The Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument covers almost 1.9 million acres in south central Utah. This park for the most part is managed by the Bureau Of Land Management, so this means that an excursion into this protected area will be as rough and rugged as it gets. Since only primitive camping is allowed and facilities are limited, a visitor needs to be prepared and self reliant. Finding information about the road and environmental conditions will be necessary, so stopping by a park visitor center upon arrival is a good idea.
There are two highways that run along the borders of Grand Staircase-Escalante and several access points can be found along these roads. Utah Scenic Byway 12 runs along the northern border of this park and U.S. Highway 89 skirts along the southern edge. There are a few visitor centers to be found on either of these long roads and these destinations are where all ventures into this vast National Monument should begin. The visitor centers are where are where maps and current dirt road condition information can be found, which are vital for those who plan to do a back country excursion. The visitor centers also are museums that provide information about the natural history, native traditions and pioneer heritage in each local region, so plenty of insight can be gained by touring these places.
The Big Water Visitor Center is located on Highway 89 at the eastern edge of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. This visitor center borders upon the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument and the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, so plenty of information about interesting destinations in this region can be found here. At the Big Water Visitor Center, the primary focus is placed upon the natural history of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. This visitor center actually is a small dinosaur fossil museum that depicts how this region used to be in the ancient past. The dinosaur fossils on display actually were discovered in Grand Staircase-Escalante, so this goes to show how rich this ancient fossil field really is.
Many fossils have been discovered in Escalante that have provided valuable links in the evolutionary timeline, so it is easy to see why this vast wilderness area is protected by National Monument Status. Unfortunately, corporate sponsored political corruption has threatened the majestic Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in recent years. This beautiful place that is rich with dinosaur fossils and ancient native pueblos was recently illegally sold off for mining rights and gas fracking, but justice will eventually prevail. Showing support for this National Monument is vital at this time and tourism activism certainly can make a difference.
The Big Water Visitor Center is a good choice for starting a Grand Staircase-Escalante adventure when traveling from the direction of the Grand Canyon or Glen Canyon. This visitor center is the first sight to be seen when entering Grand Staircase-Escalante and the signage is easy to spot. There is a picnic area on site, so this is also a good place to take a break from the road. The Big Water Visitor Center is definitely the place to get the dinosaur fossil hunter inner self in gear and the little lizards that can be seen around the building do like to pose for the camera!
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