The Parks

Arches National Park

Photo courtesy of the National Park Service
Photo courtesy of the National Park Service

The forces of nature have acted in concert to create the landscape of Arches, which contain the greatest density of natural arches in the world. Throughout the park, rock layers tell a story of millions of years of deposition, erosion and other geologic events. These layers continue to shape life in Arches today, as their erosion influences elemental features like soil chemistry and where water flows when it rains.

The Friends of Arches and Canyonlands Parks have supported numerous activities within Arches. In 2012 the first National Park Citizen Naturalization Ceremony was held in Arches. In June of 2014, the Arches quarter was launched at the visitor center. Every September the Friends sponsor the annual Star Party with a featured astronomer and night sky viewing. Arches holds several full moon hikes at the Windows area and ranger held sky viewing during the spring and fall.

The Friends Volunteer Stewardship Program has a variety of activities that involve cultural resource monitoring, and graffiti and weed removal. Volunteers are specially trained to assist park rangers and enhance visitor experiences through their involvement in stewardship activities within Arches National Park.

To plan your visit to Arches

 

Canyonlands National Park

Maze
Photos courtesy of the National Park Service
Photos courtesy of the National Park Service

Canyonlands offers a variety of opportunities to explore the wonderful landscapes that cover over 337,000 acres and 527 square miles. The park was established on September 12, 1964 with Bates Wilson as its first superintendent.

Each of the four districts of Canyonlands offers different opportunities for sightseeing and exploration.

  • The Island in the Sky is the most accessible district, offering expansive views from many overlooks along the paved scenic drive, several hikes of varying length and moderate four-wheel drive route called the White Rim Road.
  • The Needles offers more of a backcountry experience requiring some hiking or four-wheel driving to see the area’s attractions.
  • The Maze is a remote district requiring considerably more time and self-reliance to visit.
  • The Green and Colorado Rivers offer flat water boating as well as whitewater trips through Cataract Canyon. All are unique ways to experience the park that usually involve two or more days of boating.

The Friends offers several programs in Canyonlands including the Volunteer Site Stewardship program which assists the park staff in monitoring the many archeology sites found in the park. The Friends sponsors National Trail Day guided ranger hikes in the Island in Sky District. In September of 2014, the Friends hosted over 700 visitors in celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the establishment of Canyonlands National Park.

To plan your visit to Canyonlands

 

Natural Bridges National Monument

owachomobridge2
Photos courtesy of the National Park Service
Photos courtesy of the National Park Service

Natural Bridges was first used during the Archaic period, from 7000 B.C. to 500 A.D. Only rock art and stone tools left by hunter-gatherer groups reveal that humans lived here at that time. In 1883, prospector Cass Hite wandered up White Canyon from his base camp along the Colorado River in search of gold. What he found instead were three magnificent bridges that water had sculpted from stone.

The three bridges in the park are named KachinaOwachomo, and Sipapu (the largest), which are all Hopi names. A natural bridge is formed through erosion by water flowing in the stream bed of the canyon. During periods of flash floods, particularly, the stream undercuts the walls of rock that separate the meanders (or goosenecks) of the stream, until the rock wall within the meander is undercut and the meander is cut off. The new stream bed then flows underneath the bridge. Eventually, as erosion and gravity enlarge the bridge's opening, the bridge collapses under its own weight. There is evidence of at least two collapsed natural bridges within the Monument.

In 1904, National Geographic Magazine publicized the bridges, and in 1908 President Theodore Roosevelt established Natural Bridges National Monument creating Utah’s first National Park Service area. Blanding, Utah resident, cattle man, and prospector Zekeriah Johnson became the park’s first custodian.

To plan your visit to Natural Bridges

 

Hovenweep

Photo courtesy of the National Park Service
Photo courtesy of the National Park Service

The name Hovenweep means deserted valley in Ute language. The name is apt as a description of the area’s desolate canyons and barren mesas as well as the ruins of ancient communities. Human habitation at Hovenweep dates to over 10,000 years ago when nomadic Paleoindians visited the Cajon Mesa to gather food and hunt game. These people used the area for centuries, following the seasonal weather patterns. By about 900 A.D. people started to settle at Hovenweep year round, planting and harvesting crops in the rich soil of the mesa top. By the late 1200s, the Hovenweep area was home to over 2500 people.

In 1854, William D. Huntington, on a missionary trip to the southwestern United States for Brigham Young, discovered the ruins of the present Hovenweep National Monument. The ruins were already known to the Ute and Navajo guides who considered them haunted and urged Huntington to stay away.

In 1927, ethnologist J. Walter Fewkes of the Smithsonian Institute included descriptions of the ruins in published archeology survey reports and recommended the structures be protected. Little excavation was done on the sites until 1970s. Hovenweep was proclaimed a National Monument on March 2, 1923.

The Friends supports both of the National Monuments Dark Sky Designations. Natural Bridges became the first Dark Sky Park. Both parks offer ranger lead dark sky programs for visitors and the local community. The Friends also provides Volunteer Site Monitoring of the areas rich in cultural resources both prehistoric and historic.

To plan your visit to Hovenweep