America’s Public Lands – Bears Ears

From the moment I arrived in the quiet little town of Bluff, in the southeastern part of Utah, I had the sense that I had stumbled upon a little-known area of scenic wonders and sacred history. My usual practice of asking the RV park operator for suggestions of things to see and do in the area yielded a list too abundant to possibly complete in my one-week scheduled visit. Having just spent several days in Monument Valley, witnessing some of the most breathtaking views the four-corners region has to offer, I was not expecting to be stunned. I was in for a surprise!

Bluff, Utah Bluff, Utah  Est. 650 A.D.

One of the first things I noticed is that the “Bluffoons” (as the locals like to call themselves) have a wicked sense of humor, along with a mighty sense of pride in the long history of the area.

Loree Johnson Photography; House on Fire; Utah; anasazi; mule canyon; ancient; ruins; cliff dwellings; sandstone; desert southwest; flame; blanding ut; cedar mesaThese Anasazi ruins in Utah’s Mule Canyon have been nicknamed the “House on Fire” ruins because the textures of the cliffs above the ruins resemble flames.

Having seen photographs of the House on Fire, I wanted to see it with my own eyes. It was not easy to find. After much searching on the internet, and quizzing a few locals, I found what seemed to be the correct trail through BLM land in the Mule Canyon area. I remember thinking to myself how strange it was that such a unique place was so little-known and sparsely visited. I spent a morning hiking to the ruins and a couple of hours there taking in the energy of the place without ever seeing another person. It felt as though I had connected with the spirit of the ancient people who built it.

The Other Monument Valley; the lady in the bathtub; valley of the gods; southern ut; utah; monument valley; remote; buttes; mesas; balancing rocks; erosion; desert southwest; four corners; inspiring; beautiful; surreal; and; the; over; with; under; above; against; in the; on the; at the; Loree Johnson A sandstone butte in Valley of the Gods known as The Lady in the Bathtub. Valley of the Gods is located in a remote area of southern Utah just 25 miles north of Monument Valley. With its red rock mesas, towering sandstone buttes, and balancing rocks that seem to defy gravity, this place is every bit as inspiring and beautiful to behold as Monument Valley.

Another place I decided to visit, per suggestion of the RV park management, was Valley of the Gods. Wow! Some people refer to it as “the other Monument Valley.” The terrain is very similar, but the access road is better–as long as it hasn’t rained recently. I was able to navigate the entire 17 mile scenic drive in my compact two-wheel drive car. I only saw a handful of other people while there, including a few people who were camping.

sail away; battleship rock; valley of the gods; southern ut; utah; monument valley; remote; buttes; mesas; balancing rocks; erosion; desert southwest; four corners; inspiring; beautiful; surreal; and; the; over; with; under; above; against; in the; on the; at the; Loree Johnson Battleship Rock in Valley of the Gods, Utah.

The sandstone buttes in Valley of the Gods are every bit as majestic and breathtaking as the more famous formations in Monument Valley. And once again, I found myself wondering how this amazing place was so unknown by so many.

During my too-short visit to the area, I was unaware that it had been under consideration for National Monument status for over two years. Looking back at the wonder I experienced, I was thrilled when I heard the news that President Obama had designated the Bears Ears National Monument.

Not only that, but five tribal nations are represented by a council whose responsibility is to advise federal agencies regarding administration of the monument. It is the first time in our history that Native Americans have been given authoritative input into the management of the lands their ancestors occupied. The area is home to abundant numbers of burial grounds and cliff dwellings, which have lately been the target of “pot hunters.” A term used to describe those who scavenge the ruins for artifacts and sell them illegally. The Antiquities Act (which is the authority used by the President to designate the monument) was written expressly for the purpose of protecting such artifacts and historic dwellings.

Bluff Sunset; light; bluff ut; utah; desert southwest; end of the day; glow; momentary; clouds; storm; tiny town; last light; four corners; and; the; over; with; under; above; against; in the; on the; at the; Loree JohnsonAs the sun sets on the tiny town of Bluff, Utah, the bluffs which give the town its name light up in the glow of the days last light. Storm clouds above the bluffs take on a momentary golden glow.

This new Bears Ears National Monument is long overdue, and should prove to be economically beneficial to the little towns like Bluff, where they seemed to me to be trying to convince the tourists to stay a while, rather than blast through on the way north to Canyonlands and Arches. There is indeed, much worth seeing in this remote section of Utah. And I am happy that it will be protected for future generations to appreciate, and even for me to visit again.

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