Visiting One Of The Utah State Parks Should Be Top Of A List Of "Utah Things To Do"
There are thirty four state parks in Utah plus nine other places such as recreation areas, state museums and even a state marina which is on the Great Salt Lake.
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All these areas come under the control of the Utah Department of Natural Resources who leave the day to day management to the Utah State Parks and Recreation Division.
The park system began in 1957 and has now grown to cover 95,000 acres of land and over one million acres of water.
Zion National Park, Utah
Utah is a state in the western part of the United States and as of 2010 it had a population of around 2.7 million people. Of that figure nearly 80% live in urban centers leaving large parts of the state virtually uninhabited.
However, Utah has the fastest growing population in America and St.George, between 2000 and 2005, was the fastest growing metropolitan area.
When the first European explorers arrived in the region they found five main Native American tribes living there.
These were the Navajo, Paiute, Shoshone, Goshute and Ute peoples. Although the Spanish had explored, they were not interested in colonisation because of the desert-like terrain.
Trappers and traders also explored areas of Utah in the early part of the 19th century.
Sunset Over The Great Salt Lake In Utah
In 1824 the famous frontiersman, Jim Bridger, was the first white man to sight the Great Salt Lake, he thought to begin with that he had reached the Pacific Ocean. As the century progressed thousands of pioneers began to stop in the area during their long journey westward.
Utah and the Salt Lake Valley is inextricably linked to the story of the Mormon pioneers. Brigham Young with his first party of Mormons arrived at Salt Lake on July 24th 1847, over the next twenty years over 70,000 pioneers would arrive and settle in Utah.
The geography of the area is extremely diverse but it is also very rugged. Utah is located at the meeting point of three different geological regions. These are the Rocky Mountains, the Colorado Plateau and the Great Basin.
The Wasatch Mountains, Utah
In recent years the state has become a world famous destination for winter sports. One of the reasons behind this is the fact that most of Utah has a high elevation. The average height above sea level across the whole state is 6,100 feet while the highest point is Kings Peak at 13,528 feet. Even the lowest point, at Beaver Dam Wash, is 2,180 feet above sea level.
This increased popularity as a skiing destination was helped when the 2002 Winter Olympics were centered on Salt Lake City. One of the Utah State Parks, Wasatch Mountain State Park, features a number of the facilities that were used during those Olympics.
The Meandering San Juan River At Goosenecks State Park
Much of the south and southeastern part of the state is a sandstone landscape which has been cut and shaped by the Colorado River and its tributaries. A good example of this is Goosenecks State Park which showcases some dramatic meanders of the San Juan River.
As well as the rivers, the wind and rain has sculpted this landscape over millions of years to create canyons, gullies, arches, pinnacles, buttes and bluffs.
This incredible terrain has become the centerpiece not only for Utah State Parks such as Dead Horse Point State Park and Goblin Valley State Park but also for sites of national interest such as Bryce Canyon, Zion National Park, Canyonlands and Monument Valley, where many famous Hollywood westerns were filmed.
The Incredibly Dramatic Monument Valley In Utah
Like many American states, the history of the area is reflected in some of the parks. For example, East Canyon State Park is a canyon traversed by Mormon pioneers as well as the famous Donner Party.
The Historic Union Pacific Rail Trail State Park highlights how important the railroad was in opening up the West. Camp Floyd/Stagecoach Inn State Park preserves the site of a U.S. Army camp placed there to suppress a Native American uprising.
The Utah State Parks are all well worth visiting and, added to the fantastic scenery, they make a wonderful place to holiday or take a short break.
This map shows the position of the Utah State Parks