The United States government is a huge, cumbersome dinosaur that sometimes sits on your grass hut. The dinosaur doesn’t care. All of your cussing and kicking won’t change a thing. You just have to live with whatever the Dinosaur decides to do, no matter how illogical the actions.
Recently The Dinosaur, in this case the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) piece of The Dinosaur, announced that they would be closing the Paria Canyon near Kanab Utah, to traditional access and recreation. To the many people who regularly enjoy this beautiful area, The Dinosaur just sat on our grass hut… again.
Paria Canyon has for the last hundred years or so, been a traditional trail between the pioneer town of Paria and present Cannonville Utah. However, it could never be considered a “road” since the sand and gravel bottom of the canyon is regularly scoured clean by flash floods that occur several times each year. In fact, this is one of the things that made this canyon such a perfect recreation trail for 4 X 4 vehicles, ATV’s and dirt bikes. All vehicle tracks disappeared every time it rained heavy in the nearby mountains.
Until recently the BLM allowed vehicle use even though Paria Canyon was within the boundaries of the new Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monument. They probably recognized that there was no damage being done and they even posted signs in the canyon to advise drivers where they could travel. Then an environmental activist group sued the BLM to close the canyon to all vehicles. Since it isn’t hard to find a court to agree with whiny environmentalist, the BLM was forced to comply… again.
When the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument was created by President Bill Clinton as he left office, promises were made to protect existing mining rights, existing grazing rights and existing right-of-ways. All of these promises were later broken, of course. No surprises there.
On Saturday, May 9th, a “Protest Ride” was organized by the USA-ALL (Utah Share Access Alliance) group, to take a final drive through Paria Canyon before the canyon closure was enforced by the BLM. I took my ATV’s down to join the Protest Ride, to show my support for the efforts of the USA-All organization and to enjoy Paria Canyon for probably the last time. There were several hundred people there, mostly “seasoned” citizens and all of whom looked like The Dinosaur just sat on their grass hut.
What a sad day it was.
After meeting at a brief rally, we traveled down to the old pioneer townsite of Paria where we were met by a sherrif. He advised us to stop down the road a ways and speak to the uniformed BLM officers who would give us instructions that we must follow exactly. The two BLM officers explained that officially they had to advise us that Paria Canyon “was NOT open”. When asked if that meant that Paria Canyon was then “Closed” they insisted that it was not officially “Closed” but at the same time it “was NOT open”. I asked if anyone driving the canyon was going to be stopped or ticketed, they assured us that the BLM would not… yet.
I also mentioned to the officers how sad it was that Paria Canyon was being closed to vehicles and how I could no longer hike the many miles necessary to get into the canyon. One of the BLM officers agreed that it was indeed a sad day because one of his favorite places to take his family was about 12 miles up the canyon. He would not be able to take his family there ever again.
It was a sad day for a lot of people. It was kind of like losing a close friend.
Just as we entered the canyon river bed, we were greeted by a group that probably represented the environmentalist. They had a couple of tables set up with protest signs urging people to “obey the law”. As we drove past, they made a big deal about taking our pictures. I just smiled and waved in a friendly manner. They all looked young and fit enough to hike the canyon. I wonder if their extreme views and selfishness would mature as their bodies age.
The canyon was glorious in the warm spring weather. There were wildflowers in bloom, new leaves on the cottonwood trees and a general sense of springtime. We were ahead of most of the riders but the few people we encountered all seemed to want to stop and chat. Even through there were many people on ATV’s, motorcycles and jeeps, no one was “ripping up” the canyon or causing havoc in any way. Everyone acted like they were on a Sunday afternoon drive to enjoy the canyon scenery… for the last time.
Just past Deer Creek Canyon, we stopped to take pictures of Dunham Arch and Backpacker Arch.
A about 1.3 miles further north, we stopped to take pictures of Paria Arch.
Just across the canyon from Paria Arch was a suspicious alcove that turned out to be a class ‘C’ alcove arch. We called it Airap Arch, which is “Paria” backwards.
We were nearing the upper end of the canyon when an older gentleman and his friend, on a couple of ATVs coming from the opposite direction, stopped to talk. He acted surprised to see anyone. I explained that if he continued down the canyon, he was likely to see a LOT of other drivers. When he asked why, I explained that most of us were on a “Protest Ride” to protest the BLM’s decision to close Paria Canyon to vehicle traffic. He explained that he lived at the Cannonville end and that he spent a log of time riding his ATV and enjoying the canyon. He didn’t believe me when I told him the canyon was about to be closed.
Later in the afternoon, we turned around and headed down the canyon again. About the only people we saw that far up the canyon were jeeps that were going to go all the way through to Cannonville. We stopped to do a little hiking up Snake Creek. It was beautiful.
On the way back down the canyon, we stopped at the old Spencer Mining Camp ruins.
At the south end of the Paria Canyon, the trial stopped at Box Canyon where we located a small class “D” arch hanging on the south cliff, called Riverside Arch.
It was late in the day before we arrived back at the trailhead. Everyone had left and we were the last vehicle in the parking lot. I worried that I hadn’t taken enough pictures to properly capture the beauty and wonder of Paria Canyon. It probably wasn’t possible anyway.
I said goodbye to an old friend and drove away.
The Dinosaur seems to gets bigger and uglier all the time. Every time it sits on my grass hut, I cuss it and occasionally get the chance to kick it in the tail end. I am ignored, of course.
I see a lot of people getting their grass huts sat on lately. They cuss and kick but The Dinosaur is just too big to care. I wonder if many people were kicking back at The Dinosaur, would it ever care? I wonder if the majority of people were kicking, might it be possible to destroy The Dinosaur? Wouldn’t that be something?
The way things are going, I wonder if that end is inevitable now.
When The Dinosaur is dead, I think I will take a drive up Paria Canyon on my ATV. The canyon will still be there and will look exactly like I remember it.