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Moab and the Canyonlands - Utah

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Sitting near the Colorado border, south of Arches National Park, and just south of the Colorado River, Moab has a rich history dating back at least 10,000 years, when native Indians lived in and roamed throughout the Canyonlands, painting pictures on the rocks that are now seen along several fascinating backcountry byways. Much later, the Old Spanish Trail crossed the area.

The town was permanently settled in 1880, receiving its name from the Bible. Following mineral discoveries, the town boomed during the 1950s and is now devoted to both mining and tourism. The town's location in the midst of several national parks and monuments makes it a popular place to stay for vacationers who are visiting the area's attractions.

In addition to the major national parks and monuments covered on other pages, there are several

points of interest around Moab that add to the pleasure of a stay in the Canyonlands region.

What to See & Do

Dead Horse Point State Park

From an overlook at the 6,000-foot level, the Colorado River (2,000 feet below) winds through the Canyonlands on its way to the Grand Canyon and on to the Gulf of California. One can see a series of formations on the canyons dating back 150 million years. This state park is named for the wild mustang herds that ran free on the mesas near Dead Horse Point. The cliffs provided a convenient corral for pioneer cowboys who herded the horses, which were then roped and broken. Legend has it that a band of horses were left corralled at the point. A gate was left open, but, for some unknown reason, the horses stayed there and perished of thirst, within sight of the Colorado River.

To get to this 7,000-acre park, take Utah Highway 313 south from U.S. Hwy. 191, north of Moab. The visitor center is just off Hwy. 313, on the way south to the point. There's a picnic area with shaded tables and grills near the point.

The Kayenta Campground is nearby. There are 21 campsites, modern restrooms, covered picnic tables, electrical hookups, and dump stations. Water is hauled to the campground from Moab. Reservations may be made in advance by phoning (435) 259-6511. Although the park is open year-round, the campground is open only from April through October. Because of the elevation, summer temperatures reach a low of 40 degrees and can climb to over 90 degrees during the day. There is a self-guiding nature trail, and the Shafer Trail winds along the top of the escarpment with fine views of the river far below.

Canyon Rims Recreation Area

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) operates this superb canyon area located south of Moab and north of the town of Monticello. It can be reached by taking U.S. Highway 191. The area includes much of the public land along the eastern and southern boundaries of Canyonlands National Park.

Access through the area is by a series of paved and gravel roads leading west from Hwy. 191. Canyon Rims Backcountry Byway leads to the Needles Overlook. Utah Hwy. 211 is another scenic byway that leads west, to Needles Outpost, following the flow of Indian Creek. This road continues into Canyonlands National Park, where there is a Parks Service visitor center and campground.

There are several campgrounds within the Recreation Area, including three developed facilities. One is the Wind Whistle Campground, which has 17 sites and is off the road to Needles Overlook, about 6 miles from Hwy. 161. Another campground at Hatch Point has 9 sites, off the road to Anticline Overlook (24 miles from the highway via the Needles Overlook Byway and a dirt road leading north). There are several campsites in Newspaper Rock State Park (see below). There are picnic tables and pit toilets at the primitive campsites near Indian Creek, near the road to Needles Outpost (Utah Hwy. 211). Backcountry camping permits are available at the Needles Visitor Center in Canyonlands National Park.

Newspaper Rock State Historic Monument

Located off Utah Hwy. 211 (in the Canyon Rims Recreation Area), this park features an outstanding panel of rock art, along with interpretive exhibits. Prehistoric Indians of the Anasazi culture occupied the lands along Indian Creek for a short period before the 1200s AD. Remnants of their rock dwellings and art exist throughout this area. Ute Indians later hunted in the region, but these nomadic natives did not establish permanent settlements here.

River Recreation

The Colorado River and the Green River to the south offer river adventures, including white water canoeing and kayaking. Motorized rafts and jet boats are also used on the Colorado from Moab, with organized trips taking from a half-day to several days. For information, contact the Moab Information Center (800-635-6622) or Adrift Adventures (800-874-4483).

Forest and City Camping

Manti-La Sal National Forest is located in the La Sal Mountains, southeast of Moab. There are several forest backroads in the area, and two lead to forest campgrounds. To reach these rustic campsites, take Highway 191 south from Moab and turn east onto the La Sal Mountain Loop Road, which leads through the mountains to Castle Valley and ends at Utah Hwy. 128. Backroads lead off this loop route to Oowah Lake Campground and Warner Lake Campground. Farther south, past Monticello, another section of the same national forest is located in the Abajo Mountains. There is camping in this area as well. Several private campgrounds and RV parks can be found in and around Moab.

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Moab Camping

Several camping facilities are found in the Moab area: Canyonlands Campark has 130 sites including some tent sites and many with full hookups (435-259-6848); another large one is the Slickrock Campground, also open year-round with about 180 sites (85 with full hookups, 30 for tents) plus drinking water, showers, laundry, swimming and boating. Call (435) 259-7660.

For information on the
national parks near Moab,

Go to
Canyonlands National Park
Arches National Park

Nearby Places

Arches National Park

Canyonlands National Park

Capitol Reef National Park

Natural Bridges National Monument

Monument Valley

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