Canyonlands National Park 50th Anniversary

I spent the second weekend in September at Canyonlands National Park for the parks 50th anniversary. Having been visiting the canyon lands since the late 1960’s as a young boy I have a special affinity for the lands it encompasses. As a high school student in the 1970’s we would spend a week every fall camping at the Squaw Flats campground. Once I left Durango in 1981 it was not until the early 1990’s that I returned again to share the beauty of the canyon country with a friend from back east. Returning after 10 years I realized what I had been missing.

Navajo Basket Dancers opening the 50th celebration

Navajo Basket Dancers opening the 50th celebration

My wife, Nancy, and I started visiting the park after our daughter Laura Jane was born in 1997 and we have been back almost every year since. We explored the park based from Squaw Flats, hiking and driving a number of the easier 4-wheel drive roads in our Suburban.

Our old Suburban on the Salt Creek Road

Our old Suburban on the Salt Creek Road

In 2006  we moved from the Suburban to our new Toyota FJ Cruiser and were able to move our visits from the front country to the back country and we have not looked back. Most of these trips have been to the Needles and the Devils Kitchen but will have also spent time in the Maze and Island in the Sky districts.

LJ During a hike from Devils Kitchen in 2006

LJ During a hike from Devils Kitchen in 2006

When my daughter told me last year that she “needs” to spend time in the canyon country each year to recharge I could not help but smile. Passing the love of South West Utah onto the next generation is what the Park is all about. The goal of Canyonlands is to preserve the spectacular landscape for generations to come and my next generation already loves it.

On this last trip I spent the first night at Squaw Flats to attend the 50th anniversary celebration. It was fascinating to listen to the stories, as told buy Tugg Wilson, about the exploration and discovery of the canyon lands area by Bates Wilson and Tugg, his son.

We have Bates Wilson and his vision to thank for the creation of this fantastic park. We have the Environmental Protection Act and its requirement for Environmental Impact Statements as well as the dawn of the conservation movement to thank for the way the Canyonlands has been preserved.

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The original master plan for the park included developed guest services such as hotels and restaurants. One of the more miraculous outcomes was the prevention of the paved Confluence Overlook Parkway. The route was also intended to continue south over the Silver Stairs, on through Devils Lane all the way to Natural Bridges. With this understanding I took a new look at the view point road in the Needles and sure enough it dead ends at Big Spring Canyon were there was going to be a 600′ bridge. I always thought the way the road ended was a little strange.

Squaw Flats

Squaw Flats

Thankfully the original master plan did not come to pass or Canyonlands would not be the remote back country park we know today.

It was with this in mind that I enjoyed my visit this last weekend. The back country trip over Elephant Hill has taken on a new meaning for me. I’ll always be thinking of Bates Wilson and his view for a park that included miles of back country road and trails. As I exited the park via Beef Basin I tried to imagine a paved road climbing Bobby’s Hole and stretching off to the Abajo Mountains.

Looking north into the park

Looking north into the park

Looking back north over the Needles from the foot hills of the Abajo Mountains I can not help but think about what could have been and love the park as it sits today.

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tomas

Tomas has lived in Colorado since age 5. Having grown up on the Western Slope of Colorado lots of time was spent in the Desert Southwest. Tomas' father introduced him to the love of 4 wheeling at an early age in the high mountains around Aspen, Colorado. While an avid Mountain Biker, Tomas and his Family enjoy adventures in the mountains and desert in the remote locations that can only be reached by 4wd. Day hikes are always a must when on the family trips. While enjoying outdoor activities he wants to share his love as a certified 4wd trainer and ski instructor. Tomas also enjoys caving and cave exploration. Tomas currently resides in Colorado Springs. 

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