Canyon Rims Special Recreation Management Area

Needles OverlookCanyon Rims includes 100,273 acres south of Moab. Two campgrounds and four overlooks are within the SRMA, as well as the Trough Springs Hiking Trail. Major activities include hiking, backpacking, and sightseeing. The primary roads within Canyon Rims, which were constructed by the BLM and include several scenic turnouts, are Utah Scenic Backways. The Hatch Point area of the Canyon Rims Recreation Area is a large plateau located south of Moab, Utah. Within this area, visitors may tour scenic overlooks by car, camp, explore a series of dirt roads, hike, backpack and ride bikes. The majority of visitors come to observe the Colorado River's canyon from the overlooks at the edge of the plateau.

Canyon Rims SRMAAccess Roads and Trails
General public access to the Hatch Point area is from U.S. Highway 191. The main entrance road 32 miles south of Moab. It is signed "Needles Overlook and Anticline Overlook". The Needles Overlook itself is 22 miles from U.S. Highway 191 on a paved road. A graded gravel road to the Anticline Overlook departs from the Needles Overlook Road 15 miles from U.S. Highway 191. From this intersection, it is another 16 miles on the graveled road to the Anticline Overlook.

In addition to these two major roads, there are many unimproved roads that traverse the area. Some of these roads go to overlooks of the canyons; others are used for ranch work. Before traveling this system of back roads, it is wise to have a map of the area. Maps may be purchased in advanced of your trip through Canyonlands Natural History Association.

Recreation Sites
There are several recreation sites available to the visitor in the Hatch Point area. Developed facilities include two campgrounds, four overlooks, a nature trail and a hiking trail.

  • Windwhistle Campground: Windwhistle Campground is located six miles from the U.S. Highway 191 entrance. It has 17 individual sites and one group site. The individual sites accommodate up to 10 people and 2 vehicles. The individual sites are not reservable. The group site, which accomodates from 10 to 15 people, is reservable by telephone. Call (435) 259-2100 to make a reservation. Drinking water is available from about mid-April to mid-October. All sites have fire grills and picnic tables. There are three vault toilets in the campground. A few of the sites will accommodate larger (up to 32 feet) recreational vehicles. Fees for campsites are charged at the campground.
  • Windwhistle Nature Trail: The trail is located near the group site in the campground. This one-half mile long trail has a brochure (available at the trailhead) identifying 17 plants that grow in the area. It is a pleasant and informative walk.
  • Hatch Point Campground: This campground is located 24 miles from U.S. Highway 191, just off the graveled road to the Anticline Overlook. The campground has 10 sites available on a first come, first served basis. Sites accommodate up to 10 people and two vehicles. Drinking water is available from about mid-April to mid-October. Each site has a picnic table and a fire grill; a vault toilet serves the campground. Fees for campsites are charged at the campground.
  • Needles Overlook: The Needles Overlook is located 22 miles from U.S. Highway 191. This overlook offers an outstanding view of the Colorado River, the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park, and the Indian Creek area. A picnic area is located at the overlook, complete with vault toilets and trash receptacles. Other facilities include an interpretive display and benches.
  • Anticline Overlook: The Anticline Overlook is located 31 miles from U.S. Highway 191. Sixteen of those miles are on a graveled, highly improved road. The overlook has a vault toilet and trash receptacles. A walkway leads to an interpretive display and benches. This overlook faces north, and offers views of Dead Horse Point State Park, the Colorado River, and Kane Creek Canyon.
  • Minor Overlook: Named for BLM Recreation Planner Dave Minor, who cared for the Canyon Rims Recreation Area in its early days, this overlook is a short distance from the Anticline Overlook Road. The road to the overlook is graveled. The site offers a different view into the Colorado River canyon.
  • Canyonlands Overlook: This overlook is located 6 miles from the Anticline Road. It requires high clearance and four wheel drive to access. The route to the overlook is not marked. Visitors will need a map to locate this remote site.
  • Trough Springs Trail: This trail is located 25 miles from U.S. Highway 191 off the Anticline Road. The route to the trailhead is marked. This trail descends from the plateau into Kane Creek Canyon via an old constructed cattle trail. The trail is marked with cairns. It is about 2.5 miles long and descends 1100 feet in elevation.

The Hatch Point and Canyon Rims Recreation Area is part of a high-desert ecosystem that provides habitat for a wide variety of wildlife. Animals have adapted in various ways to survive the harsh temperature extremes and low annual precipitation typical of their sagebrush and pinyon- juniper habitat.

Keen-eyed observers can spot American pronghorn antelope on Hatch Point. These animals rely on extreme speed and excellent vision to escape predators in open country. With sharp eyes or binoculars, desert bighorn sheep can occasionally be located on the steep, rugged talus slopes below the vertical cliffs. The bighorn rely on keen eyesight and agility to escape predators.

Peregrine falcons are rare but may sometime be seen along cliffs. Golden eagles are often spotted while they are hunting, as are many species of hawks. Sage grouse are also rare in this area, but are sometimes seen in dense stands of sagebrush.

Mule deer and coyotes can be found throughout the area all year. The black-tailed jackrabbit is a common sight throughout the area. It radiates heat through the numerous capillaries in its huge ears to help regulate its body temperature.

Snakes and lizards are common. One of the most interesting species is the horned lizard, or "horned toad," as it is sometimes called. Among its other adaptations, this lizard escapes the chill of night by burrowing into the sand, sometimes several inches below the surface.

The desert is alive with much for the visitor to see. The only requirements are patience and attention.

Geologic processes in the Canyon Rims area warped the rock strata millions of years ago. Erosion and weathering, primarily during the past 10 million years, has modified the rock even more.

Rock layers exposed in the recreation area range in age from about 150 to 300 million years, and include marine, tidal, lake, stream, swamp, and desert dune deposits. The diversity of the depositional environment and susceptibility to erosion accounts for the variety in color and shape.

Miles of sheer rock walls, spires, deep canyons, domes, buttes and fins of bare slickrock reflect the geologic history of the region. This geologic history is clearly visible from the overlooks at the adge of the Hatch Point plateau. The Anticline Overlook is named for the curved, uplifted shape of the Kane Creek Anticline visable across the Colorado River to the north of the overlook.

Human History
Prehistoric Indians of the ancestral Puebloan (Anasazi) culture occupied lands now included within the Canyon Rims Recreation Area for a relatively short period of time, ending in the mid-1200s A.D. Remnants of their rock and log dwellings, granaries, rock art, and tool-making sites exist throughout the area. During historic times, Ute Indians used the area for hunting and seasonal food gathering, but did not establish permanent habitation sites.

The contemporary human history of the recreation area begin when the 1859 Macomb Expedition entered it from the east, traveled west down part of Harts Draw and into lower Indian Creek. Two decades later, ranchers and settlers moved into the area.

Modern human use of the area has largely been limited to livestock grazing, recreation use, and mineral exploration and production, with little permanent occupancy. Cattle are permitted to graze the plateau during the winter months.

The Hatch Point area is wild, remote and primitive. Visitors who explore away from the main roads should special precautions, such as leaving your travel plans with someone who will initiate a search if you fail to return when scheduled.

All visitors to the area should take clothing, a hat and shoes appropriate for the weather and planned activities. Sunscreen is highly advised. The high desert sun is intense in any season. During warm weather, drink plenty of water (one gallon a person a day). Caution should be exercised near cliffs. Avoid exposed areas, such as overlooks, when lightning is a possibility.

Respecting The Land
Although much of the Hatch Point area of the Canyon Rims Recreation Area may appear barren of life, it supports a complex ecosystem of high-desert plants, animals and micro-life. To protect this rare and fragile community, and preserve the land's incomparable beauty, please adhere to the following low impact guidelines:

  • Keep all wheeled vehicles on the established roads and trails. Off-road travel is prohibited along the canyon rims and from the main entrance road. Do not drive or ride over plants. Desert shrubs are easily broken and do not recover.
  • Camp and hike on bare soil, rock, and washes to avoid damaging plants and fragile soils, including crytobiotic soil.
  • Dispose of trash properly--trash cans are available at the campgrounds and at the major overlooks.
  • Bring forest-raised firewood with you. Do not gather firewood from the developed recreation sites or cut live or standing trees. Wood is a scarce, slowly replenishing resource in this area. Trees can be hundreds of years old. Snags are photogenic and provide wildlife habitat.
  • Observe animals from a respectful distance--do not chase or harass them.

Services and Supplies
The nearest sources of services and supplies are in the towns of Moab and Monticello, Utah.