Celebrate Canyonlands National Park's Anniversary September 12th

Celebrate Canyonlands National Park's Anniversary September 12th

Canyonlands National Park was established on September 12th, 1964, which preserves 337,598 acres of colorful canyons, mesas, buttes, fins, arches, and spires in the heart of southeast Utah's high desert. Water and gravity have been the prime architects of this land, sculpting layers of rock into this rugged landscape.

In the early 1950s, Bates Wilson, then superintendent of Arches National Monument, began exploring the area to the south and west of Moab, Utah. After seeing what is now known as the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park, Wilson began advocating for the establishment of a new national park that would include the Needles. Additional explorations by Wilson and others expanded the areas proposed for inclusion into the new national park to include the confluence of Green and Colorado rivers, the Maze District, and Horseshoe Canyon.

In 1961, Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall was scheduled to address a conference at Grand Canyon National Park. On his flight to the conference, he flew over the Confluence (where the Colorado and Green rivers meet). The view apparently sparked Udall's interest in Wilson's proposal for a new national park in that area and Udall began promoting the establishment of Canyonlands National Park.

In 1962, the Canyonlands park bill was introduced by Utah Democratic Senator Frank Moss. Also that year, the U.S. Department of the Interior published a paper entitled A Proposed Canyonlands National Park containing this evocative passage:

"Rock -- carved, colored and clothed by weather -- controls the character of our land. Nowhere is the relationship between earth's framework and the forces that shape it more dramatic than in the plateau and canyon country of the American Southwest."
On September 12, 1964, after several years of debate, President Lyndon B. Johnson established Canyonlands as a new national park. Bates Wilson became the first superintendent of the new park. He is often referred to as the "Father of Canyonlands." Canyonlands expanded to its current size of 337,598 acres on November 12, 1971 when the Maze, the Land of Standing Rocks, as well as Davis and Lavender canyons were added to the park.

While each district shares a primitive desert atmosphere, each retains its own character and offers different opportunities for exploration and adventure. Though they appear close on a map, there are no roads that directly link the districts. Traveling between them requires two to six hours by car as there are few places to cross the rivers. Get directions. Most people find it impractical to visit more than one area in a single trip.

Click Here to See the Canyonlands National Park Poster!


Rob Decker is a photographer and graphic artist who studied under Ansel Adams in Yosemite National Park when he was just 19 years old. Now, he's creating iconic WPA-style posters for each of our National Parks. Click Here to learn more about his story and The National Park Poster Project.

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