Canyonlands

Here is Newspaper Rock, near the SE entrance to the park. You can see that dark desert varnish is forming back over the older petroglyphs, while the younger ones are bright and clear. We read that some of these were added after Europeans arrived in the area. I think this is the first site where we’ve seen buffalo, and Native Americans on horseback.

April 15 – April 16, 2018.

Sometimes you just have to see it for yourself. In the 1950s the Department of the Interior was petitioned to protect the canyonlands. The effort didn’t gain much traction, though, until Interior Secretary Udall flew over the area in 1961. Luckily, it was during the day and he could get a good view. He pushed, and in 1964 President Johnson signed legislation naming it a National Park.

Canyonlands is all about erosion in the Colorado Plateau*. This erosion is a recurring theme in many of the posts we need to catch up on from last year. So I wrote up my own condensed history of the plateau below. The scenery here is special because it’s where the Green and Colorado rivers meet.

Most of the land area can only be accessed by 4-wheel drive, horseback or on foot. You can also float on the rivers. We drove through the southern entrance, and saw what we could. Then we drove another hundred miles to the northern entrance. Hopefully someday we’ll be back with 4-wheel drive and kayaks.

Colorado Plateau

The Colorado Plateau don’t get no respect. It did hundreds of millions of years ago when it was beachfront near the equator. Yes, the ocean receded, but it always came back. Then slowly things changed. It got pushed northward and upward. New species were born. Others died out. Layers of sediment accrued. Some were washed back off. It was swampland. It was sand dunes. The processes happened over and over until it was finally put on a shelf over a mile above sea level, stuck where Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico meet.

And does anyone want to see it? Oh, they string barbed wire all over and let cows poop on it. But no one comes to watch the dust blow back and forth across the arid surface.

People do like to watch the rivers cut through all that sandstone, though. Perfectly good ancient desert, and people just want to see the parts that are eroding away.

(If you want more detail, there are sources that will tell you about the dozens of unique layers of sandstone, and about the unconformities — layers that were washed away before new ones were put down.)

Right now, this very minute, we are hanging out in our friend, Brenda’s house in Hobe Sound, FL. We have both had our first showers since we were in Mexico – not that we haven’t been keeping clean, but a shower is amazing and such a different experience from scrubbing up in the van with a wash cloth. Our trip back to Florida was long and mostly uneventful except for a stop in Lafayette, LA to meet up with Duwan’s niece at Festival International. Now on to boat stuff and wrapping up a few more blog posts from our adventures out west.

* All pics are click to enlarge.

Petroglyphs. We arrived at the SE entrance after a travel day and just didn’t feel like hunting out a free campsite. We picked a space in the Superbowl campground. Next day we found a free spot nearby.

More glyphs.

Our first hike was to Cave Spring, where erosion of a softer under layer has left overhangs like this. One has a spring which has been visited by people for thousands of years.

Native American handprints under an overhang at Cave Spring.

Artifacts left at a cowboy camp under an overhang at Cave Spring. (Technically anything over 50 years old is an artifact. Do you qualify?)

View from atop the overhangs at Cave Spring.

View from our hike at Pothole Point. South of the Colorado River is the Needles area of the park. This is about the closest view you can get of the spectacular Needles with 2-wheel drive and a short hike.

Potholes at the point. Everything in the desert is an ecosystem, even these holes that have eroded in the rock. When it rains, brine shrimp and micro-organisms spring into activity.

Desert bloom at Pothole Point.

View from Slickrock Point, where we took a nice long hike.

Another view from Slickrock. The mesas in the distance are north of the confluence of the Green and Colorado Rivers, making them part of the Island in the Sky section of the park. As the crow flies they are about 10 miles off (assuming a crow can fly straight in this wind).

View from Big Spring Overlook, the end of the line for 2WD.

More of the scenery at Big Spring. We walked through millions of years of sandstone history into the canyon below.

View from the Wooden Shoe Arch Overlook on our way to find a free campsite near the Superbowl. Can you spot the wooden shoe?

Found a free spot for the night. The wind got so bad we had to chase down stuff that blew out of the doorway. Completely lost a Mexican cracker box in the sagebrush. Hoping the wind would die down overnight, we resolved to ask a ranger directions for a good 7-8 mile hike in the morning. Morning came, and Bob convinced us it was too cold and windy for a long hike. He’d rather take a scenic drive.

Our drive took us east around the park, through Moab (where we spent some time last year), to the NE entrance of the park. We drove back toward the park’s center, and here we are at the Island in the Sky. Remember yesterday’s shot that showed it 10 miles away as the crow flies? We drove over 100 miles to get here.

We walked a nice two mile out-and-back trail at Grand View Point Overlook. Here we are looking down to the SE at a path cut by the meandering Colorado River.

Looking NW from the trail at Grand Point.

End of the Line at Grand Point. Off to the right is The Maze. West of the Green River, this area is totally inaccessible to 2WD. In this huge park we can’t even get close enough to take pictures of the Maze skyline.

Upheaval Dome on the western edge of Island in the Sky. It is believed that a meteor crashed here, leaving this crater with a dome in the center of the bottom. Looks calm, but it was so windy Duwan couldn’t get any closer to the edge and hold a camera up too.

2 thoughts on “Canyonlands

  1. I remember seeing Newspaper Rock. I’m loving these posts cause they remind me of our southwest adventures. So much to see out there that you could spend a lifetime there and still not see it all.

    • Duwan said:

      I think we could travel in circles on the same routes 10 times and still not see it all!

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