Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

The Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument is a United States national monument that originally designated 1,880,461 acres of protected land in southern Utah in 1996 by Bill Clinton who was using his authority under the Antiquities Act.
Nearly twice the size of Rhode Island, the 1.9-million-acre Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monument is the largest park in the Southwest with some of the least visited – yet most spectacular – scenery. Its name refers to the 150-mile-long geological strata that begins at the bottom of the Grand Canyon and rises, in stair steps, 3500ft to Bryce Canyon and Escalante River Canyon. The striped layers of rock reveal 260 million years of history.
The monument’s size was reduced nearly 47% to 1,003,863 acres by a succeeding presidential proclamation by President Trump in December 2017.
The land is among the most remote in the country; it was the last to be mapped in the contiguous United States. It is administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) as part of the National Conservation Lands system. Grand Staircase-Escalante is the largest national monument managed by the BLM.
The main visitor center to the Escalante Canyons section is the Escalante Interagency Visitor Center (755 W. Main St., Escalante, UT 84726; 435-826-5499; open 8:00 a.m.–4:30 p.m. 7 days a week mid-March to mid-November, Monday through Friday the rest of the year
The 1,600-square-mile Kaiparowits Plateau, which features unique sedimentary rock formations containing an unbroken record of fossils spanning 30 million years.
Themed visitor centers are located in the towns bordering the monument: Kanab hosts the Archaeological/Geologic Center. Big Water is home to a facinating Paleontology exhibit. The Cannonville Visitor Center explains the early Paiute and Pioneer life. Escalante Visitor Center shares scientific discoveries in botany, ecology and biology.
On the west (Grand Staircase), the visitor center in Kanab is at 745 East Highway 89, Kanab UT 84741
A smaller visitor center on the north side of the monument along Scenic Byway 12 is in Cannonville. This location is closed in the winter.
The Big Water Visitor Center and dinosaur museum is a great stop on U.S. Highway 89 on your way to visit Lake Powell, Antelope Canyon, and Glen Canyon Dam, or to hike one of the numerous trails located within the Grand Staircase region.
There are three main regions: the Grand Staircase, the Kaiparowits Plateau, and the Canyons of the Escalante (Escalante River).
GRAND STAIRCASE: So called for the series of plateaus that descend from Bryce Canyon south toward the Grand Canyon, marked by vertical drops at the Pink Cliffs, Grey Cliffs, White Cliffs, Vermillion Cliffs and Chocolate Cliffs. Lots of colorful scenery herein, natch. They ought to call it the Grand Stare-case.
KAIPAROWITS PLATEAU: (Sound it out.) Nine thousand feet up, this is the highest, wildest, most arid, most remote part of the monument. It’s a big gray-green scalene triangle pointing north to Escalante on Highway 12, chock full of Late Cretaceous fossils.
CANYONS OF THE ESCALANTE: A rugged, desolate paradise. It’s the rocky bones laid bare after the Escalante River gnawed through earth’s flesh, an exquisite corpse of narrow canyons, towering walls and stunning grottoes. There’s even some hidden life in the seeping shadows.
Sixty million years ago most of southwestern Utah was covered by lakes, and over eons the lake sediment hardened into rock. The ‘staircase’ was formed when the area now known as the Colorado plateau lifted, causing the layers of sedimentary rock below to fan out. The exposed layers revealed a four-billion-year timeline of geological history; the lower, chocolate steps are located to the south in the Grand Canyon region, while the upper, geologically youngest layer makes up the pink cliffs of the Grand Staircase to the north. Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument is divided into three topographically-distinct regions: the cliffs of Grand Staircase; the central, fossil-rich Kaiparowits Plateau; and the dramatic Escalante Canyons.
Climate and Geography
Grand Staircase Escalante is comprised of remote, rugged landscape and contains nearly double the total combined acreage of all of Utah’s national parks. The two major rivers in the region are the Paria and the Escalante. Explorers should be aware of environmental threats such as extreme temperatures, sudden storms, flash floods, deep water in slot canyons, quicksand, slick rock, and steep cliffs.
The fauna and flora found in Grand Staircase Escalante is as varied as the landscape. This monument and it’s three sections are home to 200 species of birds, including the endangered (and rarely sighted) Bald Eagle and Peregrine Falcon; nearly 60 species of mammals; dozens of reptiles and amphibians; and several types of fish. Fremont Cottonwood trees thrive in the moist soil of the Escalante River Canyon area, while pinion pine, juniper, and sagebrush are common in the Grand Staircase region. Utah’s state flower, the Sego Lily, can be found throughout the monument boundaries.
Recreational Activities
Camping, hiking, backpacking, mountain biking, off-roading, and photography are popular activities. Visitor centers are located in Kanab, Escalante, Cannonville, Paria, and Anasazi State Park. Visitors must keep in mind that this is mostly undeveloped territory, and the BLM recommends camping only in established campgrounds. There are no facilities, so campers are responsible for properly disposing of waste and litter.
Most hiking routes are not well marked, although there are several oft-used and well-worn paths. Lower Calf Creek Falls is a moderate-to-difficult 5.5-mile round trip hike along a developed trail, and there are several major trailheads with access to the Escalante River. Challenging hikes through the cliffs and slot canyons include Death Hollow, The Gulch, and Twenty-mile Wash. Backcountry hikers are required to obtain permits for overnight hikes at Escalante Interagency Visitor Center.
Some of the more accessible areas for day-trippers are the Devil’s Garden Natural Area and Grosvenor Arch. Vehicles can tour Utah Scenic Byway 12 or U.S. Route 89 for magnificent, changing vistas. There are also a number of partially-paved or dirt and gravel roads, including Hole-in-the-Rock Road, Cottonwood Canyon Road, Johnson Canyon/Skutumpah Road, Pahreah Townsite Road, and Burr Trail. Top sites in the monument and surrounding region include Calf Creek Falls, Canyons of the Escalante, Burr Trail, Anasazi Indian State Park, Escalante State Park, Johnson Canyon, Bull Valley Gorge, Grosvenor Arch, Kodachrome Basin State Park, and Bryce Canyon National Park.
The earliest humans known to occupy the area were the Basketmaker people and the Anasazi Indians, beginning around 500 A.D. The Fremont, Hopi, and Paiute also briefly occupied the area. The Escalante River Canyons presented a barrier to exploration until the Powell expeditions in the mid-1800s. In 1941 the NPS began studying the Escalante River area, the last in America to be discovered and mapped. The region was declared a national monument in 1996, under executive order by President Bill Clinton.

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