Utah Travel Headlines Blog

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Australian Looks At White-Knuckled Rafting Ride In Utah

Writer Stanley Stewart took an adventure ride out of Moab and came away singing the praises of southern Utah's red rock country and whitewater rapids. Here is his article. Below are excerpts.

The greatest of these wilderness reserves is Canyonlands, a chaos of spectacular canyons and monoliths and fissures, of faults and buttes and mesas, so violent that it is penetrated by only a handful of dead-end tracks. This is the earth stripped to its contorted bones, displayed in vivid colour. It is a place where you expect dinosaurs to turn up around the next corner, the only creature large enough to match the scale and the primeval character of the landscape.

Through this confusion flow the mighty Green and Colorado rivers, the destination of white-water rafters from across the world. The best of the rapids are Grade IV+. Grade V is about as rough as you can get while still entertaining the idea that you might come out alive. But only a sports-mad Gladiator would write home about the rafting alone. For sheer drama everything here takes second place to nature.

Utah is Mormon country and Mormons are not big on nightlife and fun. But Moab is different, and that difference has made it the focal point for tourist activity on the Colorado River. There are book stores, coffee shops, a string of motels and B&Bs, a visitor centre and, most remarkable of all, two pubs and a winery. The restaurants may not be world-class but if you are a vegetarian you won't have to survive on omelettes.

A strange wind announces the rapids, funneled through 600m-high cliffs. The surface of the river begins to roughen and we feel ourselves being pulled gradually but powerfully towards white water.

One moment we are drifting serenely on a calm mature river, the next we are in the grip of a deranged adolescent torrent: gangly, out of control, falling over itself, unsure which way to go, a chaos of confused impulses. Then we hit the big water.

Astride the pontoons it is like riding a bucking bronco. The whole raft rears suddenly into the air, its bow pointing at High Noon, then just as suddenly it is plunging downwards to bury its nose in the boiling river.

The big waves that hit us head on, washing over the raft and knocking us back on our heels, aren't the chief excitement, but big holes in between the waves that open like watery canyons beneath the bow and into which we drop, leaving our stomachs behind, like bungee jumpers without the bungee. From the bottom of the big holes, the big waves look very big indeed.

We lose count of the rapids we shoot during the course of a wild and wet afternoon. We are in a stretch of river known as Cataract Canyon, and we have hardly stopped laughing and wiping the river out of our eyes when the next big water is on us.


Read his entire article.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Reserve Now For Heber Valley Railroad's Polar Express

The popular Polar Express train ride is being offered again this year by the Heber Valley Railroad, with rides offered from Nov 21 through Dec 23. Tickets sell out quickly so get them now.

The classic Christmas story unfolds during the ride. Here's part of the event description:

"Don't miss the ever popular trip to the North Pole! A wonderful experience for the whole family. Elves serve hot drinks and treats while sharing favorite carols and a Christmas story. Children's eyes light up when Santa climbs aboard.

"Experience the Polar Express in first-class style! All first-class passengers will enjoy their hot cocoa with whipped cream, served in a ceramic, Polar Express souvenir mug, and will receive a special Polar Express souvenir ticket."

See this website for more details.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Get Your 2010 Utah Scenic Calendar

Every year the Utah office of tourism publishes a calendar featuring stunning images from all around Utah. The calendars are very popular and sometimes sell out, so we encourage people to get them now.

The Office of Tourism provided this information: "Now in its 38th year, the publication highlights many of Utah's iconic destinations, outdoor activities and events through photography and graphic design. A photo of Canyonlands National Park's Angel Arch, taken by Utah photographer Willie Holdman, was selected as the cover image.

"Other featured destinations include all five national parks, Monument Valley and Temple Square."

Order the calendar.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Here Comes The Snow

A big winter-like-storm is expected to dump on Utah Tuesday and Wednesday. Mountain areas could receive heavy snow and benches could pick up 2-3 inches. Valleys will have rain turning to snow and could see some accumulation.

The storm is expected to hit Tuesday morning during the commute and could snarl traffic. Roads across mountain passes may become treacherous. Major highways should stay open but may develop some snowpack, depending on how fast the flakes come down.

If you are traveling cross-country, monitor the weather and plan on taking extra time to reach your destination.

On 10-26-09, 11:09 am, the National Weather Service issued this Winter Storm Watch saying, "Conditions will become favorable for significant snowfall in the higher terrain of northern and central Utah beginning Tuesday and lasting through Wednesday evening."

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Utah Hwy 143 Becomes A National Scenic Byway

Running between Parowan on the west and Panguitch on the east, Utah Hwy 143 provides access to stunningly beautiful areas including Brian Head and Cedar Breaks National Monument. The route has long provided a favorite drive for locals and has now won the designation of National Scenic Byway.

The Deseret News has this article about the new byway. Below are excerpts.

A steep, high-elevation road offering a wide spectrum of mountain and red-rock scenery is the Beehive State's newest national scenic byway.

The Federal Highway Administration announced Friday that state Route 143, nicknamed "Utah's Patchwork Parkway," running from Parowan through Brian Head to Panguitch, now has that designation.

"There are several overlooks and pullouts where one can view Cedar Breaks National Monument, Brian Head Peak, Markagunt Plateau, Vermillion Castle, Panguitch Lake, lava fields, historic sites, meadows of summer wild flowers and, during autumn, aspen groves of brilliant fall colors," Dalton said. There also are trails, side roads and petroglyphs. The highway also offers excellent star-gazing opportunities.

State Route 143 is Utah's second-highest paved road, topping out at an elevation of 10,567 feet at Cedar Breaks. (Only the Mirror Lake Highway is higher.) It is also the steepest paved state road, with a maximum grade of 13 percent. It climbs 4,600 feet in about 18 miles from Parowan to Cedar Breaks National Monument.

The Spectrum has this article. Below are excerpts.

State Route 143 takes passengers from Parowan through Brian Head and on to Panguitch. It features beautiful canyons, awe-inspiring cliffs and lush forests along a peaceful stretch of road, which is located near the proposed national park and present-day Cedar Breaks National Monument. Obtaining the designation wasn't easy, but it was a worthwhile project.

The designation may not seem all that important to those who don't enjoy drives through some of this region's scenic landscapes. But many tourists plan their travels around these kinds of byways. They enjoy the slower pace of these byways and enjoy the opportunity to see the beauty that this country has to offer, albeit off the beaten paths of our interstates.

Bones Are Not Those of Everett Ruess; Mystery Continues

Mystery continues to surround the life and death of folk legend Everett Ruess, the famed vagabond for beauty, with a new DNA analysis concluding his remains have not been found.

The Deseret News has this article describing the latest findings. Below are excerpts.

A skeleton found in the Utah wilderness last year was not that of Everett Ruess, a legendary wanderer of the 1930s, despite initial forensic tests that seemed to have solved an enduring mystery, his nephew told The Associated Press.

Everett Ruess vanished in southern Utah in 1934, writing in a final letter to his family in California that "as to when I revisit civilization, it will not be soon" and "it is enough that I am surrounded with beauty."

He was 20 and a gifted poet who explored the Southwest over much of four years. In between journeys, he hobnobbed with famous artists of his time.

Initial DNA tests were termed "irrefutable" months ago by University of Colorado researchers, but one of them said Wednesday he accepted as final the new results from the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory in Rockville, Md.

An Everett Ruess Days Escalante Canyons Art Festival is held annually in Escalante, Utah, to keep alive the spirit and vision of the young artist.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Catching Fall's Rainbows (Trout)

There's some mighty good fishing going on right now in Utah streams and reservoirs. Trout in particular are feeding aggressively, as if they know they need to fatten up because lean winter days are just ahead.

I enjoyed great success at Fish Lake last weekend, catching a mess of beautiful, fat, hard-fighting rainbows. I had hoped to catch a few large lake trout but we only managed to hook one pup. But the quality of the rainbow fishing made the trip very enjoyable.

This is a great time to be out in Utah's mountains. Fall colors are almost gone at the high elevations, but they are brilliant in our valleys and lower canyon areas. Our Indian summer weather has been perfect - lately we've been getting storms mid-week and then mild, sunny weekends.

Many people think fishing is a summer sport. When fall comes, they put away their rods and turn their attention to school, football, hunting and other activities. That's fine. Some of our best fishing occurs during fall and it is nice not having as many people out on the water.

The weather should be nice this weekend and so I'll be heading out. I think I'll fish Strawberry, going after big rainbows and cutthroats. Flaming Gorge, Bear Lake, Jordanelle and many other reservoirs should also be good. The Green, Provo and other rivers should also fish well.

See our weekly fishing report for more ideas.

Wish me luck.

- Dave

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Heber Cowboy Poetry Gathering and Buckaroo Fair

This year's annual Heber City Cowboy Poetry Gathering and Buckaroo Fair will be Nov 3-8.

The festival's mission is to "promote the cowboy way of life through music, poetry and art."

Entertainers will include the Bar J Wranglers, Don Edwards, Gary McMahan, Baxter Black, Sons Of The San Joaquin, Michael Martin Murphey, Riders In The Sky and many others.

There will be Western music, dancing, a mountain man trading post, clinics, workshops, gift shop and more.

See the festival website for details.

Monday, October 19, 2009

ESPN Brings 'College GameDay' to BYU/Provo

There will be big-time football in Provo this Saturday, as BYU hosts TCU in a Mountain West Conference showdown.

The hometown Cougars are ranked number 16 in the Bowl Championship Series standings; TCU comes in at number 8. The game is sold out.

ESPN will broadcast its popular GameDay Saturday morning highlights show from Provo, in a testimonial to the importance of the game.

With GameDay in the morning and the BYU/TCU game in the afternoon and evening, there will be traffic congestion all day around Cougar Staduim in Provo.

The local media is playing up the game. Here are excerpts from this Deseret News article:

"It's a tremendous opportunity for BYU to host ESPN College GameDay on our campus," said BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe. "The TCU game is sold out and the ESPN shows should add to the great college atmosphere we expect this Saturday."

College GameDay will begin broadcasting Saturday at 8 a.m. Host Chris Fowler will be joined by analysts Lee Corso, Kirk Herbstreit and Desmond Howard for the live broadcast.

The Salt Lake Tribune has this article. Below are excerpts.

The rematch doesn't need any extra hype, what with unbeaten TCU (6-0) now ranked No. 8 in the Bowl Championship Series Standings and BYU ranked No. 16 in the BCS standings, the AP Top 25, the USA Today Coaches Poll and the Harris Interactive poll.

"It is going to be a big game, and we have a bad taste in our mouth from last year," said tight end Dennis Pitta. "Fortunately, we get to be at home with our fans. We need to have a great week of practice and prepare well, and play well on Saturday."

TCU is coming off a 44-6 win over Colorado State, after spotting the Rams a 6-0 lead. CSU is the teams' only common opponent to date; BYU beat CSU 42-23 in Provo last month.

Here's ESPN's GameDay page.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Oh Deer, Watch Out for Hunters This Weekend

Utah's general season rifle deer hunt begins Saturday and so scores of orange-clad hunters will be seen on mountains all around the state.

If you head into the forest, wear hunter orange so you are visible.

Many Forest Service campgrounds will be busy through the weekend.

Wildlife officials use a variety of tools to monitor activity. One involves roadblocks on some secondary roads. If you travel near popular hunting areas, you may encounter a roadblock. Just be observant and obey instructions.

Hunting is not allowed in most national parks and recreation areas. Hunters will be on the peaks outside Zion and Bryce Canyon, but not within park boundaries.

The weather forecast looks delightful. Don't hesitate to get out and hike, camp and engage in other outdoor activities. Just be aware of the hunters and follow common sense safety rules.

- Dave Webb

Utah Ski Resort Tentative Opening Dates

Ski Utah has released this list of tentative opening dates for Utah Resorts. Firm dates will be announced as we see how the weather develops during the next few weeks.

Weather permitting, Utah resorts will be opening on the following dates. Right now we've got a great start on snowfall and more appears to be heading our way. Some Utah resorts have already begun snowmaking operations. Pray for snow!

Alta: Nov. 20, 2009
Beaver: TBA
Brian Head: Nov. 21, 2009
Brighton: November 16, 2009
The Canyons: Nov. 27, 2009
Deer Valley: Dec. 5, 2009
PCMR: Nov. 21, 2009
Powder Mountain: Nov. 28, 2009
Snowbasin: Nov. 26, 2009
Snowbird: Nov. 21, 2009
Solitude: Nov. 13, 2009
Sundance: Dec. 11, 2009
Wolf Creek Utah: TBA

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Watch Our Video of the Week

Have you noticed the new video premier icon on our home page? We've launched a weekly "video premier" that you can watch in the player embedded at the top of our home page. Every week we'll have a new video that we hope you will find entertaining and informative.

Click on the icon or on the embed player to start the video.

Our premier videos will have timely information about activities you may want to pursue and destinations you may want to visit.

We always appreciate feedback about our website, so let us know what you think of this service. We are also happy to consider any subjects you may want to suggest for the videos.

- Dave Webb

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Lost In The Black Hole of White Canyon




A sign at the trailhead warned people not to try to hike the Black Hole, but I knew the sign was old and that conditions had changed in the canyon. Reputable sources told me the canyon was doable so I decided to trot on down and find out for myself.

Nope, we couldn't make it. We had to turn around and fight out way back up the canyon, and that was not easy.

The Black Hole is a classic narrow slot in White Canyon, in the Hite area near Lake Powell. In past years it has provided a challenging canyoneering adventure, difficult but not technical. A few years ago a flash flood left a pile of unstable logs in the heart of the slot, making it very dangerous to descend. But subsequent floods have washed logs away and some canyoneers have successfully completed the route.

I'm not a die-hard canyoneer but I consider myself pretty good. I've completed many of our best canyoneering routes without any problem. I've done the Black Hole twice - before the logjam. But I couldn't get through this time.

I have two primary goals when I go canyoneering.
- 1 Everyone has fun
- 2 Nobody dies

Note that completing the route is not one of my primary goals. It is a secondary goal, nice but not nearly as important as the other two.

While canyoneering I constantly assess conditions and judge safety as it relates to the skills of the people in my group. Our slot canyons continually change - every rainstorm brings change. Changes are not usually significant, but you never know and so you've got to be cautious.

On this trip the canyon was much different - much harder - than it had been on my previous visits. We were close to the heart of the Black Hole, the tightest part where you drop down a cliff and have to complete a long swim through frigid water. I knew if we dropped down that cliff it would be extremely difficult to get back up, and I wasn't sure our group had the strength and skills needed to face challenges that might be much more difficult than I had anticipated.

So we backed out.

Still, it was an enjoyable hike in a beautiful canyon. We had fun. Safely.

Maybe those signs at the trailheads do mean something after all.

Right now is the perfect time to hike many of the trails in the red rock country of southern Utah. A few trails require wading, and the season for that is now over. (We wore wet suits in the Black Hole). But conditions are perfect for dry hikes in Zion, Bryce, Capitol Reef, Arches, Canyonlands, Grand Staircase, the San Rafael Swell and other areas.

(I have video of many of my canyoneering trips. Watch it by clicking the videos on the main pages linked from the previous paragraph.)

Get out and have fun.

- Dave Webb

Thursday, October 08, 2009

National Park Travel Stays Strong Despite Recession

The number of people visiting Utah's national and state parks is up this year, despite ongoing economic woes. But areas which normally see strong business travel are reporting lower numbers, according to data released at the recent Utah Hotel and Lodging Association annual conference.

The Deseret News has this article about the conference. Below are excerpts.

"Our gateway communities to the national parks … have brought more interest," (Leigh) von der Esch told the Deseret News on Wednesday at the Utah Hotel and Lodging Association annual conference. "Our state parks are up because people are looking for value (for their vacation dollar)."

(Michael) Johnson said that Salt Lake City, Park City and Midway have seen significant declines in bookings over the past year. Generally speaking, however, Utah has not been hit as hard as neighboring states in the Rocky Mountain region, some of which have seen 10 percent decreases in lodging business, he said.

He told the Deseret News that in northern Utah, hotel bookings have mostly fallen in the 7 percent to 15 percent range. But those figures may be misleading, he added.

"For the last three years, they were booming so much and doing so well that (with the decline) ...they are probably about level (with where they were in 2005)," Johnson said.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

See Warren Miller's DYNASTY Action Ski Film

Warren Miller's DYNASTY, the most impressive action sports film on the planet, is coming to kick off our winter ski season!

The film will be shown at several locations in northern Utah during the next few weeks. It is showing in HD and is guaranteed to get you excited about the coming ski season. We've previewed the film and it is excellent, as always.

This page shows a trailer from the film, and gives show times and venues. We also have an interview with Cody Barnhill, a local athlete who appears in DYNASTY. To see the interview and trailer, just watch the videos at the top of the page.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

View Wild Elk at Hardware Ranch

Utah's annual Elk Festival will be held Oct 10 at Hardware Ranch, in northern Utah.

Every year hundreds of elk winter at the ranch, where feed is provided so they will stay in the mountains and not invade farmers' fields. Elk start to show up at the ranch about this time, as the first snowstorms blanket the mountains.

As of Oct 1, few elk were at the ranch, but officials hope there will be good numbers by the time of the festival. But elk or no elk, the festival will be held and will provide plenty of opportunity for participants to learn about wildlife.

Some activities include:
- Wildlife info and clinics
- Free wagon rides
- Pumpkin painting
- Turning balloons into antlers
- Shooting pellets guns at targets
- Archery

Beginning Dec. 18, the ranch's visitor center will open and sleigh or wagon rides will be offered. By then there will be a large number of elk at the ranch. Horse drawn sleighs or wagons take visitors out near the elk for viewing and photography. The horses do not startle the elk and so the sleighs can get quite close. There are usually several big bulls in the herd.

Hardware Ranch is located up Blacksmith Fork Canyon, east of the town of Hyrum (near Logan). The canyon is ablaze with color now - it is one of the great spots in Utah to view fall foliage.

Read more about the Elk Festival.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Fishing Heats Up As Temperatures Fall

Some mighty good fishing is happening around Utah right now. Our sport fish are in a fall pattern; instinct tells them to eat voraciously to prepare for the cold, lean days of winter. As a result, fishing is very good at many waters around the state.

See our weekly fishing report for tips and information.

I fished for trout at Scofield Reservoir over the weekend and had great success. Scofield offers rainbow, cutthroat and tiger trout, and we caught some of each variety. Most were pan-sized but a few were quite big.

We started out by trolling small lures, and everything we tried worked. The best lure was a small, rainbow-colored Rapala. I also jigged using a Gulp Minnow on a colored jig-head, and it worked well. Others in our party used worms and Powerbait and enjoyed tremendous success.

I love fishing in the fall. The foliage is spectacular right now and it is a joy getting out into the mountains.

I had such fun, I'll probably go fishing again this weekend. I'm making plans to hit Lake Powell. The water there is still warm enough to ski and play, and the fishing reports are all positive. If the weather holds we'll probably also do some hiking down there - do one more slot canyon water hike before giving up on summer activities.

- Dave

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Robert Redford Pushes for More Wilderness in Utah

Redford, the famed actor, director and environmental activist, is speaking out in favor of a bill now being debated in a Congressional subcommittee. Called America's Red Rock Wilderness Act, the bill would give wilderness protection to vast tracks of land in southern Utah. The bill has been debated off and on for decades, but advocates think they may now have the support needed to push it through.

Writing for The Huffington Post, Redford says, "This is our chance to be present at the creation. If we pass the Red Rock Wilderness Act, we can tell our grandchildren that we helped birth the latest Yellowstone. We can say we preserved treasures equal to Zion, Arches, and Canyonlands National Parks. We can add to the wilderness inheritance of future generations, and they will thank us for it." Read his full article.

Virtually everyone agrees that some wild and scenic land in southern Utah needs more protection. The debate rages around exactly what areas to include and how restrictive the protection should be. Redford and other bill advocates want to block new roads, mines and other development. The majority of people living in southern Utah oppose such restrictions.

The Salt Lake Tribune has this article about the bill. Here below are excerpts.

Utah's five federal lawmakers all attended Thursday's House subcommittee hearing to voice their opposition to the Red Rock bill, a statewide effort 20 years in the making that would protect 9.4 million acres from new roads, mining or off-road vehicles.

"There are beautiful pristine areas of Utah that need to be protected, but this bill goes far, far beyond that," said Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, the ranking member of the public lands subcommittee. "This particular bill is a relic of the past. It has not been successful since the age of disco and it will not be successful now or in the future."

Bishop penned this article, published in the Deseret News. Below are excerpts.

It is important to note that this flawed and antiquated bill is not supported by a single federally elected official from Utah. This fact speaks volumes. Part of the reason for this unanimous opposition is that the Hinchey bill advocates locking up nearly 20 percent of the state. Closing one-fifth of the state from economic activity would have dramatic negative effects on education funding, employment, local and state tax revenues, energy production and quality of life.

At its basic level, the Hinchey bill includes large swaths of land that simply do not fit the legal definition of wilderness.
Back to top Print this page E-mail this page