Canyonlands, Utah on the map. National Park Canyonlands (Utah state) on the map of US

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Canyonlands, Utah on the map. National Park Canyonlands  (Utah state) on the map of US

Canyonlands, Utah

Established: 1964   Acreage: 337,570

Canyonlands is located in southeastern Utah in the heart of the Colorado Plateau. Wind and water have cut flat layers of sedimentary rock into hundreds of colorful canyons, mesas, buttes, fins, arches and spires. In the center are two large canyons carved by the Green and Colorado Rivers. Surrounding the river are three very different regions of the park: to the north, Island in the Sky; to the west, the Maze; and to the east, the Needles.

Island in the Sky serves as Canyonlands' observation tower, a high, broad mesa (6000-6500 feet) connected to the 'mainland' by a narrow piece of land. Near the mesa's edge is White Rim, an almost continuous sandstone bench 1200 feet below the island, and beneath the shadow of the rim are the rivers. Perhaps the strangest geologic feature on Island in the Sky is Upheaval Dome (1500 feet), which looks more like a meteor crater or volcanic caldera than a dome, and, in fact, one theory suggests that the dome was created when a meteor hit.

One of the most remote regions in the United States, the Maze district is Canyonlands' wildest region. The maze itself is a jumble of canyons that has been described as a '30 square mile puzzle in sandstone.' Beyond are the oddly shaped walls, buttes, mesas and towers of the Land of Standing Rocks,

the Dollhouse and the Fins. Few people had ventured into the canyons before it was established as a national park, and even today less than 8000 people visit each year.

The Needles district is so named because of the fantastically shaped and beautifully colored rock formations— arches, rock spires, canyons, potholes. The diversity of names in the Needles reflects the diversity of the land itself. Devil's Kitchen and Angel Arch. Elephant Hill and Caterpillar Arch. Gothic Arch and Paul Bunyan's Potty. The dominant landforms are the Needles themselves, naked rock pinnacles banded in orange and white. The wildly beautiful rock formations were chiseled out of the bedrock by the forces of wind, water and ice.

Prehistoric Indian ruins and pictographs are densely concentrated here. This was once the land of the Anasazi Indians—the Ancient Ones. Here they grew corn, squash and beans; hunted deer and bighorn; and gathered seeds, fruits and roots. Many of their stone and mud dwellings and storehouses still remain, as do the petroglyphs they etched on the cliff walls.

Even the rivers reflect the wild, isolated character of the park. The 14 miles of rapids through the Cataract Canyon are among the most treacherous white water stretches in the United States. As the only major source of water in a dry expanse, the rivers draw deer, fox, beaver, bobcat and migratory birds, which find shelter in the riverside cottonwoods, tamarisks and willows. Lush hanging gardens of maidenhair fern, monkey flower and columbine cling to the high cliffs.

Right: Canoeing the quiet upper waters of the Green River through Labyrinth Canyon.

Below: View of Island in the Sky from Meander Canyon along the Colorado River.


Canyonlands, Utah on the map. National Park Canyonlands  (Utah state) on the map of US