The Needles District of Canyonlands National Park

Trip Start May 29, 2009
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Trip End Oct 03, 2009


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Flag of United States  , Utah
Tuesday, September 22, 2009

To get to the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park you drive about 80 miles southwest of Moab. On the way out of Moab we stopped at the national park administrative office to get the overall Canyonlands passport stamp.  At the individual visitor centers you get the stamp for that district.

The Needles District is south of the Colorado River and totally different from Island in the Sky.  Before you get to the park you drive through massive sandstone reefs and rock walls.  The scenery reminded us of the old Cowboy westerns when the posse rode into the canyon, except this time it was in living color. (Remember, those westerns were in black and white when some of us were kids.)  The needles are shaped like pillars or mushrooms.  They are made of sandstone capped by a harder rock such as limestone.  They are formed when the sandstone around them is eroded away by wind and water. We learned all of this from the exhibits and orientation video at the Needles Visitor Center.

 We drove the scenic drive stopping at the Elephant Hill picnic ground for lunch. This is the trailhead for hiking into one of the needles areas.  Next we drove to Big Spring Canyon Overlook, which is the closest you can drive to the confluence of the Green and Colorado Rivers.  It is about a 5.5 mile hike (11 miles round trip) to the confluence.  We decided to save that trail for next time. Near this overlook we hiked the Slick Rock Trail (2.4 miles).  The trail guide said uneven surface, and it definitely was.  The paths out to the four viewpoints of the canyon were somewhat challenging with some climbing up and sliding down the boulders.  We also walked the trail to Pothole Point.  Several plants and animals live in these water filled (sometimes !) depressions in the rock.  Their life cycles are dependent on the length of time that the pothole is filled.

It was definitely worth the drive to visit this very different section of Canyonlands
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