Special Features and Perspectives
This 293,000 acre Monument is both breathtakingly beautiful and scientifically significant. In the northwest portion, crossbeds of Navajo sandstone display colorful banding in hues of yellow, orange, pink and red caused by the precipitation of manganese, iron, and other oxides. The Monument's arid climate allows for an exceptional combination of cold desert vegetation and warm desert grassland. Some of the earliest rock art in the Southwest can be found in the Monument.
Uncurbed off-road vehicle travel, overgrazing in sensitive habitats, human impacts to the watershed and water quality of the Paria River, and archaeological looting.
More on the Monument
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument is a geological wonderland containing Paria Plateau, Vermilion Cliffs, Coyote Buttes, and Paria Canyons. The Vermilion Cliffs, for example, rise 3,000 feet in a spectacular escarpment capped with sandstone. Water from the Paria River has created a stunning array of amphitheaters, arches and massive sandstone walls. Favorite hiking areas include the colorful banded Coyote Buttes and slot canyons, some as narrow as 1/2 meter and as deep as 200 meters, formed by millions of years of water flow through the Colorado Plateau Region. Fluted sandstone side canyons carry water flows to the Paria River.
Despite sporadic rainfall and widely scattered ephemeral water sources, the Monument supports a variety of wildlife species, including at least twenty species of raptors, and a variety of reptiles and amphibians. The California Condor has recently returned to its historic home in Vermilion Cliffs and the greater Grand Canyon region. These birds, once extinct in the wild, have been reintroduced to the area by the Peregrine Fund and various state and federal agencies. Desert bighorn sheep, antelope and mountain lions roam the area. The Paria River supports sensitive native fish, including the flannelmouth sucker and the speckled dace.
"There is nothing in the East like the granite horns of Grand Teton or Teewinot, nothing like the volcanic neck of Devils' Tower, nothing like the travertine terraces of Mammoth Hot Springs, nothing like the flat crestline and repetitive profile of the Vermilion Cliffs." Note 1
Human History in the Vermilion Cliffs
Humans have explored and lived on the plateau and in surrounding canyons since the earliest known hunters and gatherers crossed the area 12,000 or more years ago. The Monument contains high densities of Ancestral Puebloan sites, including remnants of large and small villages, some with intact standing walls, field houses, trails, granaries, burials and camps.
The Monument was a crossroad for historic expeditions. In 1776 the Dominguez-Escalante expedition of Spanish explorers crossed the Monument searching for safe passage across the Colorado River. Antonio Armijo's 1829 Mexican trading expedition followed the Dominguez route on the way from Santa Fe to Los Angeles. Later, Mormon exploring parties crossed south of the Vermilion Cliffs on missionary expeditions to Hopi villages. Mormon pioneer John D. Lee established Lee's Ferry on the Colorado River, paving the way for homesteads in the Monument; remnants of historic ranch structures and associated objects that tell the story of the early west are still visible. John Wesley Powell passed through the Monument during his scientific surveys of 1871.
Planning for the Monument
The Bureau of Land Management, which administers these public lands, is creating a Vermilion Cliffs National Monument management plan in conjunction with planning for the Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument, see: more on the plan. Public support and participation in this resource management plan for Vermilion Cliffs National Monument will determine how well we protect this outstanding national treasure. This is a critical time to tell the BLM to survey the monument's biological and cultural values, and create a science-based management plan providing the highest level of protection possible for all native species, habitats, and river systems, as well as archaeological and geological features, and scenic values.
Contact local groups working to protect Vermilion Cliffs to find out about research and volunteer opportunities, and to get information about public meetings and comment periods.
Note 1 Wallace Stegner, Where the Bluebird Sings to the Lemonade Springs-Living and Writing in the West (April 2002. excerpted in website www.sidecanyon.com).