Canyonlands Journal
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About This Website

(click here for a map)

Sometime during the long Canadian winter, I begin to dream about southern Utah's canyon country. I visit during the spring, April to May, and fall, September to October – times of moderate temperatures.

This website contains some of the writing about my experiences that has been published in various poetry journals along with photographs to provide a visual feel for the canyonlands.

The places I frequent are mostly in southern Utah and include Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, Natural Bridges National Monument, and the great canyon systems of the Cedar Mesa (Grand Gulch, Slickhorn, Owl, Fish, Road, Johns and Lime, to name a few). The Colorado and San Juan Rivers form the northern and southern boundaries of this area. I'm only an infrequent visitor to some of the other great parks in the region, including Bryce, Capitol Reef, Zion, and in New Mexico,Mesa Verde National Park and Chaco Culture National Monument. I've preferred being on foot and knowing a few places well rather than short visits and car touring or four-wheeling through the many landscapes in the region.

The urge to wander about in these canyonlands has to do with more than the primitive and almost untouched beauty of the canyons themselves and the lovely spring and fall weather. The ancient residents left records of their experiences and visions in the form of rock art and of their presence in the form of ruins made of stone and mud that served as shelters and food storage bins. Some of these structures look as if they might have been built yesterday; others are simply piles of rubble. These people from canyon country's prehistory, formally known as Ancestral Puebloans, deserted the area a thousand years ago, likely due to a severe drought. The Hopi, who are most likely their direct descendants, call them "Hisatsinom," and the Navajo, who were latecomers to the region, call them by the term most commonly used today, "Anasazi,"a term that translates as "Ancient Enemy," although the Navajo were neither contemporaries or enemies.

Today's visitors enjoy this area in a variety of ways, including hiking, rafting, biking, four-wheeling, photographing, ruin and arch visiting, and driving on the paved roads to see the grand vistas. Apart from a few relatively small protected areas, much of the land is privately held or is federal public land managed by the Bureau of Land Management. In my view, too much of the land in this area remains unprotected and much of it continues to be subjected to intense cattle grazing, abuse by ATV drivers, and sparse management by understaffed and underfunded Parks and Bureau of Land Management organizations.

I recommend that people who enjoy these areas support the groups that do their best to secure protection for these precious lands. This includes the Sierra Club, The Wilderness Society, and the Southwestern Utah Wilderness Alliance.

And if you've not yet visited, the Edge of the Cedars Museum in Blanding, Utah is a hidden treat.

~ Ray Rasmussen



Cottonwood Reflections

(image by Nancy Hull)