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Edward Abbey

Edward Abbey
Author Edward Abbey spent his adult life exploring the desert canyons of Utah. Just two summers employed at Arches inspired his best-known book.
Photo by Jim Stiles

"The desert wears... a veil of mystery. Motionless and silent it evokes in us an elusive hint of something unknown, unknowable, about to be revealed. Since the desert does not act it seems to be waiting -- but waiting for what?" - Edward Abbey, 1968

In Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness, Ed Abbey recounts the two seasons (1956 and 1957) that he worked as a park ranger at Arches, living in "a little tin government housetrailer" near Balanced Rock. The book has become standard reading for environmental activists and all who enjoy the solitude of the desert.

Between eloquent descriptions of the natural history of the area, Abbey passionately opposed the development of Arches and his beloved canyon country, fearing dire results from the growth of "industrial tourism." Readers find in Desert Solitaire an Arches that no longer exists: a little-known monument at the end of a little-used dirt road. The road is paved now and the park is world-famous, yet Abbey's spirit lives on in the people who continue to search for the feeling of personal freedom evoked by this desert landscape.

Did You Know?

Desert Bighorn Sheep

Once feared of becoming extinct, desert bighorn sheep are making a tentative comeback in southeast Utah due to reintroduction efforts by the National Park Service. There are roughly 50 sheep in Arches, though their shy nature keeps them well-hidden from most visitors. More...