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Utah Sights - Exploring Southeast Utah

Arches, Canyonlands and Capitol Reef Come Shining Through

Photography by Carl Calvert

Southeastern Utah is a traveler's wonderland. As a state, Utah is rich in a wide variety of national parks and monuments, and the names Zion, Bryce Canyon, and Lake Powell are common among seasoned road warriors. However, tucked away in Utah's southeastern corner is a trio of sparkling jewels in the national park system: Arches, Canyonlands, and Capitol Reef.

As part of a cross-country trip, we had planned to visit this area of Utah to fully explore what these parks had to offer. The trip was actually a follow-up to one we made many years ago (back then, we were camping in a Toyota pickup with a camper top). This time, we had the advantage of quite an upgrade: our rugged F-250 Power Stroke, pulling a 29-foot fifth-wheel Komfort trailer. While Moab, Utah, is a favorite destination for many travelers of the area, we chose instead to camp at Green River, a small picturesque town that, like Moab, is centrally located to the trio of national parks we planned to visit.

While in Green River, we stayed at the Shady Acres RV Park and Campground, which offered nearly 100 full-hookup sites in a scenic setting. Since we arrived at Green River in the late afternoon, it was a bit late to dash off to the national parks, so we decided to take in the John Welsley Powell River History Museum, located just down the street from our campground, instead. In 1869, explorer John Wesley Powell and his crew undertook an expedition down the wild, uncharted waters of the Green and Colorado Rivers. Today, the museum honors these brave explorers. The museum is packed with river memorabilia, an exhaustive history of Powell's expeditions, and enough facts about the memorable river trips to satisfy even the most jaded Powell enthusiast.

The next day, we were anxious to visit two of our favorite areas: Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. These two parks dramatically illustrate the great beauty and the great power of Mother Nature. Carved out by a long history of rushing water, relentless wind, and natural erosive forces, Arches and Canyonlands stand as mute testimonies of what eons of natural weathering can achieve. Arches is a magnificent collection of towering stone monoliths, sweeping stone arches, dramatic fire-red canyons, and precariously perched boulders. Canyonlands, on the other hand, looks like the devil himself gouged out gigantic rugged canyons with his massive sharp-shearing talons.

The very names of the incredible formations at Arches give you an idea of what sights there are to behold: Park Avenue, Balanced Rock, Delicate Arch, Devils Garden, Double Arch, Turret Arch, and Dark Angel. Water and ice, extreme temperatures, and underground salt movement are responsible for the sculptured rock scenery of Arches National Park. There are more than 2,000 cataloged arches in the park, ranging in size from a three-foot opening to the longest one, Landscape Arch, which measures 306 feet from base to base. Arches can be seen in a day (although we don't recommend spending that little time), or you can happily explore this area over the course of a week. There are numerous hiking trails, a couple of mild off-road areas, a beautiful campground tucked into the confines of the park (no hookups), and enough adventure to captivate even the kids.

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