Utah shares a rich and venerable tradition of national park unit protection dating back 80 years.
In 1908, President Theodore Roosevelt set aside Natural Bridges National Monument to preserve the gigantic stone bridges prospector Cass Hite had discovered a quarter-century before. It was Utah's first national park area.In the eight decades since Roosevelt acted, parks, monuments and recreation areas were added by either presidential or congressional action, until today Utah is graced with 13 of these special regions attracting some 7 million visitors annually.
Utah's national park units are:
- Arches National Park, 73,378 acres just north of Moab in Grand County, set aside to protect dozens of soaring sandstone arches. Some, like Delicate Arch, are world-renowned for their graceful beauty. Arches' budget is $339,300 in 1988. Last year, 468,916 people visited the park.
- Bryce Canyon National Park, where pink and white limestone pinnacles delight the senses, changing color as the sunlight shifts. Located in Garfield and Kane counties, just west of Tropic, Garfield County, this park covers 35,835 acres. The budget for Bryce is $1.2 million, and it tallied slightly more than 1 million visitors in 1987.
- Canyonlands National Park, a sprawling desert region of 337,570 acres in Wayne and San Juan counties. This park is intended to remain largely undeveloped and rugged, although several roads have been paved recently. The views from vistas such as Grand View Overlook are unsurpassed. Canyonlands' budget is slightly more than $2 million and it drew 180,709 visitors in 1987.
- Capitol Reef National Park, 241,904 acres mostly in Wayne and Garfield counties, small chunks also extending into Sevier and Emery counties. Created mainly to protect the great reef formation of the Waterpocket Fold, this is a desert paradise for hikers. Capitol Reef had 471,300 visitors last year, and its budget is $792,300.
- Cedar Breaks National Monument, 6,154 acres east of Cedar City in Iron County, it was set aside to protect formations that are much like those in Bryce. It had 444,780 visitors last year, and the budget is $171,900.
- Dinosaur National Monument, 211,141 acres mostly in Colorado but partly in Uintah County, it was originally established because of the gigantic collection of ancient reptile fossils discovered there. Later, it was expanded to protect the Green and Yampa river corridors. Dinosaur has a $1.2 million budget and drew 432,993 visitors last year.
- Glen Canyon National Recreation Area includes 1.2 million acres almost entirely in Utah except for a small section near Page, Ariz. The recreation area was created around Lake Powell after the completion of Glen Canyon Dam in 1963. In addition to boating on sparkling blue water, the hundreds of miles of side canyons offer hikes to ancient Anasazi Indian settlements. Glen Canyon is one of the most heavily visited park units in the United States, greeting 2.9 million visitors last year. Its budget is $4.9 million.
The lake has six marinas - Dangling Rope, Hite, Halls Crossing, Bullfrog, Piute Farms, and Wahweap Resort. So far, only Wahweap is in Arizona, although the Navajo Tribe intends to develop a resort on reservation land at Antelope Point, Ariz. About half the lake's visitors go to the Utah resorts, and National Park Service officials expect the percentage to increase.
- Golden Spike National Historic Site, 2,735 acres west of Promontory, Box Elder County, marking the desolate spot where the Transcontinental Railroad was completed in May 1869. It features two full-scale, working, re-created locomotives patterned after the trains in the 1869 ceremony. With 192,118 visitors in 1987, the historic site has a budget of $420,300.
- Hovenweep National Monument, small scattered units amounting to 784 acres. It was established to preserve 800-year-old Anasazi ruins, including watchtowers. Two of the six units, Square Tower Ruins and Cajon Ruins, are in extreme southeastern San Juan County, the rest in southwestern Colorado. Hovenweep had 19,112 visitors last year, and its budget is $75,100.
- Natural Bridges National Monument, 7,636 acres in San Juan County, set aside to protect three monstrous bridges and the spectacular sandstone landscape. The visitor center is powered by an extensive solar power array. Natural Bridges has a budget of $195,700, and was host for 89,043 visitors in 1987.
- Rainbow Bridge National Monument, 160 acres set aside to protect the massive natural bridge by that name on the Navajo Indian Reservation bordering Lake Powell. As the lake filled, a narrow channel of lake water snaked beneath the bridge. Motorboats dock nearby, so their passengers can walk to the bridge. The monument budget is $82,700, and 210,708 visited last year.
- Timpanogos Cave National Monument, 250 acres high on Mount Timpanogos east of Alpine, Utah County. Reached after a strenuous hike, the cave formations vary from tiny kinky helictites to flowstone walls to massive columns. Timpanogos' budget is $324,100; last year it had 137,279 visitors.
- Zion National Park, mostly in Washington County, with a small amount in Kane County: 146,597 acres set aside to protect soaring monoliths, canyon scenery, sandstone narrows along the Virgin River. Park officials tallied nearly 2 million visitors in 1987, and Zion Park's budget is $1.8 million.
- In addition, Utah and Wyoming share Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area, but that is administered by another federal agency, the Bureau of Reclamation, under different rules.