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It took eight years, but Congress finally has appropriated $600,000 to purchase more land inside the City of Rocks National Reserve.

"We always thought it was coming, but we never knew when," City of Rocks Superintendent Ned Jackson said.About two-thirds of the visitors to the City of Rocks are climbers, so purchasing a pair of popular but privately owned rock formations is a top priority, Jackson said.

The formations, known as The Dolphin and Elephant Rock, "are by far the most popular ones on private land," Jackson said. The Dolphin is entirely private, while about half of Elephant Rock is publicly owned.

Jackson said he would approach owners of the two rock formations and ask their permission to get the land appraised.

"We'll tell them we're interested in the property and then tell them what we can give for it," Jackson said. So far, "neither landowner has indicated any willingness to sell."

Elsewhere in the City of Rocks, the owners of a pair of historically significant parcels are ready to sell. Jackson said one of the parcels is about 20 acres near Treasure Rock, while the other is about 40 acres roughly one-quarter mile to the south. Both are on the California Trail.

The two parcels must be appraised, then the proposed sale must be advertised, Jackson said, "so the whole process takes about a year."

He also is interested in buying several other historically significant, privately owned parcels inside the City of Rocks. Parcels on that list include:

- Roughly 30 acres in the Pinnacle Pass area, about a quarter mile east of the Twin Sisters formation. The pass is a steep, narrow notch where wagon wheels wore ruts in the rock as pioneers lowered them with ropes.

- A 40-acre parcel at the junction of the California Trail and the Salt Lake Alternate Trail. The area lies about a mile south of the Twin Sisters.

- The old stage station about a mile and a half southeast of the Twin Sisters. The stage station contains the only buildings in the south end of the reserve.

"Now that we have the dollars available, we can approach these landowners - if not for an outright sale, then for an easement for an interpretive trail," Jackson said.

The $600,000 is coming from the Land and Water Conservation Fund of the National Park Service. The fund is generated by revenues from off-shore oil leases granted by the U.S. Department of the Interior.