Established in the late 19th century by folks who traveled the Hole-In-The-Rock expedition, Bluff still has many sandstone Victorian-era homes built by these settlers. These were not the first people to settle in this valley, however. Ancestral Puebloan people built residences, farmed the flats, and lived here thousands of years ago. The Navajo reservation borders the town weaving the culture of the Navajo people with Bluff’s eclectic style. Bluff is an artist’s community nestled between dramatic sandstone bluffs and the San Juan River and is an important stop on the Trail of the Ancients National Scenic Byway. The areas surrounding Bluff feature jaw-dropping scenic vistas such as the Goosenecks of the San Juan, Valley of the Gods, Moki Dugway and Muley Point.
In the left southern tip of Utah is the small town of Springdale, located immediately outside of Utah’s most famous national park, Zion. Founded in 1862 by a group of Mormon pioneers responding to the call from Brigham Young came to the mouth of the canyon. In 1920 before becoming Zion National Park, Mukuntuweap National Monument was dedicated and Springdale rapidly started to grow; from electricity to tourist camps the residents quickly began to seize the opportunity. Though today its population remains small, it’s impact in Utah reigns supreme.
In 1861 President Abraham Lincoln set the area that would become Vernal aside as the Uintah Indian Reservation and Captain Pardon Dodds was appointed Indian agent for the reservation. After retiring he moved Ashley Valley, arriving on February 14th 1873 settling Ashley Creek about 4 miles away from present day Vernal. In 1879 the Meeker Massacre occurred in neighboring Colorado with the White River Utes killing their agent, amount others. Soon after the Uintah chiefs warned the settlers to “fort-up” and though a harsh winter followed with mass amounts of suffering, after most families moved their cabins back to their homesteads. In 1964 Flaming Gorge Dam was built which brought more tourists to the area. Though not a large town, its small town businesses continue to keep it alive.
Parks & Monuments
Snow Canyon State Park
Tucked away surrounded by lava flows, sandstone cliffs, and a fragile desert environment lies Snow Canyon State Park. Located within the 62,000 acre Red Cliffs Desert Reserve this park has something for everyone. Hiking, nature studies, wildlife, photography, camping, and junior ranger programs there is no shortage for activities. Burnt orange to white in color, Navajo sandstone covers the park in beauty, lava-capped ridges take us back 1.4 million years, wildflowers bloom in the spring and fall, and thirteen sensitive species call it home. Snow Canyon State Park is truly a melting pot of beauty.
Zion National Park
About 12,000 years ago, Zion’s first peoples tracked large animals such as mammoth, giant sloth, and camel across southern Utah but because of climate change and overhunting these animals soon died out. To adapt, humans started gathering and focusing on mid-sized animals until about 2,600 years ago when they tuned themselves to the specifics of the place they were. Zion’s geology provided something very rare in a desert: a wide, level place to grow food, a river, and adequate growing season. Today, to those who visit it, it remains a site of beauty, peace, and life. A free shuttle through the park leads to nine stops and numerous trails of varying skill level that extend into the most picturesque and historic scenic hikes in the park.
Cedar Breaks State Park
On August 22, 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared Cedar Breaks a National Monument. With stone spires, columns, arches, pinnacles, and intricate canyons in a multitude of color it’s no wonder why your jaw drops when you see it. With activities like photography, sightseeing, hiking, nature study, and picnicking there are activities for everyone at every level! Although the monument is only open from late May to mid-October you can cross-country ski and snowmobile with access from Brian Head Resort.
Goblin Valley State Park
Discovered in the 1920’s by cowboys searching for their lost cattle and officially designated in 1964, Goblin Valley State Park looks like a field of orangey mushrooms. These mushroom-shaped sandstone formations throughout the park are a sight to see: they represent millions of years of history right before our very eyes. Layers of Entrada Sandstone eroded and alternating layers of silt and shale were deposited with the changing climates and landscapes. While weaker sandstone eroded faster than the harder rock we were left with these beautiful formations. With three marked hiking trails, Goblin Valley State Park has made it easy to explore, and who knows, you might even see their well noted petroglyphs and pictograph walls!
Dinosaur National Monument
Dinosaurs and history are a perfect pair. Dinosaur National Monument is a sight to be seen. A building known as “The Quarry” was constructed over an area at the monument that used to be a sandbar on the edge of a large river. This river carried animal carcasses downstream, many of which became lodged into the sandbar and now are partially exposed but left intact where they can be easily seen. Though “The Quarry” makes up only a small part of the land within the national monument it is one of the most well-known and popular. But, this isn’t a place that was only home to creatures we know about; A team of paleontologists in the ongoing research at Dinosaur National Monument uncovered something new and something large in 2010: A plant-eating dinosaur, Abydosauras mcintoshi! This monument continues to be plentiful in story, knowledge, and research into our Earth’s past.