Tough times for Zion National Park

Angels Landing reopens…but now the Narrows is indefinitely closed.

A lot of unfortunate news coming out of Zion National Park these days.

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First, due to damage resulting from a severe storm earlier this year, the Angels Landing Trail – the most popular in the park – was closed for months.

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Then, just days after Angel’s Landing re-opened, the park announced that the most celebrated trail in the park – The Narrows – is closed indefinitely due to a property dispute.

The Narrows, for those not aware, generally considered to be one of North America’s best hikes, and virtually every ‘must do’ list of hikes in the US includes it. In fact, it’s not uncommon to see BOTH the Narrows AND Angels Landing on the same list.

The sixteen mile full route of the narrows follows the partly flooded slot canyon formed by the Virgin River, normally in the downstream direction. It is both wonderfully scenic and (being subject to flash flooding) somewhat dangerous. Though much of it is in Zion Canyon NP, the entrance to the canyon is well upstream of the park boundary and private land must be crossed to access it.

The current dispute centers around the area of the Canyon known as Simon Gulch. Unfortunately, due to the very confining nature of the terrain, a closure of the canyon at any point pretty much shuts the whole thing down.

It is still possible to hike SOME of the canyon downstream from the closure, but not the full route.

The story was first reported by local news media…but we first read about it via the excellent website National Parks Traveler.

According the Salt Lake Tribune, the property owner posted the no trespassing signs after negotiations with the Federal Government to purchase the land stalled. This, in turn, led the Park to close the trail. Our take on it is that this is probably a ploy by the landowners to pressure the park into buying the land for more than it was originally willing to pay.

Brian recalls that when he did volunteer service at Arches National Park in Utah a decade and a half ago, disputes with landowners around the park were quite common and often quite bitter. The rangers did their best to work things out, but sometimes felt that the protected land was under continual assault from external pressures.

Both the Narrows and Angels Landing are on our own Bucket List. We hope the issue can be resolved as promptly as possible…or else we may have to revise our list. ☹

There are two sides to this story, we are sure, and we hope it can all be worked out. But this does serve to underscore the importance of protecting recreational trails from the actions of self-interested parties, no matter what their motives might be. Local, state and federal protection is needed here.

The National Park Service statement on the closure…

https://www.nps.gov/zion/planyourvisit/conditions.htm

For the other side of the story check the Salt lake Tribune account here…

https://www.sltrib.com/news/environment/2018/09/27/property-owner-zion/

We hope it re-opens soon!

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