island in the Sky District; the “Needles” area; and finally, the more distant “Mazes” region.  Described as a “Wilderness of Rock,” Canyonland’s vistas give visitors the rare chance to gaze across a vast plateau—that on a clear day—can feature formations a hundred miles away.  What specific attractions re can’t miss sites?   The Mesa Arch is one of the most photographed attractions when the morning as the sun rises through this large sandstone arch.  In the more remote areas of the park, accessible by only the most intrepid hikers or those in rugged jeeps, you can visit tall needle-like rock formations, pretty prickly pear bushes amid cacti, bighorn sheep, kangaroo rats, and petroglyphs created by the first human inhabitants who built some of their dwellings within these canyon walls.  Also of interest is a legendary hangout of Butch Cassidy, abandoned cowboy camps, and one of the more-odd geologic formations found at “Upheaval Dome.”  I hiked up to view this crater with its spectacular outcropping of white-greenish rock which scientists suspect was the by-product of a meteor striking the earth about 65 million years ago. 

This is one vast expansive park with towering sculptured rocks and beautifully layered rock formations.  To drive from the northern entrance in the “Island in the Sky” district (which we toured) to the southern stretches of the park would put at least 130 additional miles on your odometer.  Canyonland is a gem featuring some of our nation’s “wildest” landscapes.  Don’t miss it!   

Thank you for your interest. 

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