Utah has approximately 81,899 miles of river to explore. For a desert state, Utah has a surprisingly large number of rivers. Here are a few... 1) Did you know that the 451-mile long Bear River is the longest river in the U.S. that doesnít reach the sea? Itís also the largest tributary of the Great Salt Lake. 2) Quite possibly the most politically contentious river in the West. In Utah, the Colorado River winds through some of the most inaccessible parts of our state, and also provides plenty of recreation. 3) The Escalante River winds about 91 miles before emptying into Lake Powell. The Escalante River Hiking Trail follows the river through some of Utahís most beautiful terrain, the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. 4) The Green River is the main tributary of the Colorado. Itís one of Utahís largest rivers. It ranges from 100 to 1,500 feet wide and is 3 to 50 feet deep. 5) Only 51 miles long, the Jordan River stretches from Utah Lake to the Great Salt Lake. Itís not great for fishing, but the recreation opportunities along the Jordan River Parkway provide the residents of the Salt Lake Valley with some scenic walking, jogging and cycling. You can also spot some wildlife along the river. 6) The Provo River is for recreation, fisherman also love this river. The Provo River Parkway provides scenic views along the banks, stretching from Utah Lake to Vivian Lake. 7) The San Juan River is said to be one of the best fly fishing rivers in the country and is reported to have as many as 1,500 fish per mile! A tributary of the Colorado, the San Juan stretches along the Southeast part of Utah before ending into Lake Powell. 8) The Sevier River wins the prize for longest Utah river contained entirely in Utah! It stretches 383 miles and flows through six counties. 9) The Virgin River runs through some of Utahís most beautiful red rock country, The Zion National Park, then flows into Arizona, just past the town of Virgin.
THE BEAR RIVER
THE COLORADO RIVER
THE ESCALANTE RIVER
THE GREEN RIVER
THE JORDAN RIVER
THE RROVO RIVER
THE SAN JUAN RIVER
THE SEVIER RIVER
THE VIRGIN RIVER
(Central Utah) Located just east of Capitol Reef National Parkand north and west of the Henry Mountains, the Bentonite Hills appear as softly-contoured, banded hills in varying hues of brown, red, purple, gray, and green. Also called the Rainbow Hills, the Bentonite Hills in Utah are a geological wonder and a natural masterpiece! The hills are composed of the Brushy Basin shale member of the Morrison Formation. This layer was formed during Jurassic times when mud, silt, fine sand, and volcanic ash were deposited in swamps and lakes. Bentonite clay (altered volcanic ash) absorbs water and becomes very slick and gummy when wet, making vehicle or foot travel difficult or impossible. Repeated cycles of absorbing water and then drying results in a popcorn-like appearance on the clay's surface. Prepare to spend a lot of time here. The hills change colors at different times of the day
BONNEVILLE SALT FLATS
(Northwest Utah) The Bonneville Salt Flats is one of the most unique natural features in Utah, stretching over 30,000 acres. The Bonneville Salt Flats are found west of the Great Salt Lake, in western Utah. They cover a large area and have a very unique environment. It is perfectly flat and has a thick crust of salty soil. It looks like a frozen lake bed covered with snow. The Salt Flats were formed when ancient lake Lake Bonneville dried up. The lake was huge, filling much of the Great Basin. The Great Salt Lake is a remnant of Lake Bonneville.
BOOK CLIFFS & ROAN CLIFFS
(Central Utah) The Book Cliffs are an enormous area that spans two states: Utah and Colorado. Winding for 250 miles across, it is the longest continuous escarpment in the world. It is all marvelous wilderness. Abundant wildlife and rugged beauty have made the Book Cliffs wilderness one of Utahís most popular backcountry destinations. The Roan Cliffs are remote and inaccessible, and one feature most notably absent in the Book Cliffs are roads. The lack of easy access is what makes this place so attractive. There's still canyons, washes, mesas and peaks that haven't been explored or seen human feet. The Book Cliffs run along the southern edge of the Roan Cliffs and Grand valleys and are therefore readily visible from populated areas. The Book Cliffs have preserved excellent strata of the foreland basin of the ancient Western Interior Seaway that stretched north from the Gulf of Mexico to the Yukon in the Cretaceous Period. Components of deltaic and shallow marine reservoirs are very well preserved in the Book Cliffs. This area contains 455,000 acres of diverse ecosystems in a very remote setting. The Roan Cliffs are a series of desert mountains and cliffs in eastern Utah and western Colorado, in the western United States that are distinct from but closely associated with the Book Cliffs. As such the Book Cliffs are much better known than the Roan Cliffs. In addition, the name Book Cliffs is often applied to both landforms. The Roan Cliffs are situated north of (in back of) and above, but run roughly parallel to, the Book Cliffs.
(Southern Utah) Crowning the Grand Staircase, Cedar Breaks sits at over 10,000 feet and looks down into a half-mile deep geologic amphitheater. Come wander among timeless bristlecone pines, stand in lush meadows of wildflower, ponder crystal-clear night skies and experience the richness of our subalpine forest. Hidden within the mountains above Cedar City is the brilliant geology and vibrant environment of Cedar Breaks National Monument. The geologic amphitheater and surrounding environs are home to cool hiking trails, ancient trees, high elevation camping, and over-the-top views along the Circle of Painted Cliffs. Cedar Breaksí majestic amphitheater is a three-mile-long cirque made up of eroding limestone, shale, and sandstone. Situated on the western edge of the Markagunt Plateau, the raised area of earth located in Southern Utah between Interstate 15 and Highway 89, the monument sits entirely above 10,000 feet. The Amphitheater is like a naturally formed coliseum that plunges 2,000 feet below taking your eyes for a colorful ride through arches, towers, hoodoos, and canyons.
(Central Utah) Cedar Mountain is located in the northern region of the San Rafael Swell in Eastern Utah. It's one of the highest points in Dixie National Forest at 9,200 feet. Cedar Mountain is a must-see overlook for San Rafael enthusiasts. It's ideal for getting a bird's eye view. The overlook is 7,575 feet tall. The mountain is an uplift of conglomerate and sandstone rock that offers some of the best views in the area.
CORAL PINK SAND DUNES
(Southern Utah) Sand dunes are not just ordinary piles of sand; they are breathtaking natural formations that can be found all over the world. These shifting hills of sand can be found in deserts, coastal areas, and even in some inland regions. The beauty and wonder of sand dunes have fascinated people for centuries, and their unique characteristics continue to astound researchers and visitors alike. These dunes are estimated at 10,000 to 15,000 years old. Coral Pink Sand Dunes support a diverse population of insects, including the Coral Pink tiger beetle that is found only here. Melting snow sometimes creates small ponds in the dunes that support amphibians such as salamanders and toads. Sand surface temperatures peak at 150įF on a sunny summer afternoon and drop to -20įF on a winterís night. The geology of the sand dunes is an intriguing subject. The sand comes from Navajo sandstone from the geologic period call Middle Jurassic. The same iron oxides and minerals that give us spectacular red rock country are responsible for this landscape of coral pink sand. Sand dunes are created by three factors: Sand, high winds, and a unique influence upon the wind. The notch between the Moquith and Moccasin mountains causes this unique influence. The wind is funneled through the notch, thereby increasing wind velocity to a point where it can carry sand grains from the eroding Navajo sandstone.
(Eastern Utah) Adventure waits for sightseers, hikers, and thrill-seekers in Devil's Garden. Here youíll find arches, spires, and a large concentration of narrow rock walls called fins. Fins form when rainwater erodes parallel fractures caused by the uplift of salt deposits below the surface. Fins eventually erode and give way to the formation of arches like Landscape Arch, the crown jewel of Devils Garden. Devilís Garden is a maze of sandstone formations formed by, and continuously shaped by, erosion. Natureís hand has been at work since the Jurassic Period more than 166 million years ago. Presently, Devilís Garden boasts hoodoos, arches, and other rock protrusions from the sandy, desert landscape.
FACTORY BUTTE & BLUE HILLS
(Central Utah) Factory Butte is the most recognizable feature of a large area of stark, barren land either side of the Fremont River known as the Upper Blue Hills or Badlands, bordered by Capitol Reef to the west, the Henry Mountains to the south, San Rafael Swell to the north and the San Rafael Desert to the east. The topography is characterized by mud flats bearing sparse grass and occasional bushes, rising a little to extensive, undulating grey badlands and sharp ridges completely devoid of any vegetation, surrounding a few flat-topped hills of orange-brown sandstone, of which Factory Butte is a prominent example.
(Northeast Utah) Fantasy Canyon is crowded with intricate and peculiar stone figures that are a unique expression of rock weathering and erosion. Covering only a few acres, this miniature canyon can be viewed up-close. The sandstone layer in which the pinnacles, pillars, arches, and knobs of Fantasy Canyon are formed consists of ancient river channel sediments. The underlying and overlying rock layers sandwiching the sandstone layer, and creating scenic badland topography around the canyon. Although the sandstone is more resistant to erosion relative to adjacent rocks, it is in fact extremely fragile. The sandstone is fine grained, porous, soft, poorly cemented, brittle, and crumbly. When touched, grains of sand dislodge from the rock surface.
(Central Utah) Journey to this strange and colorful valley to explore among the goblins. The landscape at Goblin Valley State Park is covered with sandstone goblins and formations, which many compare to Mars. Goblin Valley State Park is a showcase of geologic history. Exposed cliffs reveal parallel layers of rock bared by erosion. Because of the uneven hardness of sandstone, some patches resist erosion much better than others. The softer material is removed by wind and water, leaving thousands of unique, geologic goblins. Water erosion and the smoothing action of windblown dust work together to shape the goblins. Bedrock is exposed because of the thin soil and lack of vegetation. When rain does fall, there are few plant roots and little soil to capture and hold the water, which quickly disappears, in muddy streams without penetrating the bedrock.
(Southern Utah) Kodachrome Basin State Park is surrounded by Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. The 2,240-acre park can be thoroughly explored in a day or less, leaving time for a side excursion to nearby Grosvenor Arch, a massive natural stone arch located about nine miles southeast, or a drive through rugged Cottonwood Canyon via Cottonwood Canyon Road. As soon as you see it, you will know that the name fits perfectly. Kodachrome Basin State Park, with its red-tinged rock formations and incredible blue skies, just begs to be photographed. Towering monolithic spires or chimneys jut up from the valley floor or protrude from the sandstone rocks that surround the campground and inspire an infinite array of subjects limited only by oneís imagination. The scenery is splashy here, dominated by 67 monolithic stone spires called sedimentary pipes. They accentuate multi-hued sandstone layers revealing 180 million years of geologic time.
(Central Utah) Mount Timpanogos is a mountain in Utah's Wasatch Range. It's the second-highest mountain in the range, at 11,749 feet. It's also a popular hiking and camping destination. The rock which forms the visible surface of Mount Timpanogos is primarily limestone composed of compacted sediment laid down onto an ancient seafloor over millions of years. The word Timpanogos comes from the native Timpanogos tribeís words for rock and water, so it should come as no surprise that the mountain has some of the most scenic waterfalls in Utah Valley.
MOUNT TIMPANOGOS CAVE
(Central Utah) Timpanogos Cave National Monument is located in American Fork Canyon in Utahís Wasatch Range. Itís home to an extensive cave system thatís made up of three linked and spectacularly decorated caverns. Helictites, stalactites, stalagmites, calcite crusts, draperies and frostwork are just a few of the many dazzling formations found in the chambers of one of the most popular caves in Utah.
NINE MILE CANYON
(Central Utah) Despite its name, Nine Mile Canyon is actually 46 miles long, earning it the title of the worldís longest art gallery with its famous Native American petroglyphs (rock art). The rock art in the canyon showcases history of the Fremont, Ute and Archaic people that lived in the area hundreds of years ago. Large panels of rock art can be found just off of the road, making the canyon explorable for those of all ages and abilities. The canyon got its name when John Wesley Powell led a government expedition down the Green River in 1869. The tripís topographer, F.M. Bishop, drew a nine-mile triangulation of the area and named it Nine Mile Creek. This name was later changed to Nine Mile Canyon, which is how it remains to this day. While exploring the canyon, visitors will also get a glimpse of those who have called this canyon home, such as Native Americans, farmers, outlaws and ranchers. The art and stories of these dwellers have been preserved in the canyon for all to enjoy. The canyon can take 4-6 hours to explore thoroughly, so visitors are encouraged to prepare proper provisions. Please bring plenty of water and food for the trip and ensure your car is filled with gas. Binoculars and a camera will also be handy to view the beautiful scenery, rock art, and wildlife in the area.
(Southwestern Utah) The sprawling 60,000-acre Red Cliffs Desert Reserve contains a one-of-a-kind convergence of multiple different desert ecosystems, jaw-dropping scenery, and protected species seldom seen elsewhere. you should check out the City Creek area within the Red Cliffs reserve. If you are looking for a bigger challenge, be sure to spend a little time in the Red Reef, Red Mountain, or Millcreek areas. Red Cliffs Desert Reserve include multiple sections of the reserve: White Reef, Sandstone Mountain, and the Hurricane Cider Knolls. Each of these zones holds its own flavor of desert textures, vistas, colors, and experiences. As is often true of the red rock desert, thereís a lot going on that you have to slow down to see and feel. Dramatic rock formations are the first thing you tend to notice. The Western and Red Mountain portions of Red Cliffs Desert Reserve are as stunning as desert terrain can be.
SAN RAFAEL SWELL
(Central Utah) Eons ago, tremendous geologic upheavals formed a giant dome of rock - a "swell" in the earth's surface. The harsh elements beat against this dome and eroded it into a wild, broken array of multi-colored sandstone. Wind and water carved this jumble of rock into incredible formations as buttes, canyons, pinnacles and mesas emerged, making the Swell one of the most ruggedly beautiful pockets of terrain in the world. That was how this area came to be known as San Rafael Swell. For years the San Rafael Swell has been considered one of the "undiscovered" natural wonders of the American West. The San Rafael Swell also provides sights that cannot be found anywhere else, such as Goblin Valley and the San Rafael Reef.
(Southwestern Utah) Snow Canyon State Park is a state park in Utah, located in the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve. The park features a canyon carved from the red and white Navajo sandstone of the Red Mountains, as well as the extinct Santa Clara Volcano, lava tubes, lava flows, and sand dunes. Snow Canyon State Park contains several sandstone canyons cut in the Red Mountains. On the north end of the park, West Canyon and Snow Canyon follow a parallel southward path and converge in the middle of the park. The park then continues south-by-southeastward as a single, larger canyon, that opens near the park's southern entrance out onto the Santa Clara bench near Ivins, Utah. Snow Canyon State Park is used for activities such as hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding.
(Central Utah) Utah Lake is the largest freshwater lake in Utah and the United States west of the Mississippi River. It's located in the center of Utah County, Utah, in the Utah Valley. The lake is 24 miles long, 13 miles wide, and covers 148 square miles. It's a shallow, basin-bottom lake that's naturally turbid and slightly saline. Utah Lake is a remnant of prehistoric Lake Bonneville. It drains through the Jordan River into the Great Salt Lake. The lake's only river outlet is the Jordan River, which is a tributary of the Great Salt Lake.
(Southern Utah) This remote and unspoiled 280,000-acre monument is a geologic treasure with some of the most spectacular trails and views in the world. The monument contains many diverse landscapes, including the Paria Plateau, Vermilion Cliffs, Coyote Buttes, and Paria Canyon. The monument borders Kaibab National Forest to the west and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area to the east. The monument includes the Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness. Elevations range from 3,100 to 7,100 feet. The monument is also home to a growing number of endangered California condors. Each year, condors hatched and raised in a captive breeding program are released in the monument. The Vermilion Cliffs are steep eroded escarpments consisting primarily of sandstone, siltstone, limestone, and shale which rise as much as 3,000 feet (910 m) above their bases. These sedimentary rocks have been deeply eroded for millions of years, exposing hundreds of layers of richly colored rock strata. Mesas, buttes, and large tablelands are interspersed with steep canyons. The Vermilion Cliffs are the second step up in the five-step Grand Staircase of the Colorado Plateau in southern Utah.
(Southern Utah) The hoodoos and contrastingly colored sandstone of the Paria Rimrocks have become relatively well known. The soft entrada sandstone bedrock hereabouts is variously grey, light brown, very pale green or pure white in color and forms hoodoos ranging in shape from broad and short to tall, slender and tapering, topped either by dark sandstone blocks or unusual boulders of purple conglomerate, composed of small pebbles bonded together. There are several little slot canyons along Wahweap Creek, formed by minor tributaries on the east side.
(Southern Utah) The Wave is the premier photographic destination in the US Southwest. It is located in the Coyote Buttes North area of the Utah Arizona border. In addition to The Wave Coyote Buttes North contains many other spectacular rock formations. The formation is situated on the slopes of the Coyote Buttes in the Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness of the Colorado Plateau. Itís believed to date back to the Jurassic period during which time prevailing winds pushed the sandy desert dunes across the sandstone, etching it, while water runoff deposited chemicals such as manganese and iron. The resulting bands of colour are referred to as the Liesegang rings. Swirled bands of color run through the sandstone, ranging from red, pink, orange, yellow, white and green.
(Southwestern Utah) Yant Flats is also known as Candy Cliffs. It's a large expanse of reddish-orange sandstone protruding from the mountains of Red Cliffs. The area features multi-colored sandstone cliffs and candy-like rock swirls. The Yant Flat Trail is located in Dixie National Forest. Swirling, patterned sandstone in a great variety of colors, eroded into cliffs, buttes and ravines; across the southern slopes of the Pine Valley Mountains. The wavy bands occur in shades of orange, red, yellow and pink, and white, which when combined with varied rock forms and textures make for a very photogenic landscape.
The geographic size of Utah might seem daunting, but time on the road passes quickly when new discoveries punctuate each mile traveled. In total, Utahís distinct topography provides the surface for 28 scenic byways, which add up to hundreds of miles of vivid travel experiences wherein the road trip is as memorable as the destination. All of Utahís scenic byways are explorative journeys filled with trailheads, scenic overlooks, museums, local flavors and vibrant communities. These roads wind through The Mighty Five national parks, ski resorts, seven national forests, 44 state parks and more one of a kind towns than youíd be able to visit after a year living in your van. Each journey is a photographerís paradise, a hikerís nirvana, a Western historianís feast, and a geologistís dream world.
On the western edge of the Colorado Plateau in Utah there is a species of Aspen that has a single root system that has been metabolically alive for 80,000 years, and is considered one of the oldest living things on Earth. A single organism dancing with life has been alive for all of recorded human history, growing above ground with sprouts, not seeds, in a climate suitable for it. They are also known as Pando, or the Trembling Giants. An aspen grove is uniformly yellow with white bark because each tree is identical. Their leaves are attached to their stems by a thin, flexible stalk called a petiole, allowing them to move freely even in the gentlest of breezes as you hear them rustling. Dark sopts on the trunk are caused by deer grazing on them in the winter. Aspens can resist nearly every manner of destruction as the roots keep growing beneath the soil and sprouting new trees.
Among the majestic mountains, spires, canyons, buttes, and mesas of Utah can be found a truly amazing tree: the Utah juniper. Junipers grow in some of the most inhospitable landscapes imaginable, thriving in an environment of baking heat, bone-chilling cold, intense sunlight, little water and fierce winds than can kill any other tree. They stay alive because of a massive root system that often appears to grow straight out of solid rock as the roots can tunnel down 100 feet to find water. Junipers typically live up to 700 years. No two junipers ever look alike. Animals find the juniper very inviting. The berries are edible, though they are not as popular as pine nuts. However, juniper berries are a staple for jackrabbits, coyotes, and a variety of birds. This is important for the tree as well since it helps to disperse its seeds. It's wood is rot-resistant. Their oddly twisted trunks, with branches pointing in all directions, have a mystical quality. Each tree is like a work of art. It provides a wonderful contrast to the lifeless rock or cliff.
The Joshua tree is a subgroup of flowering plants that also includes grasses and orchids. Mormon immigrants had made their way across the Colorado River, and these pioneers named the tree after the biblical figure Joshua, seeing the limbs of the tree as outstretched in supplication. Judging the age of a Joshua tree is challenging. These trees do not have growth rings like other trees. Some researchers think an average lifespan for a Joshua tree is about 150 years. The Joshua tree is also capable of sprouting from roots and its branches.
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