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Utah Travel Headlines

Friday, February 26, 2010

Moab's Skinny Tire Festival

Spring is almost here and that means biking enthusiasts are heading to Maob. March and April are two of the best months of the year for biking Slickrock and other famous area trails.

The annual Moab Skinny Tire Festival will run March 12-16 this year. It is a popular road bike event and it always draws a crowd of participants, support people and spectators. The festival is a benefit for cancer research and survivorship programs. It includes a social, live music, a raffle/silent auction and other activities.

Here's some info from the festival website.

Cyclists know about Moab; they know it as the home of the Slickrock Trail, the Mecca of mountain bikers. What many don't realize is Moab has some of the best road biking in the world. There are hundreds of miles of paved roads in and out of the world-class scenery that is known by every adventure seeker globally.

The Festival rides the best of the best: 1) Arches National Park, 2) Along the mighty Colorado River, 3) Dead Horse Point and back.

The Three rides of the Festival highlight Moab’s different riding opportunities. The first two days follow the mighty Colorado River corridor, both up-stream and downstream. The next two days leave the valley and climb the beautiful canyon roads into redrock country.

From the bike seat you embrace the landscape, feeling the contours as gravity tugs on your tires, challenging you to climb and daring you to descend. You'll appreciate the grand scale of this place once you've ventured far from town under your own 'skinny' power down byways known only to a lucky few. Join the fun and adventurous group of riders through Canyon Country.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Hardware Ranch Sleigh Rides End March 1

Utah's Division of Wildlife Resources provided the news release below concerning activities at Hardware Ranch.

Hardware Ranch Sleigh Rides End March 1

Elk viewing season ending early this year

Hyrum -- If you’ve been thinking about taking a sleigh ride to see elk at Hardware Ranch, it’s now or never.

Dwindling snow has forced the Division of Wildlife Resources to close the sleigh rides at the popular wildlife management area early this year.

The sleigh rides will close at 5 p.m. on March 1. That’s about two weeks sooner than normal.

The Hardware Ranch WMA is at mile marker 22 on state Route 101 in Blacksmith Fork Canyon, about 17 miles east of Hyrum.

More than 300 elk are still on the meadow at the WMA. But Dan Christensen, the WMA’s superintendent, says south-facing slopes in the canyons that surround the WMA are quickly losing snow.

As the snow melts, more browse becomes available to the elk. And that means plenty of food will be available outside of the WMA soon.

“On warmer days, the elk leave the meadow or they drift to the far edge of the meadow,” Christensen says. “That makes it hard for us to get people as close to the elk as we usually can. We don’t want people to be disappointed when they come here.”

Christensen says the horse-drawn sleigh rides started in 1946, and they’ve been a favorite attraction at the WMA ever since. More than 30,000 visitors typically come to the WMA each winter. They’re treated to sleigh rides that take them through the middle of as many as 600 wild elk.

The elk are drawn to the WMA by a winter-feeding program. The program was started to prevent elk from raiding haystacks in Cache Valley by holding some of the elk at the top of Blacksmith Fork Canyon.

Amangiri Resort Brings Luxury To National Park Country has this interesting article about the new Amangiri Resort, located near Lake Powell, halfway between Zion and Grand Canyon, in the heart of the Grand Circle of national parks.

Below are excerpts.

America’s canyonlands – not just the Grand Canyon, but beyond – are a revelation within the Grand Circle, a bull’s-eye of land stretching through Arizona, Utah, New Mexico, Nevada and Colorado that includes the largest concentration of national parks and monuments in the United States. American families have long made the pilgrimage there. It’s our version of a luxury European Grand Tour – only, sadly, without the luxury. Until now.

Before, you’d skip off in the morning to see all the sublime wilds, then trudge back at night to a motel with an ice machine. It was like going to St Paul’s Cathedral for evensong, then McDonald’s for dinner. But now, in southernmost Utah, bang in the middle of the Grand Circle, Aman Resorts has opened its newest hotel. The Amangiri, built entirely of sandy-hued cement, is the perfect match for its surroundings. It refuses to ruin the mood.

The hotel is so well-nestled into the ancient landscape that it’s nearly invisible. Each of its 34 rooms opens to a view that film director John Ford would have loved: endless sagebrush, sandstone and sky.

Outside, a 165m-year-old sandstone rock formation juts into the sinuous swimming pool. And the nearby spa features treatments such as chakra realignment, as well as a steam room, sauna, and plunge pool. A hidden hot tub is ideal for taking in the sky at day’s end, when it suddenly turns a nearly-neon purple.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Scientists Develop Better Way To Predict Utah Snow Conditions

Utah is famous for its snow - long called the "greatest snow on earth" by those who love skiing, boarding and other snow sports.

Now University of Utah scientists have devised a more accurate way to predict snowfall amounts and density - whether the snow will be dry powder or wet slush. The National Weather Service has started using the model for Utah forecasts, and may use it in other areas.

Having better snowfall predictions will enhance safety and enjoyment in many ways. Those charged with plowing roads and grooming runs will be able to make better decisions about allocating resources. Snow density is also a key factor in avalanche safety. Better forecasts will help managers know when and where to do avalanche control work and when to close backcountry areas.

The enhanced forecasts may also help people know where to ski to find ultimate powder.

Science Daily has this news report about the new forecast method. Below are excerpts.

"We've developed a formula that predicts the water content of snow as a function of temperature and wind speed," says the study's senior author, Jim Steenburgh, professor and chair of atmospheric sciences at the University of Utah.

"This is about improving snowfall amount forecasts -- how much snow is going to fall," says Steenburgh. "As a nice side benefit for the ski community, this will tell you whether you're going to get powder or concrete when it snows. We are working on incorporating this into the website" run by the university.

The new method "is also helpful to avalanche forecasters," says the study's first author, Trevor Alcott, a doctoral student in atmospheric sciences. "We're forecasting snow density, which is related to the stability of freshly fallen snow."

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Fossils From New Dinosaur Species Discovered at Dinosaur National Monument

"Paleontologists: New species of long-necked dinosaur found hidden in slabs of Utah rock"

That's how the LA Times begins this article, which describes how fossils from a totally new species were discovered in rock on the Utah side of Dinosaur National Monument.

The quarry at the Dinosaur has long been described as one of the best places in the world to view dinosaur bones. The area has been studied extensively. Yet the monument covers a vast area and it is exciting to see new discoveries there.

Below are excerpts from the LA Times article.

Fossils of a previously undiscovered species of dinosaur have been found in slabs of Utah sandstone that were so hard that explosives had to be used to free some of the remains, scientists said Tuesday. The bones found at Dinosaur National Monument belonged to a type of sauropod — long-necked plant-eaters that were said to be the largest animal ever to roam land.

The discovery included two complete skulls from other types of sauropods — an extremely rare find, scientists said.

The fossils offer fresh insight into lives of dinosaurs some 105 million years ago, including the evolution of sauropod teeth, which reveal eating habits and other information, said Dan Chure, a paleontologist at the monument that straddles the Utah-Colorado border.

"You can hardly overstate the significance of these fossils," he said.

Paleontologists believe they have the remains of at least four dinosaurs at the site. All appear to be juveniles and were likely around 25 feet long, Britt said.

Read the complete article.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Want An Olympic Experience? Take A Ride On The Bobsled At Utah Olympic Park

With all the excitement over the Olympics, many travelers to Utah are interested in seeing the venues used in 2002, when we hosted the games. Some people are even brave enough to participate in Olympic sports on the venues used by the athletes.

Galavanting has this interesting article where it recommends the Comet Bobsled ride at Utah Olympic Park. Below are excerpts.

Adventure travelers and thrill seekers need to look no further than the “Comet” Bobsled Rides at the Olympic Park Utah. Those willing to pay $200 can take a ride down the 2002 Olympic bobsled track which is advertised as “the most-intense minute of your life.”

This experience is definitely not for the weary. The track is less than one mile long, includes a 40-story drop and 15 turns, and you will feel five times the pull of gravity during the intense ride. It is considered one of the fastest runs in the world. If you are one of the 3,000 people who take advantage of this ride each year, you’ll get the closest thing to what a winter Olympic athlete experiences going for the gold.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Obama Administration Considers Creating 2 New National Monuments In Utah

A political firestorm erupted yesterday when reports surfaced saying parts of the San Rafael Swell and Cedar Mesa are being considered as new National Monuments.

The two areas are very scenic and popular spots for recreation. The San Rafael Swell includes hundreds of deep, narrow canyons that are popular for hiking and canyoneering. The canyons that drop down from Cedar Mesa shelter a vast number of ancient Native American archaeological sites.

Conservationists hailed the news because such a declaration could prevent development in or near sensitive land areas. But Utah's Congressional delegation expressed concern that the federal government was trying to impose restrictive controls without input from local leaders.

This is considered another volley in the ongoing hot battle raging over how much Utah land should be controlled by the federal government and given wilderness-like protection.

Below are excerpts from news reports.

Salt Lake Tribune

"Given the attention Congress gives to Utah wilderness, it should come as no surprise that the administration is considering protections for Utah's incomparable landscapes such as the San Rafael Swell and Cedar Mesa," said Richard Peterson-Cremer, legislative director of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance.

But Utah's congressional members expressed plenty of surprise -- and outrage.

They remember all too well 1996, when then-President Bill Clinton surprised and angered many Utahns by going to the Grand Canyon during the heat of his re-election campaign and unilaterally setting aside 1.7 million acres in Kane and Garfield counties as the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

Deseret News

Outrage over the revelation is prompting Gov. Gary Herbert to get on a plane and meet with Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Undersecretary David Hayes on Sunday and Monday to express his "deep concerns" over a move he characterized as "upsetting and offensive" because of lack of input.

Interior Department spokesman Kendra Barkoff on Thursday confirmed that the document came from her agency but said it merely reflects some "brainstorming discussions" with the Bureau of Land Management, and "no decisions have been made about which areas, if any, might merit more serious review and consideration."

"I think it's outrageous," said San Juan County Commission Chairman Bruce Adams. He said Cedar Mesa has potential oil and other minerals that could be developed, but that activity would be blocked by a monument. "There's also a huge amount of grazing there. That (monument) would put cattle people out of the business."

Similarly, Emery County Commission Chairman Gary Kofford said a San Rafael monument in his area "would be devastating" because of the effect it could have on mining and grazing.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Enjoy The Abajo Winter Festival This Weekend

The town of Monticello is located in SE Utah, just 55 miles south of Moab. It is a great base for trips into the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park, and into the towering Abajo Mountains.

Monticello offers the best of two worlds. It is a high elevation (7038 ft) oasis between the deserts around Moab to the north and Monument Valley country to the south. During summer, it's a great place to escape the Moab heat. During winter, Monticello offers a delightful, snowy wonderland.

The annual Abajo Winter Festival provides the opportunity for visitors to become immersed in the Monticello winter wonderland. The festival is sponsored by the Monticello Chamber of Commerce, which provided the details below:

The Abajo Winter Festival
Friday and Saturday
February 19-20, 2010

Come to Monticello, Utah!
...for a weekend of fun filled winter events for the whole family. There will be competitive as well as recreational winter events that all can enjoy! Most events are FREE, sponsored by the Monticello Chamber of Commerce!
  • Snowshoeing - There will be snowshoeing activities at Loyds Lake, the Hideout Golf Course and all over! We will even have a nightime snowshoe activity!
  • Cross Country Skiing - There will be the XC Pipeline Trail Race that starts at the trailhead near Dalton Springs and goes 7.5 miles to Loyds Lake on Friday. The rest of the time, do recreational skiing anywhere and take in the breathtaking scenery on groomed trails!
  • Snowboarding - Take your board up to the skihill and find one of the steepest slopes around!
  • Sledding/Tubing - On Friday there will be tubing and sledding races consisting of speed and distance. On Saturday, enjoy a day of recreational tubing and sledding at one of the many locations provided.
  • Ice Fishing - Loyds Lake is frozen over so bring your saws, poles, hot chocolate, fishing license and common sense to catch your limit of trout!
  • Snow/Ice Sculpting - There will be snow and ice sculpting competitions on Friday at the Park. Put your best work up on display!
  • Winter Weather Workshops - We will have winter weather workshops to help you be safe and prepared in winter weather. Learn to build shelters and survive!
  • Paintball Wars - There will be a paintball war on Saturday. Bring your best shot and lots of ammo!
  • Snowmobiling - Bring your snowmobile and explore some of the best country and snow in Utah!
After all the fun, get warmed up and relax at the Party at the Park where you will enjoy a bonfire, hot chocolate, cider, a chili cook-off and the awards ceremony! Get details, dates and times of all the events here!

More details

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Forbes Says It is Easy To Get Around Salt Lake City

Forbes Magazine has just published this article ranking the best and worst US cities for commuters. Salt Lake City is listed as best in the nation.

We've always know it is easy to get around town. Easy for commuters, but also easy for travelers who want to come downtown for business, shopping, night life, or to see Temple Square.

It is also easy to get to our ski resorts from downtown, and from the Salt Lake International Airport, and that contributes to their popularity.

Below are excerpts from the article.

There are a few elements that easy-commuting cities have in common. In those places, more workers take advantage of public transportation, walk or bike; sprawl is minimal so that workers tend to live closer to their offices; and the incidence of travel delays is low.

In Salt Lake City 20% of workers find a way to get to work besides driving alone, which leaves the roads less jammed. It's not an accident that commuters in Salt Lake have it better than elsewhere. The state of Utah has poured resources into initiatives that strengthen the city's infrastructure, including 44 miles of "hot lanes," carpool lanes that single-occupancy drivers can use for a fee, expediting their trip, and special road-construction techniques that minimize interruptions to traffic.


To find the cities with the best commutes, we measured travel time, road congestion and travel delays for the 60 largest Metropolitan Statistical Areas in the U.S. Using data from the U.S. Census Bureau, we calculated what percentage of commuters in each metro area took an hour or more to get to work in each of these cities in 2008, the most recent year for which these data are kept.

To find the areas with the fewest cars on the road, we next factored in the percentage of commuters who carpooled or used alternatives to driving like walking, biking or taking public transportation in 2008. We referred to this as the "green commuter" ranking.

Finally, we looked at the Travel Time Index, a measure that the Texas Transportation Institute, a transportation research organization, uses to measure delays.

Read the entire article.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Zion's Waterfall Season

Hiking conditions are very good in Zion Park right now. I hiked in the park last weekend and had a great time.

The weather was sunny and daytime temperatures climbed up near 60 F. Snow is gone from Zion Canyon and lower-elevation trails are in good shape.

Snow is melting quickly from the high country and runoff is starting to cascade down the cliff faces. During the next few weeks there will be numerous seasonal waterfalls in Zion Canyon and other areas of the park. They will be easy to see from the road, and from popular trails.

We hiked the West Rim Trail to Scout Lookout. The lower part of the trail is fully exposed to the afternoon sun and it felt very good to hike in warm sunshine.

Walters Wiggles had considerable snow and ice, but we were able to go up and down with little trouble.

My photo shows Angels Landing on the left and the Great White Throne in the middle. As you can see, Angels has snow in many places. The snow is melting fast - it will probably be totally gone from Angels and the Wiggles by the end of February.

Hiking conditions are normally very good during March for trails in Zion Canyon and up the rims. But weather can be unsettled. If storms bring rain or snow, trails will be muddy for a day or two. Any snow that falls will melt rapidly, and the sandy soil dries out quickly.

Wildflowers will start to appear at lower elevations during March. April will bring the highest number of wildflower blossoms.

It is still too early to wade The Narrows, hike the Subway or do other trails that involve wading. Winter snowpack is at 150% or more in many areas in southern Utah and so streams will flow high and cold this spring. In Zion, runoff becomes heavy during March and April, and often continues well into May. This year it may be June before The Narrows open for casual hiking.

With all that snowpack, waterfalls will be impressive in the park this spring. Several waterfalls flow year-round and are located in places where they are easy to see. Many others are seasonal, channeling spring runoff over cliff faces. This year there will be a dozen or more beautiful waterfalls in Zion Canyon alone.

This is a great time of year to visit Zion Park.

- Dave Webb

Friday, February 12, 2010

Honolulu's Star Bulletin Touts Moab Adventure

The Star Bulletin newspaper in Honolulu has this interesting article recommending travel to and adventure in Moab, Utah. Below are excerpts.

Moab delivers adventure

Beauty surrounds this rustic Utah town, which deserves to be at the top of more travel wish lists

Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park are short drives from the center of Moab. Each one features breathtaking red rock formations that virtually glow in the fading light of sunset.

From Las Vegas we rented a car and drove to Moab, covering nearly 1,200 miles on the entire trip...

Several hours later, hungry and growing fatigued from watching for random deer and cows wandering onto the road through the inky blackness, we stumbled across Hell's Backbone Grill (, 435-335-7464) in Boulder, Utah, a tiny town (population 180!) that feels like it's in the middle of nowhere (maybe because it is?). Expecting mediocre food, we were thrilled to discover a restaurant with mouth-watering dishes accented with herbs and vegetables from the restaurant's organic farm and on-site gardens...

The highlight of our adventure was undoubtedly Slickrock, the area's iconic ride. It's full of steep climbs and descents reserved for only the most skilled riders, dramatic drops into canyons, soaring views of the Colorado River, and stunning smooth rock that has an unexpected and comforting grip on mountain bike tires. Every minute of our 3 1/2 hours on the course exhilarated us.

Several days in the area left us yearning for more. A camping trip under the luminous stars, perhaps. Or mountain biking and hiking on trails we didn't even find. With all that we experienced, we knew there was so much we missed. And that's why Moab remains at the top of our vacation wish list.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Popular Snow Goose Festival Feb 19-20

Every year in mid-February, thousands of snow geese stop in the fields around Delta as they migrate north. Sometimes the air turns almost completely white as the birds fill the ski. It is an impressive sight.

Over the years, a wildlife viewing festival has grown up around the event. Wildlife biologists participate and help people learn where and how to view the birds.

Viewing the snow geese is the main attraction, but other activities have become part of the festival. There will be exhibits and seminars, a craft fair, 5K and 10K races, a skeet shoot and quilt show, along with plenty of food.

Utah's Division of Wildlife Resources has this news release about the Snow Goose Festival. Below are excerpts.

It's a sight you have to see to believe: thousands of pure white snow and Ross' geese lifting off Gunnison Bend Reservoir amid honks and the beating of wings.

As many as 10,000 snow geese have been at the reservoir during past festivals. Except for the black tips on their wings, snow geese are pure white.

"We'll provide spotting scopes so you can get a close look at the geese," says Bob Walters, Watchable Wildlife coordinator for the Division of Wildlife Resources. "We'll also be available to answer any questions you have."

In addition to seeing the geese, you can learn more about wildlife at free seminars offered by the DWR. The seminars will be held on Saturday, Feb. 20.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Roadwork Will Affect Travel In Zion Park

The famous switchbacks on Hwy 9 below the mile-long tunnel in Zion Park will be renovated this year, and will cause some travel delays and temporary closures. Work could begin as early as May. People planning to drive through the park need to be aware of the work and plan extra time.

Below is a news release provided by the park:

Road Construction

Major roadwork will occur on the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway in 2010.

Zion National Park is anticipating that major roadwork will occur on the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway beginning as early as May of 2010. The roadwork will occur on a section of roadway known as The Switchbacks, from the junction of the Zion-Mt Carmel Highway and the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive to the west portal of the Zion-Mt Carmel Tunnel.

The Zion-Mt Carmel Highway was constructed in the late 1920’s and besides being surfaced with asphalt and having CCC era rock guardrails added, has not been improved since. Unstable soils, poor drainage and heavy use have deteriorated the roadway to the point that major renovations are needed to stabilize it.

The 2010 construction will affect travelers utilizing the Zion-Mt Carmel highway through Zion from Utah State Route 9 to U.S. Highway 89. People visiting Zion National Park via the park’s South Entrance who are camping, accessing the shuttle system, staying at the Zion Lodge or in the town of Springdale will not be affected.

Travelers going through Zion from the South Entrance to the East Entrance, or vice versa, should expect delays and temporary closures. Details are not yet available but we expect that most closures will occur in the evening hours. However, significant delays of up to an hour or more will occur throughout the day and the roadway will be one lane most of the time, even when work is not in progress.

Alternate routes of travel from Springdale to U.S Highway 89 are Utah State Route 59 from Hurricane, Utah to Arizona State Route 389 and Fredonia, Arizona or Utah State Route 14 from Cedar City, Utah to Long Valley Junction. Visitors may want to consider using one of these roads if traveling to Bryce Canyon or Grand Canyon National Parks from Zion.

More details regarding this road construction will be posted on this website when they are available.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Stay and Ski Deals Provide Great Savings

The Washington Post and other newspapers are touting new "stay and ski" deals at some Utah resorts. The lead for this Washington Post article described 2 deals at Brian Head Resort. The article headline and excerpts are giving below.

What's the Deal? This week's best travel bargains around the globe.

Two ski lodges in Brian Head, Utah, are offering ski-and-stay deals. The Grand Lodge at Brian Head, which opened in December, has an Apres Ski Package starting at $189 per night (plus $23 taxes) for Sunday-Thursday stays through April 11. The package includes lodging, two adult lift tickets per day and two appetizers per day at the Lift Lounge & Patio. Booked separately, the package would cost about $276 a night. Info: 435-677-9000.

Cedar Breaks Lodge and Spa (888-282-3327) has a three-night package for $340 (plus $35 tax) for Sunday-Tuesday arrivals through April 6. Deal includes lodging and four lift tickets. Room-only price typically starts at $120 a night, plus tax.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Ride the Wind - Utah Gains Reputation for Kite Sports

In this article, the Salt Lake Tribune say Utah is gaining an international reputation for kite sports. Below are excerpts.

Coming to Utah » Sustained winds, rolling hills and higher elevations combine to make parts of the state a drawing card for kite-propelled fun.

"I'm kiting in the Bay area on water and wanted to try snowkiting," said Muzik. "This is one of the best places in the States. It has high elevation, more good winds, nice rolling hills and no trees. It's well-known in the sport.

The annual U.S. Open Snowkite Masters event, scheduled for Feb. 25-28 in Fairview Canyon, draws about 70 competitors and another 100 or so spectators including folks from Norway, France and Germany. First prize is about $300. Participants race over a 3-mile course.

Read the entire article.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Spring in Arches and Canyonlands National Parks has this interesting article about visiting Arches and Canyonlands national parks during spring. Below are excerpts.

Arches and Canyonlands national parks are colorful siblings that are great to visit any time of year, but to spare yourself the high heat of summer one of the best seasons to visit is Spring.

Spring in the parks? Odds are great that the weather will be warm -- typical daytime highs in the parks are in the low 80s, nighttime lows in the 50s -- and sunny, so you'll definitely want shorts, T-shirts, a broad-brimmed hat, and sunscreen. Beyond that, hiking gear from boots to daypacks, water bottles or hydration systems and hiking sticks, perhaps some nice casual outfits for dining in Moab, and a shell jacket to deal with any rain or cool days that might arise.

These parks are almost like Jekyll and Hyde when it comes to negotiating them in a vehicle. Arches is small, not quite 80,000 acres, with one main paved road winding through it past most of the major geologic attractions. Canyonlands, by contrast, is a sprawling 337,598-acre park cleaved into three districts -- Island in the Sky, Needles, and the Maze, (four if you consider the Green and Colorado river corridors) -- that are somewhat far-flung and require a bit of windshield time to visit if you're traveling from one to another. None of this windshield time is boring, though, as the landscape you drive through is almost as stunning as that that lies within the parks' borders.

Spring-time activities run the gamut in these two parks. Certainly, hiking is the main attraction with endless miles of trails between the two. Some of the more popular hikes in Arches lead to Delicate Arch, Landscape Arch, Park Avenue, and the Windows Section. In Canyonlands, exploring the Island in the Sky with its trails to Whale Rock and ancient granaries on Aztec Butte can fill up half a day, while longer treks in the Needles District can fill several days and more. Traveling to the Maze District is more involved, as noted above, but if you have the time a hike down to the Great Gallery is certainly worth the effort.

Read the complete article.

Note: The Great Gallery is not located in the Maze District, but is an isolated canyon not off contiguous to any other part of the park. It is well worth the visit.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Zion Park Sets Record For Visitors in 2009

(Note: The info below is from a press release provided by Zion National Park.)

Zion National Park Received Record Visitation in 2009

Zion National Park received a record number of visitors in 2009. Recorded visitation was 2,735,401, representing a 1.7 percent increase over 2008, the previous record year.

A portion of the increase in visitation may be attributed to the park’s Centennial celebration in 2009. Numerous Centennial events and programs brought visitors to the park throughout the year. In addition, the park’s backcountry continues to draw more visitors. In 2009, the number of backcountry users increased by 17.3 percent over 2008.

Visitation through the South and Kolob Canyons Entrances increased while visitation decreased through the East Entrance and in the Kolob Terrace section of the park. Compared to 2008, there was a 29 percent decrease in the number of visitors arriving by tour bus.

The park has set new visitation records four times since 2002. Since 1919, when the park was renamed Zion National Park, 88,904,937 visitors have entered the park. Visitation has exceeded 2 million per year since 1990. In the last decade alone, over 25 million people have visited Zion. The visitation records reveal that whether in good or challenging economic times, Zion National Park remains a very popular tourism destination.

Additional visitation information is available online at

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Ski Utah With Travelocity Roaming Gnome

Utah edged out Tahoe in a Travelocity promotion to decide where it's Roaming Gnome would go to combat cabin fever.

People voters on the Gnome's Facebook page to decide the winner. And the results: 50.01% voted for Utah, 49.98% for Tahoe. Close, but Utah takes the prize.

More details about the contest will probably be released later today.

Ski conditions are wonderful right now at Utah resorts, and there are great deals to be had. Hotels and lodges near the resorts often sell out for President's Day weekend, but this year there is still plenty of availability.

Some very nice properties are offering specials right now. See our Ski Packages for details.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Bryce Canyon Winter Festival

The popular Bryce Canyon Winter Festival will be held over Presidents' Day weekend - February 13-15, 2010.

Held at Bryce Canyon and nearby Ruby's Inn, the festival includes many popular winter sports and activities. Some of the more popular activities are listed below.

Snowshoe hikes
Astronomy workshops
Arts and crafts
Photography workshops
Archery biathlon
Cross country ski races
Kids snowboot races
Valentines dance

See the complete schedule. There is always food, music and fun.

Monday, February 01, 2010

See Bald Eagles on Feb 6 and Feb 13

Bald Eagle Day activities will be held in Utah on two consecutive Saturdays - Feb 6 and Feb 13. They provide great opportunity to observe bald eagles at fairly close range.

A large number of bald eagles winter in Utah - only a few stay in our state year round. So this is the best time to see the majestic birds.

Utah's Division of Wildlife Resources provided the info below:

Two chances to see bald eagles

On Feb. 6, eagle viewing will take place at sites in central and southwestern Utah. On the following Saturday, Feb. 13, Utah Bald Eagle Day will be celebrated at three sites—two in northern Utah and one in northeastern Utah.

There is no cost to attend Bald Eagle Day. Viewing times are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. except at the Salt Creek Waterfowl Management Area site, where viewing will take place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

On Feb. 13, viewing will take place at the following locations:

Fountain Green State Fish Hatchery, located east of Nephi. If coming from the north, take I-15 and exit the freeway at the second Nephi exit (Exit 225). After exiting the freeway, turn east on SR-132 and travel about 10 miles. About 1 mile before the city of Fountain Green, a Bald Eagle Day sign will point you to an access road that leads to the hatchery.

Once you reach the hatchery, you'll be given a driving map of the Sanpete Valley that highlights the best areas in the valley to view eagles. Literature, displays and bathroom facilities will also be available at the hatchery. If eagles are near the hatchery, Division of Wildlife Resources staff will set up spotting scopes so you can view them. Spotting scopes will also be set-up at a viewing location about one mile from the hatchery.

Rush Lake Ranch, located on the Minersville highway (SR-130) about 12 miles north of Cedar City.

On Feb. 13, viewing will take place at the following locations:

Salt Creek Waterfowl Management Area (Compton's Knoll), located about 10 miles northwest of Corinne. To reach the WMA, take Exit 365 off of I 15 and travel west on SR-83 through Corinne. Stay on SR-83 until you get to 6800 W. (Iowa String). Travel north to 6800 N. Travel west on 6800 N. until you reach the Salt Creek WMA/Compton's Knoll Watchable Wildlife site.

Farmington Bay Waterfowl Management Area, located on the west side of Farmington at 1325 W. Glover Lane (925 South).

In addition to seeing eagles at the WMA, you can also participate in activities that will be held at the Great Salt Lake Nature Center at the north end of the WMA. The activities include a bake sale and fun, hands-on activities for children. The activities—each centered around a bald eagle theme—will begin at 9 a.m. and run through most of the day. You can also see live birds of prey and watch a slideshow presented by HawkWatch International.

In addition to participating in the activities, you can learn more about becoming a volunteer at the WMA. Volunteers lead birding tours and help with other projects.

If you're traveling north on I-15, coming from Salt Lake City and other areas south of Farmington:

To reach the WMA, travel north on I-15, and exit the freeway at Exit 325. Turn left on Park Lane and travel west. The road will angle to the south, and you'll come to Clark Lane at the first traffic light. Turn right. Travel west to the first stop sign, which is at 1525 West, and turn left. Travel south to Glover Lane, and turn right. Travel west on Glover Lane for about two blocks until you come to 1700 W. Turn left on 1700 W. and travel south to the Great Salt Lake Nature Center. You can park in the parking lot.

If you're traveling south on I-15, coming from Ogden and other areas north of Farmington:

To reach the WMA, travel south on I-15 and exit the freeway at Exit 325. Go to the stoplight and turn right on Park Lane. Travel south to the next light, which is at Clark Lane, and turn right. Travel west to the first stop sign, which is at 1525 West, and turn left. Travel south to Glover Lane, and turn right. Travel west on Glover Lane for about two blocks until you come to 1700 W. Turn left on 1700 W. and travel south to the Great Salt Lake Nature Center. You can park in the parking lot.

Split Mountain/Green River, located north of Jensen and below the Dinosaur Quarry in Dinosaur National Monument (DNM). To reach the site, drive north from Highway 40 in Jensen on the road (SR 149) to the Dinosaur Quarry.

Your first stop should be at the staging area located just inside the DNM boundary. Displays and spotting scopes will be available at the staging area, and you might be able to see bald eagles and other raptors in the distance.

You can also see live birds close up! At least one live bird of prey—and maybe even as many as three—will be on display at the staging area.

From the staging area, biologists will direct you to other sites where you may have better views of eagles and other wildlife of interest. In past years, visitors have seen bald and golden eagles hunting and feeding, as well as prairie falcons, hawks, mule deer, river otters, pheasants, turkeys, sandhill cranes, porcupines, mergansers, Canada geese and other wildlife.

During your trip, you may also want to stop and visit the Dinosaur National Monument. The monument's dinosaur quarry is closed, but you can see a few dinosaur bones at a temporary visitor center near the quarry. The visitor center also includes a small bookstore.

Get a close look
"We'll set spotting scopes up at each viewing site so you can get a good look at the eagles," says Bob Walters, Watchable Wildlife coordinator for the DWR. "Biologists and volunteers will also be on hand to help you spot the eagles and to answer any questions you have."

Information about bald eagles, and wildlife watching and birding opportunities in Utah, will be available at each location. The materials will be available for free, or for a small cost.

The best time to attend
The best time to see eagles on Feb. 6 and Feb. 13 depends on two things.

If you want to attend during the warmest time of the day, attend late in the morning or early in the afternoon. "The warmer temperatures are especially important if you bring young children with you," Walters says.

Late morning and early afternoon also provide the clearest times of the day to see the eagles.

If you want to see the greatest number of eagles, attend between 2 and 4 p.m. "In mid-afternoon, the eagles start flying to trees to roost for the night," Walters says. "If you want to see the greatest number of eagles, mid to late afternoon is usually the best time to attend."

Items to bring
If you attend Bald Eagle Day, dress in warm clothes and bring waterproof boots. Also, if you want to get pictures of the eagles, bring a telephoto lens.

"The eagles will be some distance from the viewing areas," Walters says. "In the past, we've had photographers try and get close to the eagles. They ended up scaring the eagles away."

Utah's most popular viewing event
Walters started Bald Eagle Day in 1990 as a way to introduce people to Utah's wildlife. "Bald Eagle Day was started to arouse people's interest, whet their appetite and make them aware of the wildlife around them," Walters says.

Since it began, Bald Eagle Day has become Utah's most well attended, and one of its most enjoyed, wildlife-viewing events.

For more information about Bald Eagle Day, call Walters at 801-538- 4771, or Division of Wildlife Resources offices in Ogden, Springville, Vernal or Cedar City.
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