Desolation Canyon.

June 23, 2012 § Leave a comment

“We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” – Joseph Campbell

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Southwest Archaeology

Desolation Canyon in eastern Utah is also a largely undiscovered archaeological treasure worthy of its designation as a National Historic Landmark. For thousands of years, humans have moved up and down the Green River through impenetrable cliffs and Gothic spires, pursuing bighorn sheep, elk and deer, and gathering together a rich harvest of seeds and berries growing along the tributary creeks. A thousand years ago, some of them – archaeologists call them the Fremont people – even stayed long enough to plant and cultivate maize along the river banks, building stone-and-adobe granaries in the cliffs and becoming the first to put down roots in this forbidding landscape. They did not stay long, maybe a generation or two. Today, only the abandoned relics and ruins of long-vanished people greet the thousands of visitors who float the nearly 90 miles from Sand Wash to Green River every year.

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Example of a “Museum Rock” located in an alcove site in Canyonlands National Park.

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Southwest Archaeology:

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Desolation Canyon Satellite

Nearly as deep as the Grand Canyon, Desolation Canyon is one of the largest unprotected wilderness areas in the American West.

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badlands near Sand Wash in Desolation Canyon

Help protect this wilderness:

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Archaeologists know very little about the people who lived in Desolation Canyon, how they adapted to this remarkable wilderness or what eventually happened to them. Because of its rugged isolation, it has been extremely difficult and expensive for scientists to get into Desolation Canyon to study the remains of past cultures. Beginning in 1931, archaeologists had from time to time ventured into the canyon, but rarely did they write detailed accounts of what they saw. And not until CPAA’s first expedition in 2006 did archaeologists from throughout the region come together to study the canyon in a comprehensive manner. Today, about 75 sites have been documented along the canyon corridor, and for the first time federal managers have the information they need to proactively manage these sites for their long-term protection.

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Stream Desolation Canyon

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“I think I’ve discovered the secret of life — you just hang around until you get used to it.”  – Charles M. Schultz

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Desolation Canyon Location Map

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“Sometimes, if you stand on the bottom rail of a bridge and lean over to watch the river slipping slowly away beneath you, you will suddenly know everything there is to be known.”  – A.A. Milne

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Save Desolation Canyon

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“There comes a point when you either embrace who and what you are, or condemn yourself to be miserable all your days. Other people will try to make you miserable; don’t help them by doing the job yourself.”  – Laurell Hamilton

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Desolation Canyon Rock and Pebbles

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“If you’re reading this…
Congratulations, you’re alive.
If that’s not something to smile about,
then I don’t know what is.”  – Chad Sugg

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Book Cliffs Desolation Canyon

Book Cliffs Desolation Canyon proposed wilderness.

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“The simple things are also the most extraordinary things, and only the wise can see them.”  – Paul Coelho, “The Alchemist”

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Desolation Perfection Eastern Utah – Fremont Granary 700 A.D. to 1200 A.D. Desolation Canyon

Granaries located in the high cliffs of Eastern Utah, notably Nine Mile Canyon and Range Creek, are defensively positioned. This granary faces what is not legally designated, but is, a “wild and scenic river.”

Literally this granary is a perfect piece of rock art. Notice the circular light on the ground adjacent to the granary. A round overhead stone is moved to allow visitors to enter this alcove through the roof.

Now, the sun shines through the hole. Once inside the alcove, we face the Green River winding through the twisted ravines of Desolation Canyon.

Outside the alcove, the noon sun glares. We sit in the cool shadows in perfect peace. Indeed, Desolation Perfection. I notice faint needle-thin zigzag lines carved on the edge of the alcove. Are these a possible tribute to rain?

Desolation Canyon was and is a formidable gorge to transverse. Yet, here, Fremont farmers built this granary to store their harvest. In nearby Range Creek and Nine Mile Canyon, granaries were placed in locations which we now regard as inaccessible. The rock art in those canyons documents warfare between tribal people, fighting with every sort of primitive weapon. This perfect granary evidences the great struggle to survive a thousand years ago in the midst of these vertical rock walls.

Today there is another struggle in Desolation Canyon, a struggle to preserve this river wilderness. A rush to develop natural gas resources on the Tavaputs plateau and in the Uintah basin may destroy what is undesignated but truly deserves to be a “wild and scenic river.” – Diane Orr

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“The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.”  – Socrates

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