Thursday, April 30, 2015

San Rafael Reef: A lesson in geology in central Utah

San Rafael Reef
The San Rafael Reef is a unique geologic feature that is bisected by Interstate 70 as it runs through central Utah. It is located at the eastern end of the 75-mile long and 45-mile wide San Rafael Swell.

The San Rafael Swell was created millions of years ago by enormous geologic upheavals that created a “swell” in the earth’s surface.

At the reef, these geologic actions forced mountains and gigantic boulders  to lie at an angle; these formations are made of Navaho and Wingate sandstone that have been shaped by erosion. The reef is located in high desert country about 30 miles west of Green River, Utah. There are numerous slot canyons in the reef area; a slot canyon is one that is deeper than it is wide.

The swell is considered a wilderness area, populated with antelope and wild horses, and crossed by roads that can only be driven in four-wheel drive vehicles. Much of the swell is administered by the Bureau of Land Management.



Sunday, April 26, 2015

Tracking dinosaurs in Utah

A dinosaur track
More than 200 million years ago, dinosaurs ruled the earth.  They came in all shapes and sizes; big feet, little feet, huge feet. Then they became extinct, but not forgotten. Bones are found throughout the world, including the American West.

One place they turned up unexpectedly was St. George, Utah, when a local optometrist, Dr. Sheldon Johnson, was leveling ground to develop his property. A dinosaur track turned up while he was operating excavation equipment one day in 2000.

A dinosaur foot
Paleontologists and volunteers headed to the Johnson farm to work on track recovery. Before they were finished, thousands of tracks and other fossils were to be uncovered.

Some of those tracks can be seen today at the St. George Dinosaur Discovery Site at Johnson Farm.

At one time, the Johnson farm was covered by Dixie Lake, a prehistoric lake from the early Jurassic period. Dinosaur swim tracks also turned up and are on display at the museum. Work is continuing on restoring the finds; visitors can watch technicians work on the specimens through a large glass window into the laboratory.

The Dinosaur Tracks museum is very kid=friendly. There’s an education room where tools used by paleontologists are displayed. The room also contains wooden jigsaw puzzles of dinosaurs, and a special coloring area for kids to work with dinosaur outlines. Almost all of the tracks on display in the museum are marked “do not touch,” but a few say, “It’s OK to touch.”
 a dinosaur bone

Outside, there’s a large sandbox with sand pails and shovels that kids can use to turn up dinosaur “tracks”. A waist-level sandbox has brushes for people to clear away the sand as they search for “bones.”

Dinosaur Tracks is located at 2180 E. Riverside Drive. The museum is closed Sundays and holidays during the winter. It is open seven days a week, including holidays in the summer. Admission is charged.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Bryce Canyon: on a clear day you can see Arizona

View from Rainbow Point at Bryce Canyon
Bryce Canyon National Park offers stunning vistas of red rock formations as far as the eye can see or maybe even farther, as the views stretch 200 miles to southern Utah and northern Arizona.

One of five national parks in Utah, Bryce Canyon was formed more than 60 million years ago, Geologic upheavals and erosion from ice and storms moved rocks into the Grand Canyon, leaving behind colorful domes, pillars and spires.

Located on the eastern edge of the Paunsaugunt Plateau, one of Utah’s high plateaus, this geologic wonderland is named after Ebenezer Bryce, an early settler in the area.

Bryce Canyon National Park
There are at least two ways to appreciate the grandeur that is Bryce Canyon. One way is to hike interconnecting trails that lead through the hoodoos and amphitheaters. Another way to enjoy the park is to drive the scenic road to Rainbow Point, at 9,100 feet the highest point accessible by car. This scenic 17-mile drive is open year round, with park service crews plowing the highways after each snowstorm.

Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are popular winter activities, while summer activities include hiking and camping. Wildlife, such as deer and antelope, can be seen year round.

The visitor center is open year round at the park’s entrance. It has a nice museum with stunning murals of the park. 

The only entrance to the park is off Utah Route 12 at Bryce Canyon /City. It’s about 14 miles east of U.S. 89.
Bryce Canyon National Park





Thursday, April 9, 2015

Silver Reef, Utah: Ghost town museum providces peek at past

Interpretive sign at Silver Reef  Museum
Silver Reef, Utah, is a ghost town now, but once it was a booming mining town with a Main Street that was a mile long.

Silver Reef is unique among mining towns because it was the only place in the United States where silver is found in sandstone, making the mining process easier. Gold and turquoise also were found here.

The town, which once had a population of 2,000 people, sat on a hillside with colorful red rock cliffs to the west. It was a thriving town, with a first class restaurant, the Cosmopolitan; a five-star hotel, the Harrison House, nicknamed Silver Reef’s Waldorf Astoria; a Wells Fargo station and Rice Bank, among other businesses lining Main Street.

Silver was first discovered here in 1866, but wasn’t taken seriously as silver is not often found in sandstone. It wasn’t until 1875 that mining operations started at a place called Bonanza City. Because property values were so high, some miners started a town nearby, calling it Rockpile. The name was later changed to Silver Reef.
Silver Reef Museum
Though surrounded by predominantly Mormon residents, the town never had an LDS church, though it did have a Catholic church. It had two cemeteries, one for Catholics, the other for Protestants.

Most of the mines had closed by 1884 because world silver prices dropped. Most of the buildings were either demolished or moved to nearby Leeds by 1901. A couple of attempts were made to mine silver, and then uranium, in the first half of the 20th century, but neither effort lasted very long.
The museum is now on the National and Utah Register of Historic Places.

The Silver Reef Museum grounds are open daily, though the museum itself is closed three days a week, including Sundays. An interpretive trail guide is available that allows visitors to take a self-guided walking tour of the museum grounds.  The grounds are free, though admission is charged for the museum building; donations are suggested for the trail guide.

Silver Reef is located just off Interstate 15 at Leeds, about 15 miles north of St. George. Northbound traffic must exit at Exit 22, then drive north through Leeds, following the signs. Traffic southbound on I-15 should get off the freeway at Exit 23, and turn right, following the signs up the hill to 1903 Wells Fargo Drive.  There is no return to the freeway southbound at Exit 23, so motorists will need to drive through Leeds to Exit 22.






Friday, April 3, 2015

Cheryl's top 10 list of Tucson attractions

Tucson has so many interesting things to see and do, it's difficult to cram them ll into a few days' visit. We stayed in Tucson for seven months, which gave us plenty of time to see its attractions, but we still didn't see everything the city has to offer.

Over the months, we visited dozens of attractions in and around the city. Picking out my favorites was a tough job, with strong competition coming from places such as Saguaro National Park, Rillito Farmers Market, Tohono Chul  and Arizona History Museum. Here’s a list of my top 10 favorite places to visit:

10. Pancho Villa statue: This impressive statue, located in a park in downtown Tucson, was controversial when it was given to the people of Arizona by the president of Mexico. Why? Because in the early 20th century, Pancho Villa was the only person to invade the United States and kill its citizens since the War of 1812.

9. Mt. Lemmon scenicdrive: When temperatures in Tucson get too hot, pack a picnic lunch and head up to Mt. Lemmon for stunning views of Tucson and miles beyond. The journey takes motorists through four ecosystems, from the deserts of Mexico to the pines of Canada. In the winter, it's southern Arizona's only ski area.

8. DeGrazia Gallery inthe Sun: Ted De Grazia was a multi-talented artist who worked with paints, clay, and even aluminum cans, He also was temperamental, once burning $250,000 worth of his paintings in a protest against inheritance tax laws.

7.Jewish History Museum: This small museum, located in Tucson's first synagogue, is considered one of the best Jewish history museums in the United States. One section is devoted to Tucson residents who survived the Holocaust.

6. Tucson PresidioMuseum: The museum stands on a portion of the original presidio where Tucson was founded in 1775. It's the place to be on the second Saturday of winter months for those who want to see "Spanish" soldiers fire muskets and sample fresh made tortillas cooked the old fashioned way.

5. Frost: Locations throughout Tucson serve up sinfully delicious gelatos that have fewer calories and fat than regular ice cream. This is where Tucson residents get their ice cream fix. We especially liked their store at Encantada Shopping mall, which is possibly one of the prettiest malls you’ll ever visit.

4. Mission San Xavierdel Bac: This centuries' old graceful white church is one of Tucson's icons, calling out to travelers along Interstate 19.

3. Pima Air & SpaceMuseum:  The largest private aircraft museum in the United States. It contains mostly military planes, with the space gallery containing a moon rock.

2. Old Tucson: Old Tucson is both a theme park and a movie studio, since more than 300 Western movies and TV shows were filmed here, ranging from McClintok! to Little House on the Prairie. We liked it so much, we went twice!

1. Arizona Sonora DesertMuseum: Perhaps Tucson's top-rated tourist attraction, and one of the world's top outdoor museums. With more than 40 acres of trails leading through the Sonora Desert, the museum is both a botanical garden and zoo.