Roadtrip – Zion National Park

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(Fig. 01)
MAP-Zion National Park-2
(Fig. 02)
Directions: From Las Vegas, travel I-15 north to Utah and St. George. It is 128 miles to I-15 exit 16 on the other side of St. George. Follow SR-9 and travel through Hurricane to LaVerkin, bottom left of (Fig. 02). In LaVerkin, continue turning right (East) on SR-9 to the south entrance of the park. This road goes by Utah Scenic Byway-9; Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway and the Mt. Carmel Scenic Byway. All three names are correct. Following the Mount Carmel Hyway 14 miles through the park to its eastern entrance boundary makes for a total driving distant of about 170 miles for a total time of 3-3.5 hours, without stops and pictures taking. 
MAP-Zion National Park Detail-2
(Fig. 03
Park Description: Zion National Park is located situated in the southwestern corner of Utah near the Nevada and Arizona borders near Springdale, Utah. The map in (Fig. 02) shows the extent of the park’s boundaries. The park is 229-square-miles as it surrounds Zion Canyon, which is 15 miles long and up to half a mile deep as it cuts through the reddish and tan-colored Navajo Sandstone by the North Fork of the Virgin River. The lowest elevation is 3,666 feet at Coalpits Wash and the highest elevation is 8,726 feet at Horse Ranch Mountain. At Canyon Junction (Fig. 03), the road into Zion Canyon is called the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive. Refer to the enlarged map section in (Fig. 03).  It is 6 miles long and ends at the Temple of Sinawava ("Sinawava" refers to the Coyote God of the Paiute Indians). At the Temple the canyon narrows and a foot-trail continues to the mouth of the Zion Narrows, a gorge as narrow as 20 feet wide and up to 2,000 feet tall. This road is served by a free shuttle bus from early April to late October and by private vehicles the other months of the year. Other roads in Zion are open to private vehicles year-round.
At Canyon Junction (Fig. 03), SR-9, called the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway (Figs. 01 & 04), heads east to service the east side of the park. This seven mile stretch passes the Zion–Mount Carmel Tunnel and ends at Mount Carmel Junction, Utah. When opened in 1930, the Zion-Mt. Carmel highway was an engineering marvel of its time and was the longest tunnel in the United States. Providing access to Zion from the park's east entrance, the highway leads to the famous Pine Creek Tunnel, which is 1.1 mile long and has six large windows cut into the rock (Figs. 05 & 06). I have to admit that when I first looked up and saw the opening in the side of the sheer cliff, I thought it was an Indian cave or dwelling. It was only as I got closer and then drove through the tunnel that I realized that it was one of several "tunnel vents" that provided several outstooding "window views" onto the valley below.
East Tunnel Entrance
The notable features on the eastern portion of the park include Checkerboard Mesa and the East Temple. On the west side of the park, west of Zion Canyon, is the Kolob Terrace. This area features The Subway, a slot canyon hike, and Lava Point, with a panoramic view of the entire area. The Kolob Canyons section, further west near Cedar City, features the world's second longest arch, Kolob Arch. Other stone arches at Zion include Crawford, Double Pine, Jughandle, Chinle Trail, and Hidden Arch.
(Fig. 05)
(Fig. 06)
(Fig. 07)
10/05/2009 Trip Notes: This stop was the beginning of a week long trip Connie and I took with a neighbor through Utah, Arizona and New Mexico on our way to the annual 2009 Albuquerque Balloon Festival. As you turn onto SR-9, headed to Zion, the road travels alongside the Virgin River (Fig. 07), with some of the parks’ peaks in the distance (Fig. 08). The closer you get to the park, the more you begin to find yourself surrounded by the many colored layers of the sandstone mesas and mountains (Figs. 08 & 09). The soaring towers and massive monoliths offer a spectacular grandeur. The peak show in (Fig. 10) is called Mountain of the Sun. After entering the park we decided we didn’t have enough time to take the shuttles up through the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive (see Fig. 03), and chose to take the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway to the park’s east entrance. This road switchbacks (Figs 04 & 11) its way up the mountain on the eastern side of the valley towards the tunnel near the top. As you climb higher and higher, the views of the surrounding mountains and the valley below provide staggering views (Figs 01, 12 & 13). After passing through the mile long tunnel near the top of the mountain, the sandstone landscape begins to change from shades of reddish-orange to more tan, white and shades of grey (Fig. 14). I just love the varying colors of the sandstone in (Fig. 16). A little further on you begin to encounter what is called "Checkerboard Mesa or Mountain" due to its strange vertically and horizontally striated surface. The left to right deep scratches are due to a north to south wind direction while the vertical cracks are a result of weathering, a cycle of freezing and thawing (Fig. 15). I can’t wait to go back and spend a couple of days hiking some of the trails along the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive. Note: I have converted some of the pictures taken here into "Black & White". Check out some of these pictures by going to ... Black & White Index.
(Fig. 08)
(Fig. 09)
(Fig. 10)



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Brief History: During the Archaic Period, the first human presence in the region dates to 8,000 years ago when family groups camped where they could hunt or collect plants and seeds. About 2,000 years ago, some groups began growing corn and other crops, leading to an increasingly sedentary lifestyle. Later groups in this period built permanent villages called pueblos. Archaeologists call this the Archaic period and it lasted until about 500 CE. Baskets, cordage nets, and yucca fiber sandals have been found and dated to this period. By 300 CE some of the archaic groups developed into an early branch of seminomadic Anasazi, the Basketmakers. Basketmaker sites have grass- or stone-lined storage cists and shallow, partially underground dwellings called pithouses. They were hunters and gatherers who supplemented their diet with limited agriculture. Locally collected pine nuts were important for food and trade.
During the Protohistoric Period, both the Virgin Anasazi and the Parowan Fremont disappear from the archaeological record of southwestern Utah by about 1300. Extended droughts in the 11th and 12th centuries, interspersed with catastrophic flooding, may have made horticulture impossible in this arid region. Tradition and archaeological evidence hold that their replacements were Numic-speaking cousins of the Virgin Anasazi, such as the Southern Paiute and Ute. The newcomers migrated on a seasonal basis up and down valleys in search of wild seeds and game animals. Some, particularly the Southern Paiute, also planted fields of corn, sunflowers, and squash to supplement their diet. These more sedentary groups made brownware vessels that were used for storage and cooking.
The Historic period began in the late 18th century with the exploration of southern Utah by Padres Silvestre Vélez de Escalante and Francisco Atanasio Domínguez. The padres passed near what is now the Kolob Canyons Visitor Center on October 13, 1776, becoming the first people of European descent known to visit the area. In 1825, trapper and trader Jedediah Smith explored some of the downstream areas while under contract with the American Fur Company. Mormons started settling and farming the Virgin River region in 1847. Their search for farmland led them to Zion Canyon in 1858, about 75 miles up the Virgin River from the confluence of the Colorado and Virgin Rivers, below the Grand Canyon. Public attention of this area led to President Theodore Roosevelt proclaiming the area a national monument in 1909 (called Mukuntuweap at the time). The U.S. Congress established Zion National Park in 1919; additional areas were included in the park in 1937 and 1956. 

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Slideshow Description:
The slideshow above contains 44 pictures that were taken on my visit to Zion National Park on 10/05/2009.