Monday, September 7, 2009

Zion National Park, Utah

Zion National Park is a national park located in the Southwestern United States, nearSpringdale, Utah. A prominent feature of the 229-square-mile (593 km2) park is Zion Canyon, 15 miles (24 km) long and up to half a mile (800 m) deep, cut through the reddish and tan-colored Navajo Sandstone by the North Fork of the Virgin River.
The park is located in southwestern Utah in Washington, Iron, and Kane counties. Geomorphically, it is located on the Markagunt and Kolob plateaus, at the intersection of three North American geographic provinces: the Colorado Plateaus, the Great Basin, and theMojave Desert. The northern part of the park is known as the Kolob Canyons section and is accessible from Interstate 15, exit 40.
The road into Zion Canyon is 6 miles (9.7 km) long, ending 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 with walls as narrow as 20 to 30 feet (6–9 m) wide and up to 2,000 feet (610 m) tall. The Zion Canyon 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.
The east side of the park is served by the Zion–Mount Carmel Highway, which passes through the Zion–Mount Carmel Tunnel and ends at Mount Carmel Junction. On the east side of the park notable park features include Checkerboard Mesa (photo) and the East Temple.
n Canyon Scenic Drive provides access to Zion Canyon. Traffic congestion in the narrow canyon was recognized as a major problem in the 1990s and a public transportation system using propane-powered shuttle buses was instituted in the year 2000. From April through October, the scenic drive in Zion Canyon is closed to private vehicles and visitors ride the shuttle buses.
On April 12, 1995, heavy rains triggered a landslide that blocked the Virgin River in Zion Canyon. Over a period of two hours, the river carved away part of the only exit road from the canyon, trapping 450 guests and employees in the Zion Lodge. A one-lane temporary road was constructed within 24 hours to allow evacuation of the Lodge. A more stable—albeit temporary—road was completed on May 25, 1995 to allow summer visitors to access the park. This road was replaced with a permanent road during the first half of 1996.
The Zion–Mount Carmel Highway can be traveled year-round. Access for over-sized vehicles requires a special permit, and is limited to daytime hours, as traffic through the tunnel must be one way to accommodate large vehicles. The 5-mile (8.0 km)-long Kolob Canyons Road was built to provide access to the Kolob Canyons section of the park. This road often closes in the winter.
In March 2009, President Barack Obama signed into law the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009, which designated and further protected 124,406 acres (503.5 km2) of park land as the Zion Wilderness.
Driving through the east side of Zion to U.S. Route 89 allows access to Bryce Canyon National Park in the north or to the north rim of the Grand Canyon in the south. Due to the narrowness of the Zion–Mount Carmel Tunnel, RVs and buses must obtain a special pass and can only drive through the tunnel during limited hours.
The more primitive sections of Zion include the Kolob Terrace and the Kolob Canyons. The Grotto in Zion Canyon, the Visitor Center and the viewpoint at the end of Kolob Canyons Road have the only designated picnic sites.
Seven popular trails with round-trip times of half an hour (Weeping Rock) to 4 hours (Angels Landing) are found in Zion Canyon. Two popular trails, Taylor Creek (4 hours round trip) and Kolob Arch (8 hours round trip), are in the Kolob Canyons section of the park, near Cedar City.
Hiking up into The Narrows from the Temple of Sinawava is popular in summer. Orderville Canyon, a narrower slot canyon, is also popular. Backpacking down The Narrows from the top takes 12 hours. Other often-used backcountry trails include the West Rim and LaVerkin Creek.