Canyonlands National Park preserves 527 square miles (848 square km) of colorful sandstone canyons, mesas, buttes, fins, arches and spires in the heart of the Colorado Plateau in Southeastern Utah. Water and gravity have been the prime architects of this land, carving flat layers of sedimentary rock into the landscape seen today. The park was established in 1964, "...to preserve an area...possessing superlative scenic, scientific and archaeological features for the inspiration, benefit and use of the public." (Public Law 88-590, 1964). The park was expanded to its current size in 1971.
The park is divided into four districts by the Green and Colorado rivers: the Island in the Sky, the Maze, the Needles, and the Rivers themselves. The districts are unique and each offers different opportunities for exploration. The Island in the Sky is the most accessible, offering expansive views from many overlooks along the paved scenic drive, in addition to miles of hiking trails and four-wheel-drive roads. The Needles offers more of a backcountry experience, requiring some hiking or four-wheel driving to see the area's attractions. The Maze is entirely a backcountry district and requires considerably more time and technical four-wheel driving to visit. Horseshoe Canyon is a detached unit of Canyonlands located northeast of the Maze, and is managed for non-motorized day use only. The Rivers offer another way to experience this region, with trips generally involving two or more days of boating. There are no roads that directly link the districts. Although they may appear close on a map, traveling between them requires two to six hours by car. Most people find it impractical to visit all of the districts in a single trip.
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