Canyonlands National Park


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Canyonlands National Park is an immense and amazimg place. Covering over 520 square miles of south eastern Utah, Canyonlands houses the confluence of two mighty rivers, the Colorado and Green. The system of snaking canyons cut by these two rivers covers most of the park. The views on these pages were all taken from Island in the Sky, a mesa 2200 feet above the rivers below. One can drive to many places and view the canyons from many viewpoints from the Island.

Our first day on the "Island" started with a quick visit to the visitors' center. These enters are always the best place to find the best places to visit (and how strenuous the "visits" will be.)

Our first walk took us to Mesa Arch. This is a relatively small arch, but as they say, "What counts is location, location, and location." This arch sits on the edge of the canyon system. You can sit under the arch with your legs dangling over infinity and have yourself a view that stretches for tens of miles.

For a panorama of the view sitting under Mesa Arch, click here or on the thumbnail to the right.

On the way back from this walk we closely observed one of the small but vitally important residents of the desert. In order for larger plants to take root in desert soil, it must be made stable and capable of sustaining nitrogen-loving plants. This takes a community of microscopic and macroscopic organisms. This community creates a black bumpy surface on the desert floor called "cryptobiotic soil." The top layer of this soil is moss that forms the black color. Once the soil is moistened by rain (or a little water from a canteen...) the moss immediately turns a beautiful green. It is vitally important for visitors to the park to stay on the trails to avoid trampling the delicate cryptobiotic soil. It takes years for the soil to recover from a single step, and without the soil, larger plants cannot move in and stablize the ecology of the area. No cryptobiotic soil, no plants; no plants, no animals; and so on.

We looked at many different viewes of the canyons from many different overlooks. All spectacular. Below is a stereo pair of Buck Canyon (taken about 30 feet apart to emphasize the 3D)

To end the day, we visited a Dead Horse State Park, adjacent to Canyonlands. Here, out at the end of a thin tongue of the mesa, one is treated to a vast panorama of Canyonlands. We stayed at the point and enjoyed a glorious sunset. The colors in the canyons are particularly nice at this time of day. Click here or on the thumbnail for the big picture.

A new day with new sites. Our first stop was to see the Courthouse Wash Petroglyphs. These are right on the main highway just outside of Moab. Although hard to make out in this picture, the glyphs include human forms, bighorn sheep, and many other forms. These are typical of Barrier Canyon Style Archaic figures. Although these figures were horribly vandelized in 1980, they have been partially restored.

Next on our tour was an interesting feature in Canyonlands called "Upheaval Dome." This is a huge circular feature almost two miles across. At the present time, it is unsure whether this feature is the result of a salt dome and erosion, or the result of a cosmic impact by a meteorite or comet.Click here or on the thumbnail for the big picture.

We leave Canyonland with a cultural note (of sorts.) Hiking the trails often involves walking over "slickrock." Slickrock is bare rock face. The only way to mark trails on slickrock (no they don't paint double-yellow lines!) is to put little stacks of rocks along the way. These stacks, pictured to the left, are called "cairns." One nice and spontaneous activity we observed was that of making a few cairns into rock-art sculptures. Click here or on the picture to the left to see one or two of these "enhanced" cairns. Of course, we added to the piece. Community art!


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