Canyonlands National Park Natural History

Moab Utah
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Turning the pages of time, Canyonlands National Park has housed prehistoric hunter gatherers, cliff dwelling ancients and uranium prospectors. This natural marvel, sculpted by the endless flow of the Colorado River and its tributaries, offers a vast, magical and mysterious catalogue of vistas to the modern visitor. What romantic and exciting stories might these sandstone plateaus tell, if only they could speak? Read More

Around 11,500 B.C, hunter gatherers of the prehistoric era first inhabited the area in Southwestern Utah known as Canyonlands National Park. Located near Moab, Utah, the park boasts a long and storied history. By 1100 A.D. the ancient Anasazi and a Native American culture called the Freemont Indians cultivated crops and populated the desert landscape, leaving many artistic accounts of their lives. These works of art depicting simple figures and abstract symbols etched into the stone of the area, peak the imagination. Sadly, in the thirteenth Century a drought forced both groups to leave their homes in search of wetter climates.

European explorers, trappers and military expeditions filled the 1800s before the Utah cattle ranchers settled in the area. In 1869 and again in 1871, Major John Wesley Powell led two expeditions into the Colorado River and surrounding area, leaving detailed geological and topographic maps for those cattlemen who followed in the mid 1880s. Uranium prospectors combed the area in the 1950s and 1960s, but found the yield too small to warrant more exploration. In September of 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson designated the area as a national park, preserving the wonder and beauty of Canyonlands National Park for the generations to come.

In the Spotlight

Other History Resources

Canyonlands Natural History Association

The Canyonlands Natural History Association assists the NPS, BLM, and Forest Service in Utah with scientific research and education.

Capitol Reef Natural History Association

The Capitol Reef Natural History Association promotes the understanding and education of natural history in the area as well as asists the National Park Service with its programs.