Glen Canyon Wilderness

sweeping landscape with blue skies, jagged sandstone rocks, a desert lake, buttes, mesas, and a mountin.
Glen Canyon has vast areas of proposed wilderness


person wearing large backback looks over the rim of a sandstone canyon to a bend in the river at the bottom
Hike through the cliffs of Glen Canyon's proposed wilderness.


Glen Canyon Proposed Wilderness

The Glen Canyon National Recreation Area proposed wilderness is a place where canyons collide with sandstone flats and mesas rise from vast desert expanses. Great rivers rage by steep canyon walls and trickling streams sustain an astonishing diversity of life in the dry desert heat. Relict communities of pinyon juniper, blackbrush, and yucca thrive. Even when people practice humility, respect, and restraint in relating to the natural world, people are nonetheless an integral part of this wilderness. Culture connects the diverse landscapes that comprise the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area wilderness.This region has defined the lives of people since prehistoric times. Indigenous people, historic pioneers, miners, and ranchers roamed this land for ages prior to its wilderness proposal. Today, the observant explorer may find themself amidst the remains of an ancient dwelling, or walking along a historic trail as the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area wilderness continues to entice, challenge and awe.

Over Half of Glen Canyon's Land Area

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area is located in the heart of the rugged, remote and inaccessible canyon country of northern Arizona and southern Utah. It occupies approximately 1,255,000 acres in the Colorado Plateau and shares boundaries with Grand Canyon National Park, Capitol Reef National Park, Canyonlands National Park, Rainbow Bridge National Monument, Bears Ears National Monument, Grand Staircase- Escalante National Monument, and the Navajo Nation.

Congress formally established Glen Canyon National Recreation Area in 1972 “to provide for public outdoor recreation use and enjoyment of Lake Powell and lands adjacent thereto… and to preserve scenic, scientific, and historic features contributing to public enjoyment of the area.”

In 1980, approximately 588,855 acres were proposed for wilderness designation with an additional 48,955 acres listed as proposed potential wilderness additions. Together this represents 51% of the total land area of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. The boundary of the wilderness area at lakeshore is coincident with the fluctuating surface of Lake Powell, causing the actual acreage of proposed wilderness to fluctuate as well.

Nestled into a buff-colored canyon wall is an archeological site - a curved masonry structure that is structurally intact.
Archeological site in Glen Canyon's proposed wilderness


Historic and Ongoing Human Connections

Contemporary tribes possess a deep historical, cultural, emotional, and spiritual connection toward the same landscape European Americans know and revere as wilderness. Native Americans have lived in association with the Colorado River and its tributaries for at least 11,000 years. Seven contemporary tribes continue to recognize the Glen Canyon region as their ancestral homeland based on migration histories, residential villages and encampments, cosmologies, and traditional uses. These tribes include:

This place has been the homeland of Indigenous people since time immemorial. The values and tangible resources that traditionally associated peoples ascribe to Glen Canyon country are integrally bound to its wilderness character.

Historic and prehistoric sites, homesteads, ranches, trails, and other cultural resources that exist within the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area wilderness are a fundamental part of the wilderness character of Glen Canyon country. The human experience and tangible evidence cannot be separated from the environment. The rich history of mutual dependency and interconnectedness shaped both the essence of this wilderness and the spirit, courage, and resilience of those humans who travel through or call it home.

A hiker in a ball cap looks at a tall sandstone arch on a clear day.
Hike to Broken Bow Arch in Glen Canyon's proposed wilderness.


Benefits of Wilderness

The benefits of wilderness are many. Wilderness is a place where we can feel part of, rather than apart from, the rest of the natural world. Wilderness can be a preserve for intact ecosystems and unique geologic formations, like Broken Bow Arch, and it offers opportunities for us to develop unique connections to these places, be it on our own or with family and friends. Wilderness also offers diverse and distinct social, cultural, and ecological benefits rooted in wilderness character preservation. This holistic concept protects the biophysical environment, personal experiences, and symbolic meanings that collectively distinguish wilderness from general backcountry and frontcountry areas on federal lands. Opportunities for connection are not disrupted by unwanted sights and sounds of others. Achieving this quality is deeply personal and experientially varies among people and cultures.

The term "wilderness character" was first referenced in the 1964 Wilderness Act. The Act states that federal agencies, like the NPS, are responsible for preserving the wilderness character of wilderness areas.

Wilderness character is a holistic concept based on the interaction of (1) biophysical environments primarily free from modern human manipulation and impact, (2) personal experiences in natural environments relatively free from the encumbrances and signs of modern society, and (3) symbolic meanings of humility, restraint, and interdependence that inspire human connection with nature.

To learn more about the proposed wilderness at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, read our Wilderness Character Narrative and find out more about the concept of Wilderness Character.


Show me the wilderness!

Last updated: February 29, 2024

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Contact Info

Mailing Address:

PO Box 1507
Page, AZ 86040


928 608-6200
Receptionist available at Glen Canyon Headquarters from 7 am to 4 pm MST, Monday through Friday. The phone is not monitored when the building is closed. If you are having an emergency, call 911 or hail National Park Service on Marine Band 16.

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