Canyonlands National Park

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We were spending a few days in Moab, Utah, mostly to visit Arches National Park, and we didn’t plan to go to Canyonlands National Park because we thought it was too far out of our way. There are four unconnected districts of Canyonlands and as we drove to Arches early the first morning we saw a sign that said Canyonlands: 30 miles. So we thought, ‘let’s go!’ and we drove the forty minutes to the Islands in the Sky section of Canyonlands.

Canyonlands National Park

By the time we got there we could tell a storm was coming in, but we managed to do a couple of short hikes and drive through the highlights of Islands in the Sky. We looked out on the vast undeveloped, rugged earth, full of deep canyons that look like the ground has been torn open and were overwhelmed.

Canyonlands National Park Canyonlands National Park

We hiked to Upheaval Dome which is an eroded impact crater created when a meteor hit the earth many millions of years ago. Upheaval Dome in Canyonlands National Park Upheaval Dome in Canyonlands National Park Upheaval Dome in Canyonlands National Park

And to Mesa Arch.

Mesa Arch in Canyonlands National ParkMesa Arch in Canyonlands National Park View from Mesa Arch in Canyonlands National Park

Nearly 65% of Utah is public land in the form of National Parks, National Monuments, National Forests, or Wilderness Areas and managed by the National Park Service, US Forest Service, or Bureau of Land Management. In 2012 Utah passed the Transfer of Public Lands Act that gave the federal government until the end of 2014 to release all of Utah’s public lands back to the state. This has not happened and now Utah is moving forward with litigation to get the land back and is getting support in congress. There is complicated legal question as to whether Utah has any claim to these public lands, but the state leaders feel that they can make money by selling the land for development and allowing further drilling and mining for resources and now similar bills are being proposed in six other western states.

The most stunning places I’ve visited in the US—Grand Canyon, The Wave, Death Valley, and Yellowstone, just to name a few—are public lands and Utah has some of the most amazing landscapes—Grand Staircase-Escalante, Glen Canyon, Zion, Arches and many more—in the country. Luckily, none of Utah’s National Parks or Monuments (except Grand Staircase-Escalante) are included in the Transfer of Public Lands Act, but this leaves vulnerable the truly wild areas, the places where you can hike, camp, bike, horseback ride for days and not cross a road. The value of preserving nature cannot be measured in dollars, so it would be a tragedy to lose these untamed lands to strip malls and housing developments or to see them plundered for the temporary monetary gain of logging, mining, and drilling.

Rainbow over Canyonlands National Park

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