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Friday, September 28, 2012

Fall Colors Along Nebo Loop

Maple Lake along Nebo Loop.
One of my favorite mountain drives follows the Nebo Loop National Scenic Byway, between the towns of Payson and Nephi. During summer it is lush and green and cool. During winter it sparkles with deep, white snow. And in fall, it dances with a rainbow of colors.

Nebo is one of the best fall color drives in the Western U.S.

I drove the loop this morning and enjoyed a great trip. We stopped and walked around Maple Lake, which is shown in one of my photos. The day was sunny and warm and the colors were spectacular.

It was also fun walking along area trails on a carpet of fallen leaves, with a canopy of color overhead.

Colors have now peaked on top of the mountain. There were still plenty of leaves on trees but more on the group. Within a couple weeks the colors will be gone at higher elevations in northern Utah.

Colors are now strong in northern Utah canyons and at high elevations in southern Utah. Peak viewing for these areas will happen during the next couple weeks.

Zion National Park posted this spectacular photo of colors along the Kolob Terrace Road.

Colors will peak in late October in Zion Canyon and other lower elevation spots in southern Utah.

I enjoy viewing the colors while I am also pursuing other adventures. Right now conditions are perfect to hike and bike trails all over Utah. Fishing is picking up in our streams and lakes, now that the heat of summer has waned and waters are cooling. The rifle elk hunt begins next week and the general season deer hunt will take place later in October.

This is a great time to adventure in Utah. I'll be out there - hope you can join me.

- Dave Webb

Thursday, September 27, 2012

A Detailed Look At The Great Salt Lake

The Great Salt Lake is one of Utah's most recognizable and most intriguing attractions. Located just northwest of Salt Lake City, the lake is a draw for tourists who have heard about its ultra-buoyant water.

Antelope Island, one of Utah's most popular state parks, is located at the lake. But the big lake also offers many other options for recreation, many of which are not well known. The Great Salt Lake offers wonderful areas for bird and wildlife watching, sailing, kayaking, hunting and other activities.

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has this new guide (in pdf format) providing detailed information about the lake. It talks about everything from science and history to recreation and animal life. Here are tidbits we found interesting:

Great Salt Lake is believed to have first formed about 11,000 years ago when the lake rose from a smaller saline body to about 4,250 to 4,275 feet at the Gilbert Level. At this time it was about three times as large as present Great Salt Lake and was salty.

The lake is used extensively by millions of migratory and nesting birds and is a place of solitude for people.

Great Salt Lake is divided by a rock-fill railroad causeway constructed in 1959 to replace the wooden trestle built in 1903. During the high water years of 1983-87, additional fill was added to raise the structure and a 300-foot breach was added. Most of the surface inflow from the Bear, Weber, and Jordan Rivers enters the lake south of the causeway, and only a small amount of water flows north through openings in the causeway. Water north of the causeway (Gunnison Bay) often has a salinity of 25 percent or higher; water south of the causeway (Gilbert Bay) has varied from about 6 to 27 percent salinity.

The Bear, Weber, and Jordan Rivers contribute about 66 percent of the annual inflow of 2.9
million acre-feet (one acre-foot equals 325,851 gallons, or the amount of water that it would take to cover one acre to a depth of one foot) to the lake, precipitation into the lake contributes about 31 percent, and ground-water inflow about 3 percent.

Harvest of its best-known species, the brine shrimp, annually supplies millions of pounds of food for the aquaculture industry worldwide.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Upcoming Events: St. George Marathon & Huntsman World Senior Games

Two big events will be held in St. George during the next few weeks. One is the St. George Marathon and the other is the Huntsman World Senior Games. The city will be busy during these events so plan now if you want to reserve lodging or golf tee times.

St. George Marathon - October 6, 2012

The marathon website offers this information:

Rated by Runner's World as one of the four "Marathons to Build a Vacation Around" in the World. Included in Runner`s World 10 Most Scenic and Fastest Marathons and Top 20 Marathons in the USA. It begins in the majestic Pine Valley mountains and descends nearly 2600 feet through scenic southwest Utah, to the beautiful Worthern Park. The St. George Marathon is a point-to-point race which is USA Track & Field Certified & Sanctioned. Runner`s World listed the St. George Marathon as the fastest fall marathon. A fun race indeed--and scenic.

This year we expect 7,400 + runners and their families (surveys say that 2.1 people accompany each runner) to join us for our marathon celebration.

The 36th annual Health & Fitness Expo will be held in conjunction with the St. George Marathon. Last year's Expo was extremely successful with a total of 20,000+ people, including runners and family members in attendance. The Expo (will be) held at the Dixie Center from 9:00 am to 9:00 pm on Friday, October 5, 2012.

Huntsman World Senior Games - October 8-20, 2012

See the official website for details about the games, which include such diverse sports as archery, basketball, golf, cowboy action shooting, pickleball, mountain biking, swimming and sand volleyball, to name just a few. Here are highlights from the website:

Headquartered in Southern Utah, HWSG has become a renowned event among serious athletes from Japan to Russia and from Alaska to Australia. Scores of foreign countries have participated in the HUNTSMAN WORLD SENIOR GAMES, where peace among nations is fostered through friendly competition.

In addition to athletic events, the Games promote health by providing life saving health screenings for cancer-breast and prostate. Screenings also detect other serious health threats--glaucoma, diabetes, high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, and decreased bone density. Volunteer medical and nursing students assist with the screenings and generous sponsors provide diagnostic equipment and services.

Band concerts, dances, and awards socials for each sport are also part of the package, bringing athletes and guests together in a social atmosphere where they share in, and congratulate each other for, their achievements. This important aspect of the Games emphasizes the celebration of success for all participants, whether or not they win a medal.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Fall Colors Are Peaking Now - Logan Canyon To Cedar Breaks

Fall colors are dazzling right now in many areas throughout Utah. Many of our canyons offer scenic drives through vegetation showing a wide variety of colors. Some of these drives have been designated National Scenic Byways.

At Cedar Breaks National Monument in southern Utah, a Fall Nature Festival will be held September 29 - 30. The monument website gives this information:

The fall season brings bursts of color and energy to the high mountain country. USA Today described Cedar Breaks National Monument and the surrounding area as "one of the top ten places to experience fall colors" in the United States. Special events include children's activities, a photography workshop, and more. We will also celebrate National Public Lands Day, a fee-free day, on Saturday, September 29 with a volunteer service opportunity.

For more information about events, contact:
Cedar Breaks National Monument
2390 W Hwy 56 Suite #11
Cedar City, Utah 84720
435-586-9451 (during winter season)
435-586-0787 (during summer season)

(Highway 14 between Cedar City and the junction of Highway 148 is now OPEN both day and night, seven days a week. The landslide area is still under construction, so expect minor delays as you travel.)

My favorite is to ride horseback on trails in Logan Canyon, where colors are particularly vivid. My friends at Beaver Creek Lodge provide extraordinary trail rides right from their lodge, which is located at the top of the canyon. It is great fun riding over a carpet of colors, under a canape of falling leaves.

Weather conditions should be ideal most days during the next few weeks - with perfect, warm fall days. I really look forward to getting out and enjoying the colors, by car, foot and horseback.

- Dave Webb

Monday, September 24, 2012

Volunteers Needed On National Public Lands Day

Saturday, Sept 29, is National Public Lands Day. On that day more than 170,000 volunteers will work to improve public lands at more than 2,100 sites around the United States - including 31 sites in Utah.

This news release gives background information about the program. Here are excerpts:

Volunteers in every state will visit parks, public and community gardens, beaches, wildlife preserves or forests and chip in to help these treasured places that belong to all Americans. They will improve and restore the lands and facilities the public uses for recreation, education, exercise and connecting with nature.

“With one-third of America's land in public hands, NPLD provides an opportunity for volunteers of all ages to help sustain these lands,” said Robb Hampton, director of the public lands program of the National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF), which coordinates NPLD. “Volunteers can also spend time after their tasks to enjoy the lands, whether at a local green space or national park. Many sites offer nature hikes, bike rides, picnics or other outdoor activities.”

The event last year contributed an estimated $17 million in volunteer services to public lands, which include planting about 100,000 trees, shrubs and other native plants, as well as building and maintaining approximately 1,500 miles of trails.

Here is a full list of projects at Utah sites.

Utah projects range from trash cleanup along the Colorado River to restoring a section of trail at Dead Horse Point State Park to installing protective fences to updating information kiosks. There is something suitable for persons of every age and physical capacity.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Escalante Canyons Art Festival / Everett Ruess Days

The annual Escalante Canyons Working Art Festival and Everett Ruess Days will be held September 28-29, with events in the towns of Escalante and Boulder.

The festival website has this summary:

Last year’s festival was a huge success on all fronts. More than 75 artists from near and as far away as Florida and Hawaii participated in the Plein Air Competition. Vendors selling art, photography, fabric goods, ceramics, and food were busy with customers both Friday and Saturday. The entertainment ranged from locals acts – the Griffin Family, the Mecham Sisters and Boulder’s Quarrelling Society Ladies to Flagstaff musicians Dave McGraw & Crow Wing.

We are awarding $8000 in prizes this year! Included are 21 cash prizes, an ad in Plein Air Magazine for the Artist’s Choice Award, and two Best of Show Purchase Awards of $1500.00 each (one in Watercolor/Mixed Media and one in Oil/Acrylic).

Our Paint-Out this year will be called “Paint the Town,” and held on Wednesday, September 26 with sign-in at the Escalante Town Park (100 North and Center Street) beginning at 9:00 am. Judging will occur at 5:00 pm in the Lions Club Pavilion, also in the park.

Keynote speaker at the festival will be Dr. Scott D. Sampson, Ph.D. He will talk about the many dinosaur fossil finds in the nearby Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Sampson is research curator at the Natural History Museum of Utah, University of Utah.

Remarkably, different varieties of giant dinosaurs appear to have lived in the north and south of Laramidia. The strongest evidence of these isolated dinosaur “provinces” comes from Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, which has recently revealed a previously unknown assemblage of dinosaurs. How were so many giant animals able to co-exist on such a diminutive landmass? Why were most of these dinosaurs adorned with bizarre bony features such as horns, crests, domes, or spikes?

Scott Sampson will address these questions and more, exploring some of the latest ideas and controversies reviewed in his recent book, Dinosaur Odyssey: Fossil Threads in the Web of Life.

The Escalante Canyons area has been the subject of countless works of art, from amazing photographs to inspiring landscape paintings to moving prose. The festival honors Everett Ruess, the legendary "vagabond for beauty."

In November 1934, at age twenty, Everett Ruess disappeared from the rugged canyon country near Escalante, Utah, and was never seen again. Everett Ruess was an artistic, adventurous young man who set out alone several times to experience the beauty, as well as the fury of nature in the American West. During the 1930s, he met and discussed art with painter Maynard Dixon, and with well-known photographers Ansel Adams, Edward Weston and Dorothea Lange. He was lured first by the splendors of Yosemite and the California coast and later by portions of the lonely Red Rock Country of Utah and Arizona.

In his final letter to his brother, Ruess wrote:

… as to when I revisit civilization, it will not be soon. I have not tired of the wilderness... It is enough that I am surrounded with beauty... This had been a full, rich year. I have left no strange or delightful thing undone I wanted to do.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Hope Lodge Will Server Traveling Cancer Patients

Most people come to Utah for business or pleasure but some travel here for medical treatments. Utah offers several wonderful facilities that attract patients from around the region.

In Salt Lake City, Primary Children's Medical Center serves child patients from Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, Nevada, Montana and other areas. Children and their families coming here for treatment often stay in the Ronald McDonald House.

Veterans coming for medical care can stay in the Fisher House.

In the future, people coming for cancer treatments will be able to stay in Hope Lodge, which is being funded by donations and is expected to open in 2015.

The Huntsman Cancer Institute, University Hospital and other facilities are engaged in cutting-edge research and provide some of the most advanced treatments available anywhere. The lodge is greatly needed to offset expenses incurred by cancer patients.

The American Cancer Society has this information about Hope Lodge. That site can also accept online donations.

The Salt Lake Tribune has this article about the lodge. Below are excerpts.

She (Lodge Chairman Katie Eccles) said of the 16,000 patients who seek cancer care in Utah, 4,500 will have left their home to do it, whether they are from rural Utah, Idaho, Wyoming or elsewhere.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints kicked off Utah’s capital campaign last year, donating two acres at 100 South and 400 East, valued at $4.2 million. And the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Foundation gave $2 million, Katie Eccles said.

Other major donors include Intermountain Healthcare and Sorenson Legacy Foundation, which gave $750,000 each, and University Health Care, which contributed $400,000.

Patients of any of the valley’s cancer treatment centers will be able to stay at the lodge at 375 East 100 South for free, along with their caregivers, with a physician referral. Each suite will have two beds. The average stay at other lodges is 21 days.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Utah May Raise Speed Limit To 80 MPH On More Freeway Stretches

Travelers may be able to reach Utah destinations more quickly under legislation being recommended by the State Legislature's Transportation Interim Committee. Tests of an 80 mph speed limit on sections of I-15 have not revealed any major problems and so the committee has voted to support expanding the program into other areas.

This Deseret News article has details. Below are excerpts.

"But many people, most people actually, are already traveling 80," (Rep. Jim Dunnigan, R-Taylorsville) said. "So we're simply making legal what the majority of people do."

He ruled out ever calling for a statewide speed limit of 80 mph, citing the need for slower speed limits along freeway stretches that are mountainous or curvy, as well as those that have a history of accidents.

UDOT deputy director Carlos Braceras cited the results of three years of data collection that found driver speed climbed from an average of 83 mph to 85 mph without any speed-related fatalities.

The department's data also shows that the number of nonfatal crashes has dropped along the two sections of I-15 where a permanent speed limit of 80 mph is recommended.

The Utah Department of Transportation may make the 80 mph speed limit permanent on sections of I-15 between Mills Junction and Scipio, and between Fillmore and Cove Fort. The department will continue to study the impact of the higher limit on two other sections of freeway.

The article says a bill is being drafted for the next legislature to test the 80 mph limit on portions of I-15 to Wendover, on additional sections of I-15 and on portions of I-84 and I-80.

The reference concerning I-15 and Wendover is obviously a typo. I-80 crosses the Salt Flats to Wendover but I-15 does not.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Drive Backroads Into Grand Staircase

Pahreah townsite
The next several weeks will bring perfect conditions for exploring Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. The monument is huge, covering some 1.7 million acres, and can be explored in many different ways. It's a great place to hike, mountain bike and ride horseback.

It also has remote, rugged backroads that beg to be driven. I chose to do that yesterday, taking the long way home after a trip through southern Utah. I had a great time and enjoyed seeing new country.

This is dry country that gets very hot during the summer. Now, as temperatures wane, days will be very pleasant and nights will start to get cool. Most days will be very nice through October and into November, but an occasional storm may blow through. Roads can become treacherous when wet.

I started at the old Pahreah townsite just off Hwy 89 east of Kanab. Not much is left from the old town but the scenic spot has been used as the setting for several Western and adventure movies and part of an old movie set can still be seen there. Movies like Sergeants 3 and The Outlaw Josey Wales were filmed there.

Upper Johnson Canyon
Next I drove up Johnson Canyon, skirting along the western edge of Grand Staircase National Monument. Lower Johnson Canyon has picturesque farms on the flat ground, bordered by caramel-colored sandstone walls. In some spots the canyon is reminiscent of the Mt Caramel area just east of Zion National Park. Red and pink cliffs in the background blend features of Zion and Bryce Canyon, which is located just to the northeast.

The Johnson Canyon Road is a Utah Scenic Backway. It is paved for the first 16 miles north from US 89. After that it becomes improved dirt and gravel. One fork cuts over to the town of Glendale, along US 89. Another heads up to the town of Alton and then connects with US 89. The longest fork becomes the Skutumpah Road, which runs 34 miles through Grand Staircase, past Kodachrome State Park and connects with Highway 12 at the town of Cannonville. All of these routes are scenic and worth driving.

Three other backroads probe different areas in Grand Staircase and offer excellent opportunity for backcountry exploration. I've driven the Hole In the Rock Road many times, since it provides access to some of my favorite slot canyon hikes. This fall I also hope to explore the rugged Smoky Mountain Road and the Cottonwood Canyon Road. Both run from Hwy 12 down to US 89 between Kanab and Lake Powell.

In most areas you can expect that roads lead somewhere. If you keep driving you will eventually eventually reach civilization of some sort. Not so in this area. The Hole in the Rock Road runs for 62 miles, out to the rim above Lake Powell, and then dead ends.

The main Smoky Mountain and Cottonwood Canyon routes eventually lead somewhere, but spurs from these roads dead end in very remote country.

High clearance vehicles are recommended for these roads. Four-wheel-drive is not usually needed but may become necessary during wet weather or sand storms.

Lately I've been using the GPS on my phone as I travel the country. It works very well in cities but breaks down in these remote areas. I need cell coverage to chart a GPS route on my phone and there is no cell service in most of the national monument.

If you travel here be sure to bring a good map and a real GPS. Also bring emergency supplies. These main roads see daily traffic but it may be days before someone finds you if you break down on one of the many spurs.

- Dave Webb

Monday, September 17, 2012

Sundance Festival Locals And Group Tickets Go On Sale

Now's the time to start planning if you want to attend Sundance Film Festival this winter. Festival passes for local people and groups go on sale tomorrow (Sept. 18). Individual ticket sales will begin later in the fall.

The festival runs January 17 – 27, 2013, in Park City, Salt Lake City and surrounding communities.

The festival is huge and screenings often sell out. Park City hotels and motels are booked solid during the period. If you want to stay in Park City during the festival you need to book soon. Salt Lake City lodging options are more numerous and so you can always stay there, even if you procrastinate until the last minute, but the nicer places will fill up quickly.

Details about the films and screenings will be released during the next several weeks. As always, there will be plenty of parties and stars on hand. The Sundance website has details about ticket sales and great information to help you plan an enjoyable Sundance experience.

Don't forget, Sundance takes place during prime ski season in Utah. It is really fun to mix festival activities with time on the slopes. Many think our ski resorts will be crowded because of Sundance but the opposite is true. Many skiers stay about because of the crazy atmosphere that accompanies the festival and so the slopes are often uncrowded.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Frontier Will Discontinue Schedule Air Service To Provo

Frontier Airlines has been offering scheduled flights to the Provo airport, but will discontinue that service at the beginning of 2013. Provo Mayor John Curtis made that announcement today after consulting with the airline.

The announcement comes as a setback for Provo, which has been experiencing rapid growth in both population and business base. Frontier recently went through Chapter 11 bankruptcy and is looking for new investors. Provo officials are optimistic that Frontier or some other airline will pick up the service in the future.

The Provo Herald has this news article about the announcement. Below are excerpts.

Helen Anderson, Provo city spokeswoman, said Provo officials knew the airport wasn't Frontier's best performing location, and when the airline had to cut service because its fleet was reduced Provo was on the chopping block.

But, Anderson said, Frontier told Provo officials that the route was considered profitable. In fact, just a few weeks before Frontier made the decision to cut Provo it had announced it was going to start flying a larger plane into the city's airport.

Anderson said Provo considers the venture successful, especially since Frontier was the first commercial carrier to fly out of the Provo Airport and because the route was profitable in such a short amount of time. Frontier started flying out of the Provo Airport in mid-2011.

Curtis noted that Provo has had great momentum with economic development and growth. Announcements like this bring the city back to real life and a need to push a little harder.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Utah Shakespeare Festival Extends Fall Season

The Tony Award winning Utah Shakespeare Festival is having a record-breaking season, in part because of the popularity of the musical Les Misérables.

To accommodate demand, the Festival is expanding its fall schedule, which will now run through Oct 27. In addition, the Festival has added new Monday evening performances of Les Misérables on October 1, 8, and 15.

The Festival is located in Cedar City.

Below is the news release provided by the Festival.

Utah Shakespeare Festival Adds One Week, Additional Performances to Fall Schedule of Les Misérables, Hamlet and Stones in His Pockets
Cedar City, UT – Today the Utah Shakespeare Festival announced that it is extending its current season due to the overwhelming interest from Festival guests and fans in the fall plays. Les Misérables, Hamlet and Stones in His Pockets will run one additional week, through October 27. In addition, the Festival has added new Monday evening performances of Les Misérables on October 1, 8, and 15.

According to Marketing Director Kami Terry Paul, this has been one of the most popular Festival seasons in history with over thirty-five consecutive sold out performances of Les Misérables this summer. “We are right on track to have a record breaking year in ticket sales, and we haven’t even opened Hamlet or Stones in His Pockets yet,” said Paul.

The popularity and success of Les Misérables has attracted many first-time visitors who are eager to experience the other shows and Festival offerings. This incredible show boosted attendance at all six summer shows and has raised early ticket sales to the three fall shows to record levels.

“We feel very strongly that our audiences should have continued access to these three masterworks,” said Artistic Director David Ivers. The shows are selling so well that we felt it was necessary to create more inventory. We are thrilled to provide this extra week for our general audience base and for our local university population,” said Ivers.

During the extended week, the Festival will still be offering production seminars, backstage tours, Repertory Magic, childcare, concessions, and literary seminars. Guests can still enjoy the whole Festival experience.

“I am deeply gratified that our work is resonating so strongly with our guests,” said R. Scott Phillips, Festival executive director. “The depth and performance in this season is quite remarkable, and our company is very excited by the response that audiences are having to these great plays.”

The three shows running September 7 to October 27 are:

Les Misérables. Based on Victor Hugo’s classic novel, Les Misérables is an epic and uplifting story about the survival of the human spirit. It focuses on the struggles of ex-convict Jean Valjean as he searches for meaning, love, and redemption in nineteenth century France. The musical includes some of theatre’s most memorable songs: “I Dreamed a Dream,” “On My Own,” “Bring Him Home,” and “Do You Hear the People Sing,” among many others.

Hamlet. Perhaps the greatest play in the English language, Hamlet comes to the indoor Randall Theatre this year for a new look at William Shakespeare’s vision of murder, betrayal, family, love, and loss. The Festival’s 2012 telling of this classic tale will juxtapose Shakespeare’s beautiful and powerful language against the backdrop of an aging medieval castle being renovated by its modern residents (the upper echelon of the kingdom dressed in haute couture clothing). Written at the height of Shakespeare's career, this powerful examination of the human psyche is his most mature, and chilling, revenge tragedy.

Stones in His Pocket, an audience favorite at the Festival, will return with David Ivers and Brian Vaughn once again playing a host of characters in this tragic, comic, and ultimately surprising tale of two Everymen. At turns hilarious and somber, touching and hugely entertaining, this play centers on Jake and Charlie—and the numerous roles they play onstage and in life. This two-man, fifteen character comedy/drama won raves in 2005 at the Festival and is back by popular demand. Next spring, the show will move as a shared production to Chicago’s Northlight Theatre where it will run from March 8 through April 14, 2013.

Les Misérables, Hamlet and Stones in His Pockets will run until October 27. Additional Monday evening performances of Les Misérables run on October 1, 8, and 15.

For more information or to buy tickets call 1-800-PLAYTIX or check online at

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Holy War Football Comes To Provo Saturday

Arch rivals meet on the football field Saturday when the University of Utah hosts BYU in Salt Lake City. Game time is 8 pm.

Traffic will be heavy on I-15 and around the U before and after the game. Many people ride mass transit to get to get to the stadium. UTA buses, Trax and Frontrunner will have more riders than usual. Trax and Frontrunner will run late trains to accommodate people returning from the game.

See for details.

The BYU/Utah rivalry is one of the most intense in the country. Expect loud, enthusiastic fans on both ends of the stadium.

This Deseret News article talks about how BYU team captains see the rivalry.

The Salt Lake Tribune has this article about the holy war.

BYU is off to a good start this year, with a 2-0 record and national ranking. Utah has struggled in its first two games. But at kickoff, past records will fade and the game will almost certainly be competitive.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Flooding Causes Evacuations, Road Closure Near St. George

Heavy ran fell in the St. George area today and caused a retention pond dam to break. The resulting flood inundated a neighborhood in the town of Santa Clara. Some 25 homes and a dozen businesses have been damaged and residents have been evacuated.

Santa Clara Drive is closed near Lava Flow Drive while crews clean up the mess. Hwy 8 (Old US Hwy 91) becomes Santa Clara Drive in that community. It is the major access route to communities west of Santa Clara, and to recreation areas west of town.

At this writing it is not know how long the highway will be closed, but it probably will not be long. It will certainly be reopened within a day or two.

The southern portion of Utah has received significant rain during the past several days. Flood watches have been posted in several areas. People are advised to stay out of narrow canyons in Zion Park and other areas until this weather pattern breaks. Weather reports and flood potential information is posted at the mouth of the Narrows and in some other areas. If you have questions, inquire at visitor centers before starting hikes.

In 2005, a massive flood came down the Santa Clara River destroyed 34 homes. Since then a tremendous amount of work has been done to minimize flood danger in the area. Today's flood is not nearly as severe as that flood-of-a-lifetime.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Observe The Fall Equinox At Parowan Gap Or The Utah Sun Tunnels

The annual Fall Equinox - the first day of fall - will be September 22. Utah boats two prime spots to obverse the equinox and other astronomic events. One spot is Parowan Gap. The other is the Sun Tunnels located west of Salt Lake City in the Great Salt Lake Desert.

At Parowan Gap, ancient Native Americans carved hundreds of geometric figures into a narrow canyon's rock walls. The petroglyphs are unique. Rock art panels in most areas include many humanoid figures and some recognizable animals. At Parowan Gap it is most geometric shapes. Many people believe the shapes comprise an intricate calendar system and The Gap itself serves as a sort of observatory. Every year people travel to be at The Gap during equinox and solstice events.

This year there will be a special Fall Equinox Observation held 6:00 pm at Parowan Gap on Sept. 15. It will include a presentation on the ancient Native American solar calendar and observation of the sunset. For information call Nancy Dalton 435-463-3735.

Parowan Gap is located west of the town of Parowan, near Cedar City. It is on the National Register of Historic Sites.

Read more about Parowan Gap, including driving directions.

Sun Tunnels
The Sun Tunnels are huge artistic works created by Nancy Holt. They are concrete tubes positioned to align with the setting and rising sun during the summer solstice and the winter solstice. They are unique, sitting out in the middle of nowhere.

A few people visit the tunnels every week during good weather, and many more come for astronomic events.

Read more about the tunnels and where they are located.

Friday, September 07, 2012

See Salmon & Wildlife At Flaming Gorge

Sept. 15 is Kokanee Salmon Day in Utah. Kokanee are landlocked salmon that thrive in Flaming Gorge and other cold, deep lakes and reservoirs. During the fall mature fish turn bright red and spawn from the reservoir into Sheep Creek, where they can be seen easily by visitors to the reservoir.

Utah's Division of Wildlife Reservoir sponsors Kokanee Day as a public wildlife watching event. Besides salmon, many other kinds of wildlife can be seen in the area. Visitors often see raptors, waterfowl, deer, elk and a variety of smaller mammals.

UDWR provided this news release about Kokanee Salmon Day.

Kokanee Salmon Day is Sept. 15

Manila – You don’t need binoculars or a spotting scope to see kokanee salmon in Sheep Creek—the bright red fish are easy to see once they enter the stream.

But if you attend Kokanee Salmon Day on Sept. 15, bring your binoculars or a spotting scope with you anyway.  In addition to the salmon in the stream, you might see some bighorn sheep in the distance.

On Sept. 15, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resource will hold its annual Kokanee Salmon Day.  Viewing runs from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The event is free, and the viewing site is easy to get to.

Sheep Creek is in northeastern Utah, about six miles south of Manila.  The viewing site is at the Scenic Byway turnout where Sheep Creek crosses under state Route 44.

UDWR biologists will be at the site between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.  Display materials will be available that will help you understand the life history and the behavior of the salmon you see in the stream.  Spotting scopes will also be available in case bighorn sheep visit the area, which they usually do during Kokanee Salmon Day.

Fish are close to entering the stream

Kokanee are a land-locked relative of the salmon found in the Pacific Ocean.  Rather than migrating upstream from the ocean, though, the Sheep Creek population migrates upstream from Flaming Gorge Reservoir to spawn in the stream.

On Sept. 4, biologists said salmon were staging offshore but hadn't entered the stream yet. "They’re a bit late,” says Ron Stewart, a conservation outreach manager with the UDWR, “but that's common for a drought year.”

In 2011, Stewart says the salmon started entering the stream on Aug. 26.  Records kept by the UDWR show the salmon have come into the stream as late as Sept. 9.

 “Anglers are seeing good numbers of salmon turning red in the reservoir,” Stewart says, “so we hope when they do decide to run, the spawning run will be good one.”

See a wide variety of wildlife

Seeing bright red kokanee salmon makes a trip to Sheep Creek more than worth it.  But the salmon are often just one of many wildlife species that have been seen on Kokanee Salmon Day.

Stewart says you should bring your camera and binoculars to the event.  "At Sheep Creek,” he says, “Kokanee Day often becomes ‘Wildlife Day.’  You can often see bighorn sheep, turkeys and other wildlife from the viewing site and the surrounding area.”

If bighorns or turkeys appear, Stewart says you’ll be able to see them through spotting scopes UDWR biologists will focus on the animals.  Or the biologists can help you spot them so you can see them through your own spotting scope or binoculars.

In addition to bighorn sheep, Stewart says other big mammals, and a large variety of smaller mammals and birds, often pay a visit.  “Birds of prey, including golden eagles, kestrels, osprey and vultures, are frequent visitors," Stewart says.  "And participants often hear sandhill cranes flying overhead.”

Stewart says driving along one of Utah's first National Scenic Byways—with its spectacular scenery and 18 interpretive sites—fall weather that’s usually pleasant, leaves that are changing color, lots of wildlife and a chance to see bright red kokanee salmon make Kokanee Salmon Day an event you won’t want to miss.

For more information, call the UDWR’s Northeastern Region office at (435) 781-9453.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Exploring Utah Heritage Hwy 89

Highway 89 through the heart of Utah was named The Mormon Pioneer Heritage Area by President Bush in 2006. It runs through farmland and small communities in Central Utah where you can, indeed, see the pioneer heritage that has helped to make Utah great.

Travel writer Dave Zuchowski describes the highway in this article, published in the Bluefield (WV) Daily Telegraph newspaper. Below I give the headline and then excerpts.

National Heritage Area in Utah offers quite a story

In mid-spring, I managed to take an auto tour of a portion of the Utah Mormon Pioneer NHA, which extends all the way from the Arizona border in the South 250 miles north just beyond the town of Fairview.

One of the reasons for traveling a NHA is to sample not only the historic sites and scenic treasures but also to get a look at local crafts and art galleries and a taste of the indigenous foods.

In the old cowboy town of Salina, I stopped at Mom’s Café, a homey, unpretentious eatery that’s been around for more than 80 years and is famous for its pie. Not that the down-home service and atmosphere isn’t a draw, it’s just that pies, especially the mouth-watering blueberry sour cream, have made Mom’s famous in these parts.

In Manti, home of one of Utah’s earliest (and most beautiful) Mormon temples, I got to watch as Joseph Bennion fired up his large outdoor kiln to demonstrate how he makes scores of clay artifacts for his Horseshoe Mountain Pottery enterprise.

Utah’s Cowboy past (and present) came alive in Mt. Pleasant at the ConToy Arena, where I saw modern day ranch hands rope cattle and do fancy equestrian maneuvers...

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Road Trip To Utah's Best Fresh Produce

This is harvest time in Utah. Fresh produce is abundant and available in grocery stores, farmers markets and roadside stands around the state. There is nothing better than fresh fruit and melons ripened on the tree or vine.

Some of our produce has become quite famous, as described in this Deseret News article. It is definitely worth a road trip. Below are excerpts from the article.

Bear Lake raspberries - Find Bear Lake raspberries at farm stands in the area and purchase what you can eat or use within a day or two — raspberries do not last long or travel well. LaBeau's famous raspberry shakes are one of the best ways to enjoy this fresh fruit.

Brigham City peaches and 'Fruit Way' - There is a stretch of U.S. 89 from Brigham City to Willard that has become known as "Fruit Way" because of the many seasonal produce stands that line the road.

Capitol Reef historic orchards - Capitol Reef National Park maintains and protects the remains of the town of Fruita, Wayne County, and its historic orchards. Visitors to the park are welcome to harvest their own cherries, apricots, peaches, plums, pears, apples, almonds and walnuts in season.

Green River watermelons - You could wait for these watermelons to appear at local grocery stores and farmers markets, or you could go to the source and find adventure in the process. Melons of all varieties can be found at Melon Days, Sept. 14-15, or stock up on your favorites at a roadside stand.

Here is a pretty comprehensive list of Utah farmers markets.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Kudos For Green River Golf Course, operated by golf enthusiasts out of Atlanta, Georgia, has this interesting review of Utah's Green River Golf Course.

Utah's St George, Heber Valley and Park City courses are famous and always rate well, but the Green River course is out of the way and usually ignored by national reviews. It's refreshing to see it get this recognition.

The writer has nothing but good to say about the course, as you can see from the excerpts below. His stats for the course are accurate but his description of the Green River itself is a little misleading.

I genuinely like this place.

Green River State Park is just north of I-70, in Southeast Utah, in one of the few areas of the state that can be aptly described as bleak.

The golf course at Green River is the centerpiece of this small state park, though there is camping and the Green River, a fairly large river that runs all the way from far northeastern Utah to Lake Powell, is readily available via a small boat ramp adjacent to the campground.

Or if you're a camper, the campground is excellent.

However you get there, if golf is in your blood, add this one to your bucket list.

Utah is, in my opinion, the most beautiful state in the country, so even if you don't play golf, I'd highly recommend a trip west to see some unmatched scenery.

The Green River begins in the Wind River Mountains in SW Wyoming. It flows into Flaming Gorge Reservoir and then, below the Flaming Gorge dam, flows through the NE corner of Utah and into Colorado. It re-enters Utah in Dinosaur National Monument and then flows south to join the Colorado River south of Moab. The Colorado flows into Lake Powell.

Monday, September 03, 2012

Hail To Autumn Colors And Adventures

I'm just back from a holiday trip where I enjoyed good fishing, fall colors, warm sunshine, hard hail and cold winds. Welcome to September in Utah.

I spent my time fishing and exploring several waters in the Weber River drainage. To get there from my home in Springville I drove up scenic Provo Canyon, through Wanship and Coalville and down into Weber Canyon. Fall colors are coming on strong in those areas. At this writing there are still more green leaves than colored; the scenery is beautiful and the colors will definately become more vibrant during the next couple weeks.

I'm guessing the colors will peak in northern Utah canyons during the final couple weeks in September. In low elevations in southern Utah they should peak in early October.

My intention was to fish the Weber River in Weber Canyon, but I found the water there was high and muddy - too muddy to fish. Water managers are draining Echo Reservoir to do maintenance on the dam and so they are pumping more water than normal down the river. The reservoir is almost dry now and the water coming out is muddy.

Water in the Weber above Echo is clear and fishing conditions are good.

Since we couldn't fish the Weber in the canyon we elected to try Lost Creek, one of its tributaries, and we also spent a little time fishing Lost Creek Reservoir. We hooked into a couple nice browns and a tiger trout in the stream and caught small rainbows in the reservoir. Action wasn't hot but we caught enough fish to keep things interesting.

It was sunny and warm as we started fishing but it soon became cloudy and rainy. We fished in the rain for a few minutes but headed to the car when it started to rain hard.

As we took referage the rain turned to hail and it came down incredibly hard. Marble-sized hailstones soon covered the ground and started to accumulate. Within a few minutes there was an inch of hail on the road and we encountered white-out condtions. It was spooky sitting in the car, not being able to see the road or the hillside or the canyon off to our right.

The storm ended as quickly as it began, but gusty winds continued. When conditions improved we fished the reservoir. As we caught fish and got our hands wet releasing them, the wind felt cold.

Several powerful thunderstorms moved through Utah late last week. They dropped hail in areas and caused flooding in several spots. Some slot canyons in southern Utah were closed because of flash flood danger.

The storms have now moved out of the state and we expect drier weather this week.

Weather can change rapidly in Utah during late summer and fall. I can feel change in the air. Nights are starting to cool off nicely. We will still have several weeks of warm weather when you can engage in all kinds of outdoor activities, but be aware that storms can come quikcly and can be cold, especially at higher elevations.

Fall is coming fast now. I'm voting for a long, warm Indian Summer.

- Dave Webb
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