Friday, September 18, 2015

Canyonlands National Park (Island in the Sky), 9/17/2015

As always, our first stop was the Island in the Sky Visitor Center where exhibits, a gift shop, and park rangers can be found. The rangers always provide great advice on the best way to see the park. 

Canyons, mesas, and buttes have been created by the Colorado River (and its tributaries) eroding the sedimentary sandstone found that sits atop underlying salt deposits from ancient seas. The park is divided into three districts by the rivers: Island in the Sky (a high mesa), The Needles (to the south), and the Maze (a remote region of clefts and spires to the west. Today, we visited the Island in the Sky area of the 527 square mile park.

Directly across the road from this Visitor Center is an overlook where we got our first glimpse of the amazing landscape at Canyonlands.

A trail from the parking lot leads to the Shafer Canyon Overlook. The overlook is on an expansive mesa (seen at the left in the first photo). 

The road seen in the first photo was built during the uranium mining industry in the 1950s. The road in the second photo drops 1,400' into Shafer Canyon. It provides access to Canyonlands backcountry and the 100-mile rim road (4WD required). 

The Mesa Arch can be seen by taking the .5 mile loop trail from the parking lot. The path leads through a pinyon-juniper woodland to the arch on the rim. 

The views through the arch to landscape beyond was beautiful.

Buck Canyon Overlook provides expansive views of the area. 

The Grand Point View Overlook is 6,000" above Monument Valley where some monoliths are 300' tall.

From Grand View we drove all the way north on the park road to Whale Rock. There is a one-mile trail here that many enjoy (but we did not hike it during this visit, preferring to hike the trail to Upheaval Dome...our next stop). Can you see the people atop the rocks in the second photo?

Upheaval Dome is an unusual geologic feature that remains a mystery. Some scientists believe it is the remnant of a salt dome uplift while others believe is the site of a meteorite impact. There is a .5 mile steep trail to the rim with amazing views along the way. 

Here is the crater. Who knows what really caused it?

Our last stop for the day was at the Green River Overlook. The Green River can be seen where it runs through Stillwater Canyon. The Henry Mountains can be seen in the distance.

In some ways, this beautiful landscape reminded us of some of the scenes in Grand Canyon National Park. 85% of Canyonlands is wilderness and only accessible by 4WD vehicles or boats. We were very interested to see how this park, only 35 miles away from Arches, differs in terrain. I did expect them to be more similar that they are. We plan to make the trip to The Needles (about 65 miles from Moab) while we are in the area.

Admission to the park is $10/vehicle for a 7-day pass. Our senior pass gets us into the park for free. For additional information about Canyonlands, please see their website.


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