August, 2010 Archives

Postcards… from the desert canyons.   Earlier this summer we had a terrific family “hiking” vacation in Utah, visiting Zion National Park, Kolob Canyons (part of Zion), Bryce National Park, and Cedar Breaks National Monument.  Here’s some Utah trivia:  Utah was the 45th state to enter the United States (January 4, 1896).  Utah is the 11th largest state in the U.S. (in acreage).  The federal government owns 65% of the state’s land.  Utah has five national parks: Arches, Canyonlands, Zion, Bryce and Capitol Reef.  Utah is bordered by six states:  Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, & Nevada.  Utah is the 34th most populous state in the U.S.  Approximately 80% of Utah’s 2,736,424 people live along the Wasatch Front, centering on Salt Lake City.  This leaves vast expanses of the state nearly uninhabited, making the population the sixth most urbanized in the U.S.  The Great Salt Lake, which is about 75 miles long and 35 miles wide, covers more than a million acres or 2,100 square miles, with an average depth of 13 feet. The deepest point is 34 feet.  Utah mountain peaks, on average, are the tallest in the country. The average elevation of the tallest peaks in each of Utah’s counties is 11,222 feet – higher than the same average in any other state.  Brigham Young moved his Mormon disciples from Illinois to Utah in 1847.  Brigham Young had 55 wives and 56 children.

Zion National Park is located in the far southwestern corner of Utah. A prominent feature of the 229-square-mile park is Zion Canyon; 15 miles long and up to half a mile deep (2,000-3,000 foot cliffs), cut through the reddish and tan-colored Navajo sandstone by the Virgin River. Zion is Utah’s oldest and most visited national park. More than 2.7 million visitors explore Zion each year. More than 300,000 people visited Zion in May of 2010. June, July and August are the busiest months. Most visitors enter Zion as a passenger on a propane-powered shuttle with skylights like this.

Bryce Canyon National Park is located in southern Utah about 50 miles northeast of—and 1,000 feet higher than—Zion National Park. The rim at Bryce varies from 8,000 to 9,000 feet.

Bryce covers 56 square miles and receives fewer visitors than Zion (just 2 million annually). The park is only 38,385 acres and winding through that “small” space are fifty-miles of hiking trails.

They say that Bryce Canyon is home to the most unusual and literally fantastic erosional forms on the planet. For decades photographers have been getting up before sunrise to photograph Bryce from both Sunrise and Sunset Point. This image was made at Sunset Point as the sun rose and illuminated the canyon.

Bryce is distinctive due to geological structures called hoodoos, (odd shaped rock pinnacles up to 200 feet high) formed by wind, water and ice erosion. The red, orange and white colors of the rocks are other-worldly. And at sunrise, the landscape is positively surreal.