Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
The landscape of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument was the last area of the lower 48 United States to get mapped and charted and once people started poking around, they realized they were dealing with an incredible wealth of ancient and modern science and culture as well as a big empty playground for outdoor adventurers.
Using his authority under the Antiquities Act, President Bill Clinton designated the area as a national monument in 1996 and at 1.9 million acres, it encompasses the largest land area of all U.S. National Monuments – an area larger than the state of Delaware.
Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument is actually broken up into three geographic sections (listed from west to east):
- Grand Staircase – The western-most part of the park is called the Grand Staircase due to the series of plateaus that descend from Bryce Canyon south toward the Grand Canyon, marked by vertical drops at the Pink Cliffs, Grey Cliffs, White Cliffs, Vermillion Cliffs and Chocolate Cliffs.
- Kaiparowits Plateau – This area covers approximately 1650 square miles of land from the town of Escalante nearly to the Colorado River to the south. This is the highest, wildest, most arid, most remote part of the monument.
- Canyons of the Escalante – The section on the eastern side consists of narrow canyons, towering walls and stunning grottoes created by the erosion from the Escalante River.
Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument wasn’t exactly on our way home from Death Valley National Park out in California, but we still had a few nights to kill and a desire to explore some stuff neither of us had seen. I had driven through the monument years ago (Route 12), but it was a fly-by – I wanted to explore the area more and more particularly, play in some slot canyons.
After exploring for a few days, all I can say is I’m now even more motivated to get back soon…