Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Utah Places: Virgin River

The Virgin River cuts across southern Utah like a meandering giant knife. It leaves deep scars across the land from its passage as it carries the burden of silt and rock ever southward. Some of the scars of passage have left behind the most fascinating chronicle of passage. Twisting and tortuous, the Virgin River Gorge guides the north/south avenue of Interstate 15, which many travellers pass over, never stopping to consider how the passage was crafted. One grain at a time, the river has worn away at the rock an eaten the river bed down. The wind and rain have worked their part. Every bright sunbeam in the merciless heat, all the long nights of frost and freezing, even geological disturbances like fault shifting and earthquakes have done their work on this twisted, alien moonscape, producing such a blasted hades of rock and sand that even desert-adapted struggle for a bare foothold in the most inhospitible barren spots. Not even hardy lichen venture onto these rocks in the savage, baking heat of the full sun.

The easiest way to see the marvel of desolation is from the comfort of your air-conditioned car. For the hardy and boot-leather restless, try the Virgin River Recreation Area campground as a base of operations. Hosted by the BLM, it is virtually empty all year round, and give convenient access to explore the marvelous desert surroundings.

While you are there, take note of the fact that you are within the region now known as the ¨Arizona Strip¨, so notorious among those who battle against the raging wildfires that spring up in the area so frequently.

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