Canyonlands National Park

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The Green and Colorado rivers join in the area around Utah's Canyonlands National Park, and their powerful waters helped forge the rugged landscape.

5. Description

Near the city of Moab, in southeastern Utah, is the United States National Park Service's Canyonlands National Park. This locale presents view of a ruggedly vivid landscape. Its features, shaped by the Green River and the Colorado River, include spectacular buttes, arches, spires, fins, high mesas, and, as its name implies, canyons. It is segregated into four districts, starting with the areas around "the Rivers" themselves, as well as "the Needles", "the Island in the Sky", and "the Maze". There are no commercial airlines currently serving the city of Moab, although the parks themselves can be accessed easily by car on a two to four hour drive, depending on which city (e.g. Denver, Salt Lake City, or Grand Junction) you are coming from. Its desert climate is mostly very warm, receiving no more than 10 inches of rain per year. Summers are typically very dry, while winters are cold, with relatively light snowfall.

4. Tourism

The Canyonlands National Park is world famous as a key tourist destination, attracting an average of 440,039 visitors each year. To get there, tourists can take the bus or train or drive a car from either Colorado, Salt Lake City, or Grand Junction. There are no roads or bridges that connect the four districts, and travel time between each of them is about two to six hours by car. Tour operators generally do not recommend using GPS units as guides when visiting the parks, especially since its unpaved roads going to the Maze, which will show up on such navigation devices, may become unusable during rainy days.

3. Uniqueness

The Canyonlands National Park is hugely popular for the many recreational activities that it offers. These include hiking, boating, camping, horseback riding, four-wheeling, backpacking, and mountain biking. If you’re into exploring the rustic beauty of the desert, and don’t mind bumpy and uneven trails, then Canyonlands should be near the top of your bucket list of places to visit. Of all of its four districts, "the Island in the Sky" is the most accessible, with "the Maze" being considered the most far flung off the beaten path. The White Rim Road in Island in the Sky is ideal for moderately experienced four-wheeler operators, while "the Rivers" is famous for its two-day whitewater expeditions. The Needles offer a backcountry charm, and the Horseshoe Canyon Unit has a stunning view of American rock panels.

2. Habitat

The desert flora and fauna that can be found in the Canyonlands are quite unique and interesting, especially to its many city-dwelling guests. The environment there is hostile, and many of the animals calling it their home are only active during the night or at dusk. Lizards, birds, and rodents can be found roaming the vast desert lands, as well as kangaroo rats, foxes, mountain lions, bats, bobcats, skunks, and ringtails. Sightings of black-tailed rabbits, songbirds, mule deers, coyotes, and porcupines are also quite frequent. Despite its arid nature, vegetation is surprisingly abundant in the Canyonlands, with yuccas, mosses, and cacti being predominant in the region. The popular Utah Juniper is also found there, as well as other drought-evasive plants like the monkey flower, the maiden hair fern, columbines, willows, and cottonwoods.

1. Threats

Erosion happens everyday at The Canyonlands, and preservation of its wild and vibrant landscape is a primary concern of the National Park Service. The oil boom in the region has forever changed the city of Moab. The city has become increasingly more crowded, and polluted with the sounds, smells, and sights of oil drilling. Strip mining is also threatening the region, particularly in the Tar Sands Triangle. The National Park Service will offer visitors information on how to responsibly enjoy the park, as well as to keep themselves safe therein.

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