Would someone please explain to me what the Grand Staircase/Escalante National Monument is all about. I have spent a good deal of time in this area so I know exactly what the park looks like. It's just that I don't understand what this new park really is.
Zion National Park has Zion and Kolob Canyon, Capitol Reef National Park has the reef cliffs; Arches National Park has the arches; Bryce Canyon has the unusual canyon and rock formations; Glen Canyon National Recreation area has Lake Powell (at least until they decide to drain it); Canyonlands National Park has the maze of deep canyons; and Dinosaur National Monument has the dinosaur quarry.In fact, every national park and monument is easily identified by some special feature. So what is the main attraction that the Grand Staircase will be identified with? What is it that is suppose to draw people to this area?
So far, all the articles that have been written about our newest national monument seem to include a picture of Grosvenor Arch, suggesting that it is the main attraction of the park. However, there are several hundred other natural arches in Utah that are much more interesting and picturesque. For a national park attraction, it's not much to see.
Near Grosvenor Arch is Cottonwood Canyon, which has been mentioned in some articles. Again the area is nice but hardly noteworthy for Utah. South of that area is the Paria Ghost Town, which is not really a ghost town as much as it is a couple of leftover movie props.
How about the "staircase"? Well, OK - but you will have to drive to Arizona and look north to see this effect.
How about Kodachrome Basin? No, that is already a state park.
How about Devil's Garden just off of the Hole-in-the-rock road? It may only be an acre or so of rock formations similar to Goblin Valley State Park but it's good for a 15-minute stroll.
That just leaves the Escalante Canyon between Escalante and Boulder, Utah. This area represents the one-third of the Escalante Canyon complex that is not already included in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.
Now this is an area worth seeing. Beautiful white sandstone canyons with a crystal clear river. This is more like what a national monument should look like. And while the Bureau of Land Management has done a great job of managing this area for the hundreds of visitors who visit this area every year, imagine what the canyon will look like when we have enticed a few million people to visit every year.
Perhaps the real question of the Grand Staircase/Escalante National Park is what to do with the other 1.6 million acres that is really just cattle range. In fact, perhaps we should change the name of the park to The Bill Clinton National Cattle Range? It would certainly make more sense and it would create a truly appropriate legacy for Clinton's presidency.