UTAH (ABC4) – The mighty five parks of Utah. With the weather warming up, more people are planning trips to see the national parks of Utah. These include Zion, Bryce Canyon, Arches, Capitol Reef, and Canyonlands National Park. Here’s a quick look at these parks and their history.
Zion National Park
The most popular of the 5, Zion National Park, was Utah’s first National Park. Located in southern Springdale, this park is home to the Narrows, Canyon Overlook, emerald pools, a petrified forest, a Deseret swamp, and lots of waterfalls.
Like many areas in Utah, Zion National Park was first explored by Mormon pioneers, missionaries, and explorers in the 1850s. The area was inhabited solely by Southern Paiute Native Americans. By the early 1860s, the town of Springdale was established.
In 1909, United States President, William Howard Taft officially declared the area as federally protected land and named it Mukuntuweap National Monument. State residents were not pleased with the name and in 1919 the name was officially changed to Zion National Park by President Woodrow Wilson.
Bryce Canyon National Park
Located in southwestern Utah, Bryce Canyon is Utah’s smallest National Park. Famous for its hoodoos which are tall, thin spires of rock. These columns are striking with their rustic red color and height. It also features a rich history of Native Americans.
Archaeologists believe Paleo-Indians hunted about 15,000 years ago around Bryce Canyon. A group of Spanish explorers discovered the area around 1776 while traveling through. Mormon Pioneer Ebenezer Bryce surveyed the area in 1875 and settled there for the remainder of his life. The area then became known as “Bryce’s Canyon” and the name stuck.
President Warren G. Harding established Bryce Canyon National Monument in 1923, and National Park status was gained in 1928.
Arches National Park
As its name suggests, Arches is known for its remarkable red sandstone arches. Over 2,000 arches have been cataloged with the largest (Landscape Arch) measuring 306 feet from base to base. One of the most famous arches, Delicate Arch, has been featured on U.S. postage stamps and Utah state license plates.
Arches lies atop an underground salt bed. Salt under pressure is unstable which in turn causes the sandstone above it to crack and erode. Over time this is what creates the arches appearance along with other geographical features.
Publicity increased when the Rio Grande Western Railroad was introduced in the 1920s. By 1929, Herbert Hoover signed Arches as a National Monument. In 1971, congress changed the status of Arches to a National Park.
Capitol Reef National Park
Located in south-central Utah, this is Utah’s largest National Park by size. Its main feature includes a 100-mile-long monocline also known as a Waterpocket fold which extends from the Thousand Lakes Mountain all the way to Lake Powell.
The first known inhabitants of Capitol Reef Country were known as the Fremont People. They lived in the area from 700 AD to 1250. Many of their ancient rock paintings can still be seen. In 1872, the area was eventually settled and became known as Wayne County, Utah. Early settlers took notice of a certain segment of the Waterpocket Fold, which closely resembled the domes of the U.S. capitol buildings, thus the name Capitol Reef was born.
The Utah State Legislature declared the area a State Park in 1926. President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared it a national monument in 1937, and finally, Capitol Reef became a National Park in 1971.
Canyonlands National Park
Located in southeastern Utah, this is surprisingly Utah’s least visited park. A beautiful location with canyons, rivers, and Native American rock paintings. It is a perfect location for hikers, 4-wheel drivers, bikers, and river rafters.
Carved by the Colorado and Green rivers, the park is split into four districts. Island in the Sky, the Needles, the Maze, and the rivers themselves.
In 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson established Canyonlands as a National Park and 1971 saw Congress expand the park to include Horseshoe Canyon annex. Debates are still ongoing about expanding the park even further.