San Rafael Swell – State Park or National Monument designation in the future?

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San Rafael SwellSan Rafael Swell

I have a fondness for the San Rafael Swell area of Emery County, Utah. I’ve posted about it before with images of the scenery there, some of the birds I see and photograph in the area and I’ve even posted images of a Midget Faded Rattlesnake that made me jump backwards about 8 feet when I unknowingly got so close to it that it rattled at me. I also wrote about it asking people to sign a petition to stop the sale or leasing of land within the Swell for oil and gas drilling.

If you don’t love deserts, dry washes, canyons, petroglyphs, hoodoos, mesas, hidden valleys, reefs, cliffs or sandstone you might want to stop reading here.

But I do, I am fascinated by the area and by all of the geological features and creatures found there. Juan Palma, BLM Director pulled those oil leases back in November and I felt joy about that announcement.  I was relieved that the area wouldn’t be subjected to the pollution, noise and habitat destruction that oil drilling causes.

I also felt trepidation about the San Rafael Swell area because nothing within this state that is filled with stones is written in stone except the ancient pictographs and petroglyphs.

Lazuli Bunting in the San Rafael SwellLazuli Bunting in the San Rafael Swell

I have hoped that President Obama would finally give the San Rafael Area the long awaited designation of becoming a National Monument. That would protect this area for everyone. That hasn’t happened… yet. I still have hope about that. Earlier this week though the Salt Lake Tribune ran a story about the possibility of Utah’s State Park expanding the boundaries of Goblin Valley State Park into the San Rafael Area.

My first preference would be the National Monument designation but the Swell could also be protected by becoming part of the state park system.

I truly hope that this beautiful desert gem can be protected. The area deserves to be.


See these two articles in the Salt Lake Tribune:

Utah studies expanding Goblin Valley State Park into San Rafael Swell

Trib Talk: Goblin Valley expansion in the works?


  1. Elephant's Child June 20, 2014 at 12:51 pm

    I hope it does get the status it deserves so that other people, other generations can marvel at this majesty.

  2. Utahbooklover June 20, 2014 at 10:54 am

    Excellent Lazuli Bunting image. I also love the deserts — especially southern Utah — and would like to see the San Rafael area become a National Monument. I enjoyed reading about your close encounter with the rattlesnake — great images. “Although snake bites are rarely fatal in the United States, every year about 100,000 people die worldwide after being bitten by venomous snakes” I heard on NPR.

  3. Jolanta June 20, 2014 at 8:40 am

    Beautiful photos! Thanks 🙂

  4. Bob Bushell June 20, 2014 at 4:04 am

    Beautiful Bunting, excellent photos.

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