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Home > Close-Ups > Traveling Through Southern Utah



Traveling Through Southern Utah



Southern Utah is my favorite part of America, and for many reasons: 

  • It's probably the most remote area in the Lower 48 states and it's not unusual to find vistas with no trace of mankind for as far as you can see.  It's incredibly quiet here.

  • I love the barren and bizarre red sandstone landscapes that are so common here.  

  • I enjoy hot and dry desert climates (be aware, though, that southern Utah can get pretty cold and snowy in the winter).

  • The vast majority of land in Utah is publicly owned, mostly managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), U.S. Forest Service, or National Park Service, and is therefore open to public recreation.

  • Finally, I'm interested in the Mormon culture (see my page on Utah: Mormons and Polygamy).

I get down to Utah as often as I can, at least once every couple of years.  Here are some photos from my recent visit. 


1-1789 Bullfrog Marina.jpg (49821 bytes)        1-1821 Hwy 95 & Lake Powell.jpg (51742 bytes)

Above left:  Lake Powell was formed in the 1960s when the Colorado River was dammed.  It's become a boater's paradise and is dotted with numerous marinas, including this one at Bullfrog.  With all of the dams, reservoirs, and marinas in this area, it's hard to imagine the one-armed Major John Wesley Powell floating down the turbulent waters of the Colorado River in 1869, strapped in a chair to the deck of his wooden boat.

Above center:  The last discovered mountain range in the continental United States were the Henry Mountains in southeastern Utah.  They were discovered, named, and explored by the Powell boat expeditions down the Colorado River in 1869 and 1871.  Even today, the Henrys are probably the most isolated mountain range in the Lower 48 states.

Above right:  Lake Powell and the Colorado River Bridge from Utah Highway 95.



Above left:  Just roll down the window and let the wind blow through your hair as you cruise on Utah Highway 95, one of my favorite drives in America.

Above center:  There are three bridges at Natural Bridges National Monument, including Sipapu Bridge shown here.  Natural bridges are pretty rare and form when rivers cut through rock walls, unlike arches which are formed by wind erosion or dripping water.  Trails lead to each of the three bridges here, but I didn't have time on this trip to hike down.

Above right:  These are Anasazi Indian ruins near Natural Bridges National Monument.  There are Indian ruins or cliff dwellings in almost every canyon of southeastern Utah, many of which are still undiscovered.



Above left:  A roadcut on Highway 95 through Comb Ridge.

Above center:  Here's y truck parked on the "slickrock" (i.e., sandstone) at Arch Canyon near Natural Bridges.  This is one of my favorite campsites in the U.S.  There are hundreds of beautiful camping spots like this scattered around Utah on public land.  There aren't any facilities, but it's free... and there's no one within miles.

Above right:  I'm taking in the incredible vista at Muley Point Overlook.  As strange as it sounds, I thought I heard the faint murmurs of Navajo chanting and drumming here.  Maybe I had too many Pepsi's for breakfast!



Above left:  There are a lot of exciting roads in Utah including graveled Highway 261, with switchbacks that climb a thousand feet above the desert floor.

Above center:  The goosenecks of the San Juan River is one of the best examples of incised meanders in the world.  These occur when the land rises and the river continues to cut down into its channel.  Talk about being in a rut. 

Above right:  The historic district of Bluff, Utah.  In the late 1800s, the Mormon leader Brigham Young ordered a group of Mormons to create an outpost in southeastern Utah.  Traveling to this remote area was an arduous task, and the pioneers had to cut a huge hole in a sandstone cliff (which is still there) and lowered wagons down by rope and pulley.  They settled here at Bluff simply because they were too exhausted to go any further.  Bluff today is pleasant little town with about 500 residents.