The national parks and monuments of the Colorado Plateau have long been popular destinations for travelers. In addition to their stunning landscapes and rich cultural history, these areas share another resource: some of the darkest skies remaining in the contiguous 48 United States.
Though often unappreciated, the utter dark of a moonless night in Canyonlands surprises many visitors. As few as one in ten Americans live in areas where they can see the estimated 2,500 stars that should be visible under normal conditions. In many cities, the night sky is completely obscured by the glow of urban settlement. At Canyonlands, the naked eye is sufficient to witness a wealth of stars. Under the right conditions, common binoculars may even reveal the rings of Saturn.
However, a clear view of the Milky Way is more than an aesthetic experience. Research indicates that light pollution severely impacts the ability of many animals, especially birds and insects, to navigate. On many occasions, thousands of birds have died in a single night by following artificial lights into towers, buildings, smokestacks and even the ground.
Canyonlands preserves a wealth of resources. Many, like natural dark, have become more significant as they become increasingly rare outside the park.
Did You Know?
One animal uniquely adapted to life in the desert is the kangaroo rat. This rat lives its entire life consuming nothing but plant matter. Its body produces water by metabolizing the food it eats. More...