Canyonlands National Park covers 530 square miles of southeastern Utah where the Green and Colorado rivers come together. It is perhaps one of our more unusual national parks, geographically speaking, as it is comprised of three different distinct areas, each difficult, if not impossible to access from the other. Countless canyons, arches, spires, buttes, mesas, and a myriad of other spectacular rock formations are found within its boundaries.
Last year, we visited the Island in the Sky region, the more accessible and popular of the three areas of the park (Island in the Sky, Needles, the Maze). Today, we decided to drive south to the Needles region. It is located 40 miles south of Moab, and then 35 miles west on Highway 211, the only paved road into the region.
Newspaper Rock is located on Highway 211. A State Historical Site, Newspaper Rock, containing hundreds of petroglyphs, is one of the more impressive petroglyph sites we’ve viewed. The etchings are estimated to contain images spanning 2000 years and cover almost 200 square feet. In Navajo, the rock is called Tse’Hane’, or “rock that tells a story”. As is the case in all petroglyph sites, there is no way to know why the images were placed there. Were they placed there to record a story, to leave a message for travelers, or were they just ancient graffiti? No one will ever know for sure, but they are always fascinating sites.
The Needles District is separated from the remainder of the park by sheer, non-bridgeable canyons. It forms the southeast corner of Canyonlands and was named for the colorful spires of sandstone that dominate the area. Much of the Needles District is only accessible by hiking or 4 wheel drive vehicles. You do not see these spires on the scenic drive through the park, except at a distance, so the second photo is from the Internet.
One of the more unusual arches in the park is this one titled “Wooden Shoe Arch”. Some named formations in southern Utah really require an imagination to see how they obtained their name; not this one.