Canyonlands National Park The Needles

The contrasting names in the Needles country reflect the diversity of the land itself: Devils Kitchen and Angel Arch, Elephant Hill and Caterpillar Arch, Gothic Arch and Paul Bunyans Potty. The Needles is a startling landscape of sculptured rock spires, arches, canyons, grabens, and potholes. The dominant landforms are the Needles themselves - rock pinnacles banded in red and white. Earth movements fractured the rock, and water, wind, and freezing and thawing eroded it into the jumbled terrain of today.

Grassy meadows such as the 960 acre Chesler Park offer a striking contrast to the Neddles" bare rock. And arches add a tough of the unusual to the region. Like Arches National Park to the northeast, the Neddles country boasts a fascinating collection of natural rock spans. Angel Arch, located in a side canyon of Salt Creek Canyon, stands 150 feet high. The Wooden Shoe Arch, on the other hand, has just a small tunnel-like opening. Other arches are shaped like a caterpillar, a wedding ring, a horse"s hoof. Most of the arches lie hidden in back-country canyons and are well-deserved rewards for those who make the long 4 wheel drive trips or hikes to see them. The Grabens lie at the end of another long 4 wheel drive journey. To reach these vertical walled, grass carpeted valleys requires negotiating infamous Elephant Hill. With steep, rocky inclines and sharp switch backs, Elephant Hill tests the skills of the most accomplished 4 wheel driver. Continuing past the Grabens, roads and trails lead to the Concluence Outlook, a point 1,000 feet above the meeting place of the Green and Colorado rivers. Theroughout this country the Anasazi Indians - the Ancient ones - once ranged, growing corn, squash, and beans, hunting deer and bighorn, and gathering native seeds, fruits, and roots. This advanced culture was part of the same group of people who built the great stone pueblos of Mesa Verde in Colorado and Chaco Canyon in New Mexico.

Traces of the Anasazi can be found in almost every canyon in the Needles. Many of their stone and mud dwellings and storehouses are remarkably well preserved. Tower Ruin, built high on a cliff ledge in a side canyon of Horse Canyon, is an outstanding example of the Anasazi"s architecture. They also left a record in the petroglyphs they etched and the pictographs they painted on cliff walls, as did the Archaic hunters and gatherers who were here centuries before them. The meaning of the many figures, faces, handprints, and other images remains largely a mystery. Unfortunately, many pots, tools, and other items crafted and used by these prehistoric peoples are gone, stolen by looters. As always, leave no trace and leave artifacts in place.

Exploring this area of Canyonlands National Park:

From US 191 take Utah 211 west to the Needles. The paved road continues into the park. Entrance fees and camping fees are charged. Water is available spring through fall.

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