| ZION NATIONAL PARK - Information:
More than 200 million years ago the area now known as Zion National Park was the floor of an ancient sea, evolving over eons into a river delta, a lake bed, and a sandy desert. As the desert sand dunes calcified they began to form massive sandstone monoliths.
When the Colorado Plateau uplifted and began to shift about four million years ago, it forced the powerful Virgin River to rush downward. Carrying fast-moving sand, rocks and other debris, the Virgin River carved the towering 2,000 to 4,000 foot sandstone walls seen in Zion Canyon today.
Assisted by other natural forces of erosion, the immense Navajo sandstone monoliths and towering red cliffs are continuously changing, and geologists predict that Zion will someday return to desert plains.
Traces of the very earliest inhabitants of the Zion area date back to 7000 B.C. but ancestral Puebloans known as the Anasazi Indians were the first to really leave an impression on the land. The Anasazi inhabited the area from about 500-1200 A.D, followed by the Paiute, who were still in residence in 1858 when Mormon missionary Nephi Johnson began exploring the region for agricultural opportunities. Although Mormon settlements soon began farming along the fertile Virgin River banks, Zion remained further unexplored until Major John Wesley Powell’s geological scouting expedition in 1872.
The area was mapped and photographed by members of Powell’s exploration party, sparking national interest, and after a federal land survey was completed President William Howard Taft designated 15,000 acres of Zion Canyon as Mukuntuweap National Monument in 1909. Over the next decade tourism was hindered by inaccessible roads and the absence of a convenient rail stop. After the protected area was expanded, renamed Zion and upgraded to national park status in 1919 by Congress, interest in developing the area increased.
Tourism grew as roads were improved, and in 1925 Union Pacific’s subsidiary, the Utah Parks Company, added a rail stop in Cedar City. By 1930 a monumental engineering feat was completed: the 5,613-foot Zion-Mt. Carmel tunnel, which made Zion National Park accessible to everyone.
||FLORA & FAUNA:
The biological diversity of Zion National Park is evident in the hundreds of plant and animal species which take up residence here.
- Plants: Vegetation in Zion National Park is as varied as the landscape. Box elder trees, golden columbine, and an abundance of wildflowers thrive in the moist soil along the Virgin River bank.
Indian paintbrush, prickly pear cactus, and sacred datura are some of the hardier plants that grow in the more arid areas. Ponderosa pines, junipers, and hardy shrubs grace the upper plateaus.
- Wildlife: Among the 78 species of mammals, Zion is habitat for mule deer and their natural predators, cougars. Desert bighorn sheep make their home primarily on the east side of the park. Smaller mammals found throughout Zion include bobcat, coyote, gray fox, ringtail, desert cottontail rabbit, and beaver. More than 290 species of birds also take residence in Zion, including the frequently-sighted peregrine falcon and American dipper. Reptiles and amphibians found in the park include the western rattlesnake, western and plateau whiptails, horned and collared lizard, canyon tree frog and red-spotted toad.
All flora and fauna are federally protected and may not be removed from the park.
Southern Utah is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts, and Zion National Park is within a day’s drive from many popular attractions:
--Bryce Canyon National Park, 86 miles northeast
--Cedar Breaks National Monument, 45 miles northeast (from the north entrance)
--Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, 75 miles east
--Grosvenor Arch and Kodachrome Basin State Park, 95 miles east
--Lake Powell/Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, 114 miles east
--Grand Canyon National Park (North Rim), 125 miles southeast
--Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, 38 miles southeast
--Pipe Spring National Monument, 61 miles south
--Lake Mead National Recreation Area, 118 miles southwest
--Snow Canyon State Park, 53 miles west
Nearby communities which offer accommodations, restaurants, shopping, and gas include Mount Carmel Junction, near the east entrance; Springdale, near the south entrance; Cedar City, 18 miles north; Hurricane, 25 miles west; St. George, 32 miles southwest; Kanab, 40 miles east.
St. George, the largest city in southern Utah, is located just 40 minutes southwest of Zion National Park. Its proximity to Zion and the other parks in the Grand Circle make it an excellent location to base your southern Utah travels. With winter temperatures that rarely fall below 50 degrees, St. George has become a popular tourist and retirement community with plentiful shopping, lodging, restaurants, art galleries, theaters, and limitless recreational opportunities. St. George is home to some of the top-rated golf courses in Utah, with twelve challenging, well-maintained courses within a fifteen-minute drive. Hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, fishing, hunting, and camping are also easily satiated here. Cultural enthusiasts can enjoy Broadway musicals at the renowned Tuacahn Amphitheater in nearby St. Ivins, beneath a backdrop of the 1500-foot red cliffs of nearby Snow Canyon State Park.
Located near the south entrance to Zion National Park, Springdale is the southern gateway to the towering sandstone cliffs and rugged beauty of Zion Canyon. Visitors using Springdale as a base camp can easily reach Bryce Canyon National Park, Cedar Breaks National Monument, Coral Pink Sand Dunes, Lake Powell, Snow Canyon, Lava Point, St. George, Cedar City, Kanab, and more within two hours’ drive. Settled in the 1860s, Springdale was a small agricultural community until tourists began flocking to Zion National Park in the early twentieth century. Today Springdale is a thriving tourist town with hotels, restaurants, campgrounds, shopping, museums, galleries, festivals, theaters, and a 1000-seat outdoor amphitheater. Springdale’s mild winters permit outdoor enthusiasts to enjoy hiking, mountain biking, swimming, tubing, camping, and horseback riding year-round.
DIXIE NATIONAL FOREST is the largest national forest in Utah, encompassing nearly two million acres of canyon country and covering 170 miles of southwestern Utah. Straddling the divide between the Great Basin and Colorado River, the forest surrounds Zion, Bryce Canyon, and Capitol Reef National Parks and Grand Staircase Escalante and Cedar Breaks National Monuments. Dixie National Forest ranges in elevation from 2,800 feet to 11,300 feet and is divided into four geographically diverse areas: the mountainous terrain of Escalante-Torrey; the pink and red cliffs of Bryce Canyon/Circleville; the white and pink cliffs of Cedar Breaks/Panguitch; and the steep 10,000 foot Pine Valley Mountains of the St. George/Nevada border section. Climate conditions are as varied as the landscape, with high-altitude lows of -30 degrees Fahrenheit to summer highs in excess of 100 degrees near St. George. Tourist communities near Dixie National Forest include Cedar City, Bryce Canyon, and St. George.
BRYCE CANYON/RED CANYON
Bryce Canyon National Park is the smallest of Utah’s five national parks but no less impressive. The park’s most distinctive feature, oddly-shaped pinnacles of pink and red rock “hoodoos,” add an air of mystery to an already stunning landscape. The Paiute Indians believed the hoodoos were the frozen-in-time remains of the evil Legend People. Today, these silent stone citizens stand at attention deep in a canyon amphitheater. Bryce Canyon draws nearly two million visitors each year, and has 50 miles of hiking trails packed into its 38,385 acres. Major landmarks include Inspiration, Sunrise, and Sunset Points, Navajo Loop, Ponderosa Point, Black Birch Canyon, Paria View, Bryce Point, Natural Bridge, and Rainbow Point (at 9,115 feet the highest point in the park). Bryce Canyon is located about 60 miles from Zion National Park, via Highway 89 North to UT12 East, through Red Canyon to Highway 63. Red Canyon, part of Dixie National Forest, offers more unique red sandstone hoodoos and almost two dozen trails for hiking, mountain biking, ATV/4WD, and horseback riding.
The Grand Staircase was formed when the area now referred to as the Colorado Plateau lifted and slid, exposing layers of sedimentary rock and millions of years of geologic history. The oldest exposed layer is the Chocolate Cliffs of the Grand Canyon region, followed by the Vermillion, White, Grey, and Pink Cliffs which spread north into Bryce Canyon. In 1996, 1.9 million acres of rugged wilderness in southern Utah were designated as Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument by President Bill Clinton. The total acreage is more than all five of Utah’s national parks combined. Grand Staircase Escalante is the first national monument managed by the Bureau of Land Management.
You may click on these links for Zion National Park pictures, lodging, maps, activities, travel planning, and other general information.
Near Utah’s southern border lies the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, a rugged, remote area on the Kaibab Plateau. While nearly 5 million people the South Rim each year, the North Rim sees a much smaller percentage of visitors due to its isolated location. Although the North and South Rims are separated by only ten miles, actual driving distance is 220 miles and takes four to five hours of travel time. Those who do make the trip to the North Rim, however, are treated to expansive, awe-inspiring views, mule rides, river tours, and more than a dozen hiking trails. North Rim highlights include Bright Angel Point, Point Imperial, Vista Encantada, Roosevelt Point, Walhalla Overlook, Cape Royal, and Point Sublime. The North Rim entrance is located 30 miles south of Jacob Lake, AZ, via Highway 67. Because of the North Rim’s high elevation (8,000 to 9,100 feet) the road to the park is closed from mid-November to mid-May.
Zion Park, Utah is in close proximity to communities such as St. George Utah.