Grand Views of Canyon Country

48 pp., 8.5x11", maps, color photographs $9.95
Published by Canyonlands Natural History Association
ISBN 0-937407-00-3

Twenty essays and 65 stunning photographs by landscape photographer George H. H. Huey provide an introduction to the canyon country around Moab, Utah. Grand Views highlights destinations that can be reached in a family car. Each essay focuses on either the natural or cultural history of a specific location, such as Delicate Arch, Dead Horse Point State Park, and Upheaval Dome. Topics include why are there so many arches, ranching history, John Wesley Powell, and formation of the La Sal Mountains.

A Few Thoughts on This Book

These essays grew out of my nine years of writing and teaching about the desert. The idea that a desert is a barren wasteland is just wrong. The rock is obvious, but when you look closely you discover a wide array of plants and animals, each intricately adapted to their habitat. You also quickly realize that the desert is as fragile as it is beautiful.

I was lucky to see canyon country repeatedly over all seasons. I realized that when we visit a place once we leave with a mental snapshot, not at all worthy of the landscape. As a park ranger I was always amazed when people told me, "We saw Delicate Arch the first time. We don't need to go back." Landscape changes over time, but more significantly, we change over time and view things differently. I hope these essays will help people develop a deeper appreciation and respect for the desert and that they will want to learn more about it.

From the book:

Delicate Arch has become an icon. From license plates to calendars to laminated place mats, its likeness has been plastered onto every imaginable surface. Even so, few, if any, images can capture the full magnitude of Delicate Arch. Despite the fact that most visitors to the arch already carry in their head an image of the span, it rarely fails to meet expectations. More importantly each of us carries away a different vision of the structure.

If you ask a geologist about Delicate Arch she might say: "It is all that remains of a fin formed by the collapse of a salt anticline. Also, notice that the top of the arch is made from a different material than the bulk of the structure. This harder cap is key to the arch's shape because it has helped protect Delicate from additional erosion."

A photographer would give a different response: "Go see it at sunset when the low-angle light electrifies the rock, changing it from orange to red to salmon in only a few minutes. The interplay of shape and light creates an ever-changing palette. The magic of the arch is that a photographer could spend years here and always find new and intriguing angles to shoot."

A philosopher might point out that "The sheer improbability of Delicate invites us to inquire into forces that work in ways far beyond our understanding. The arch is so fantastic that we may feel belittled or humbled by nature. On the other hand, we may want to rejoice that such simple forces as erosion and gravity could conspire to produce such a sublime visage."

A first-time visitor might simply say "Wow!" and thus summarize all thoughts into one globally understandable word.

Delicate Arch Viewpoint offers another perspective. The gentle trek affords the time to focus on the surrounding landscape. On the way up, you pass through one of the park's most unusual rock layers, the Morrison Formation. The green, red, and white beds consist predominately of sand and silt deposited in lakes and streams that came and went in the region over millions of years. The green-blue hills near the Delicate Arch Trailhead parking lot contain iron-rich volcanic ash that fell into lakes. In the oxygen-free environment of the lake bottom, the iron turned green. Had it been in an oxygen-rich environment, the iron would have turned rusty red.

Boulders of milky white chert, a type of quartz that precipitated out of the lake water, dot the viewpoint trail. Also known as flint, chalcedony, or jasper, chert has been used for thousands of years for projectile points and arrow heads.

You can see Delicate Arch for most of the walk up to the viewpoint. At the top of the Viewpoint trail, Delicate Arch confronts you from across a small canyon. The view from here is of the arch in context. It reveals what makes the arch truly remarkable—the sum of the parts that makes that single spectacular element whole.