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Driving into Zion

Photograph by John Hight Article by: Justin Case

Utah’s Zion National Park has some grand vistas that will leave you in awe. One of these views is the drive on Hwy 9 going out of The Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel. It is one of those spots that make you want to stop and just take it all in. I’ve attempted to capture some of the grandeur in this collection of photos, but it’s a drive you need to experience in person to really get the full impact of this awesome canyon.

Zion Gallery The National Park Service has implemented an archaeological site disclosure policy at several national parks in Utah, including Zion National Park. This policy makes information about the location of archaeological sites available to the public, but only if “no harm, threat, or destruction of cultural resources will result” from such a disclosure. In general this information is only provided to those sites that are regularly patrolled, monitored, stabilized, or otherwise protected from visitor impacts or harm.

The Four Corners region and southern Utah are one of the continent’s richest areas in indigenous history.

Although Zion doesn’t have any major archaeological sites within the park boundaries, the Zion Human History Museum does show how humans have interacted with the local geography, flora and fauna, water resources and ecosystems. Outside the park, however, the area is an archaeological treasure trove. There are tens of thousands of ruins, artifacts, petroglyph and pictographs throughout the region. One of the most fun things you can do is find an ancient artifact on your own. Here are some of favorite places to look.

South of Panguitch near Zion’s eastern entrance, Parowan Gap and Vermilion Cliffs offer evidence of the Fremont and Paiutes who lived here. Pictographs and petroglyph’s still are visible carved into or painted onto the bright red canyon walls.

Search for the Head of Sinbad in Capitol Reef National Park. Located in the center of the Swell, it features Wingate sandstone cliffs, arches and not-to-be-missed to find rock art juxtaposed with dramatic natural arches.
Canyonland’s Great Gallery pictographs are life-sized rock paintings using a deep burnt red pigment. This extremely ancient art is called Barrier Canyon Style rock art after Canyonlands panels which the first major panels were found.
The most famous of all American cliff dwellings are those found at how the ancient Pueblo people lived. Walnut Creek National Park, in Arizona, features similar cliff dwellings.

The ruins with the deepest mystery are those found at Chaco Canyon National Park, a site appears to be a central spiritual crossroads for the continent’s most ancient residents. The engineering and astrological precision astounds modern man.

Anasazi State Museum is believed to have been occupied from A.D. 1050  – 1200. The village remains largely unexcavated, but many artifacts have been uncovered and are on display in the newly remodeled museum.

The Trail of The Ancients National Scenic Byway includes over 5,000 archaeological sites that range from early Basketmakers who lived here over 10,000 years ago to pristine ancient Puebloan ruins. Four Corners Monument connect Utah, Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado. The Hovenweep National Monument along the Colorado border contains ancient ruins built when Europeans were putting up castles.

Edge of the Cedars State Park is a restored site with pathways through ruins as well as the chance to enter a kiva via ladder.

Butler Wash and Mule Canyon, the Grand Gulch Primitive Area on the way to Natural Bridges National Monument hold rarely seen to see Native American ruins including a cliff dwelling and a somewhat reconstructed tower. Natural Bridges features Puebloan ruins similar to those found at Valley of the Gods.

Source:  myutahparks.com

Monument Valley Tribal Park showcases modern Navajo culture.

n the opening scene of Fort Apache, a classic John Ford film, Henry Fonda portrays a starchy career army officer, an Easterner, riding his horse through a quintessentially western American landscape.  The sage flats seem to stretch forever among the craggy buttes that tower into a clear-blue sky.

The film’s dramatic scenery is not trickery created on a soundstage.  It is not a composite.  It is not a computer-generated backdrop.  Rather, it is Monument Valley, a real place, a wild and sparsely settled region on the Arizona-Utah border and long a favorite shooting location for Hollywood filmmakers, especially those who made Western films a defining genre, a eulogy to the early days of an untamed frontier.  

If you feel as though you’ve been here before, you probably have, at least metaphorically.  Ever since John Wayne saddled up here in the classic Western Stagecoach, Hollywood has exploited the stark beauty of Monument Valley.  My Darling Clementine, The Searchers, How The West Was Won, The Legend of the Lone Ranger, and many other Westerns were filmed here, among the orange-red sandstone buttes that form one of the most remarkable topographies on earth.

Roots of the Western

The roots of the Western are found in disparate sources: folk music of the colonial period; James Fenimore Cooper’s novels, including his frontier adventure The Last of the Mohicans; Mark Twain’s classic Roughing It; author Bret Harte’s short stories; and Zane Grey’s 60+ novels that inspired dozens of films, including The Vanishing American (1925)—the first film ever shot in Monument Valley.

The central plot of the Western involved maintaining frontier law and order, as depicted in a fast-paced action story.  Most were rooted in archetypal conflict, such as good versus evil, white hat versus black hat, American settlers versus the Indians (usually portrayed as savages), civilization versus lawlessness, schoolteachers versus saloon dance-hall girls, sheriff versus gunslinger.

Conflicts grew out of patterned situations, including ranchers versus farmers (Shane), settlers versus Indians (The Searchers), and outlaws versus civilized people (High Noon).  Typical scenes in Western films included gunfights, train robberies, bank holdups, runaway stagecoaches, cattle rustling, stampedes, pursuing posses and barroom brawls.

The film that is generally considered to have given birth to the genre was Edward Porter’s pioneering The Great Train Robbery (1903), shot on the East Coast (New Jersey and Delaware), rather than the film’s supposed Wyoming setting.


50 Years Later, The Tragedy of Nuclear Tests in Nevada


Of the 220 persons who worked on The Conqueror on location in Utah in 1955, 91 had contracted cancer as of the early 1980s and 46 died of it, including stars John Wayne, Susan Hayward, and Agnes Moorehead, and director Dick Powell. Experts say under ordinary circumstances only 30 people out of a group of that size should have gotten cancer. The cause? No one can say for sure, but many attribute the cancers to radioactive fallout from U.S. atom bomb tests in nearby Nevada. The whole ghastly story is told in The Hollywood Hall of Shame by Harry and Michael Medved.”

The military had tested 11 atomic bombs at Yucca Flats, Nevada, which resulted in immense clouds of fallout floating downwind. Much of the deadly dust funneled into Snow Canyon, Utah, where a lot of The Conqueror was shot. The actors and crew were exposed to the stuff for 13 weeks, no doubt inhaling a fair amount of it in the process, and Howard Hughes who financed the film, later shipped 60 tons of hot dirt back to Hollywood to use on a set for retakes, thus making things even worse.

There is the underlying question of why would there be any people getting cancer at all? & why is it the CDC has data available on cancer only up to 2014?

Notice of all cancer cases the highest are breast & prostate cancers. Exposure to radiation is more susceptible in woman & tends to accumulate first in the breast. In men, the prostate gland is part of the reproductive system. The implications are diabolical especially in light of the lack of data in recent years as Fukushima’s wrath envelops the US with higher counts of radiation in many areas than what is found in Tokyo Japan a few hundred kilometers away. Despite the lack of transparency, cancer is on the rise as is respiratory afflictions. With the amount of uranium & plutonium in our environment we can expect dementia to supersede cancers in the very near future as it has already been identified as a major problem in the UK.

Click the image to visit The Zion Gallery

2010-04 Hidden Canyon & Observation Point, Zion National Park


While we can all appreciate the splendor and archaeological significance this region has to offer, one has to wonder; if the military was aware of these monuments & ruins. Had any of the ruins been destroyed through nuclear testing we will never know the answer. Also of significant note was  Trinity  the code name of the first detonation of a nuclear weapon.conducted by the United States Army at 5:29 a.m. on July 16, 1945, as part of the Manhattan Project. 


Although the (above) image has been colored & cropped into a different background for dramatic effect,
it should not diminish what was captured from the Newsreel film stock: Plan X footage during the test in 1945.
These are the most famous shots of the Trinity test, photographed for unclassified distribution.
What have we unleashed?

Visit the Nuclear Watch Resources section of this site for more information & mitigation techniques.


  1. https://dashburst.com/jthight/125
  2. http://www.sacredcliffs.com/zion/ruins.html
  3. https://www.desertusa.com/desert-activity/monument-valley-films.html#ixzz58X1LhoWT
  4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chaco_Culture_National_Historical_Park
  5. https://www.nps.gov/hove/index.htm
  6. https://utah.com/edge-of-the-cedars-state-park
  7. https://www.commondreams.org/views01/0105-06.htm
  8. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trinity_(nuclear_test)
  9. Trinity Newsreel rolls


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