Colored sandstone cliffs, gleaming white domes and contrasting layer of sediment interspersed with each other are some of Utah’s most awe-inspiring sights, but it is the geological formation that is harder to detect that makes this area in Wayne County one of the most extraordinary in the world. This area is literally a wrinkle in the earth’s surface, a fold that warped the earth’s crust and is home to one of the largest exposed monoclines in the world. The north-to-south fold that began some 65 million years ago still isolates this area with modern technology still making it difficult to build roads here. Cliffs, towers, buttes, ridges, monoliths, domes and arches litter the park with canyons cut by the Fremont River flowing through the area. This colorful spot in the Utah desert is known today as Capitol Reef National Park.
The relative isolation and natural beauty of this area has led to many cultures making their homes here or at least creating their myths about how this area came to be. The forbidding nature of the area made it seem unconquerable to some and despite several attempts to settle it in the modern day, Capitol Reef remained largely untouched. Soon, it was determined the rugged beauty of this area was best preserved for future generations, a testament to the sheer power and force of nature. It would take nearly 50 years before the dream of preserving Capitol Reef was realized.
While it is arguably one of the most famous national parks, Arches didn’t obtain its status until the 1970s, making it one of the younger parks. Oddly enough, the superintendent who campaigned for the creation of Arches was able to successfully get a national park designation for nearby Canyonlands before he could obtain one for his own park. Those who see the natural arches, balanced rocks, petroglyphs and numerous other sites of Arches might wonder why it took so long to preserve this beautiful piece of land outside Moab. Of course, conservation can only do so much and natural forces beyond the control of man continue to shape this park in new and amazing ways.
Located not far from Moab, Utah, this park is divided major districts with names that sound like something out of fiction: the Island in the Sky, the Needles, the Maze and the Rivers. This area was also once home to the ancestral Puebloan peoples who created one of the first major civilizations in this region as well as in other national parks like Mesa Verde, Petrified Forest and the Chaco Canyon National Historic Park. It soon became a place of miners and Mormons, ranchers and researchers. Today, Canyonlands is one of the big five parks in Utah and, along with nearby Arches National Park, has made the small Mormon community of Moab a travel destination for visitors the world over.
Bryce was a haven for early Native Americans and Mormons who were seeking religious liberty and avoiding persecution. As word spread about the beautiful scenery, more tourists came to see the canyon and conservationists suddenly became alarmed at how the area’s natural wonder was slowly being destroyed. It took only five years for Bryce to go from a national monument to a national park. Since then, visitors have come in to explore the canyon during the daytime and at night, from sunrise to sunset in hopes of seeing each aspect of the area’s natural wonders and become a part of the million-year history that is Bryce Canyon National Park.
Today, roadways that can only be classified as engineering marvels make it much easier for visitors to access Zion than when pioneers in Conestoga wagons crossed Utah’s rocky landscape in the hopes of making the area into something resembling civilization. Of course, Zion can still offer challenges for those outdoor enthusiasts looking to hike the canyons, scale its walls or float down its rivers. Much like when the first people entered it some 10,000 years ago, Zion is still a place of awe and wonder.
Dedicated to all things travel, places I have been and places I want to go.