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A piece of Mother Nature's finest work describes the beauty of the area surrounding Navajo Lake in the Dixie National Forest in the southwest corner of Utah in Kane County. Located on the Markagunt Plateau, one of the largest and highest plateaus in Utah, the 9,042 feet elevation makes this lake a cool alternative to summer's extreme heat and is a popular summer recreation area. Because of the high elevation, the Paiute Indians referred to it as Cloud Lake. In the middle 1800's there was a violent battle between the cattlemen from nearby Cedar City and a Navajo raiding party at the lake, and from then on the lake was known as Navajo Lake.
Formed thousands of years ago when lava cut off the upper part of Duck Creek's drainage area, Navajo Lake is fed by ground water; the main outlet are sinkholes on the east end of the lake, as no surface outflow exists for the lake. Water from the sink holes disappears underground and comes out again at the Duck Creek Spring and some drains toward the Pacific Ocean via Cascade Falls and the Virgin River. In low water years, the lake could be completely drained but in the early 1930's a dike was built to maintain water levels. Although the dike is set to maintain the lake's level to 13 to 16 feet deep, summer evaporation, seepage, and a release of irrigation water through a built-in pipe still can decrease the water level lower than that by the end of most summers.
During the summer, boating, canoeing, kayaking, swimming and fishing are enjoyed in the 700+ acres of pristine water. Once early winter arrives, the activities change to snowmobiling, snowshoeing and ice fishing. Anglers will enjoy the year round challenge for rainbow trout, German trout, brook trout, splake and cutthroat. Boats and fishing gear can be rented from nearby outfitters. Vacation rentals and accommodations around the lake include a lodge, cabins, and campgrounds. Summer homes dot the landscape, and real estate is available for those who desire a permanent location to enjoy the fun.
Dixie National Forest gained its name in the mid-1800's when Brigham Young, the leader of the Mormon settlers, sent a group to explore southern Utah. As this group passed through the town of Saint George, they noticed a large "D" painted near the top of the southern most mountain. Since it was the "south" mountain, this group proclaimed it was for Dixie as no one could provide the real meaning of the painting, so the name remains to this day. But there is no mystery to wonderful things for your enjoyment that can be found in the forest. Many lakes, other than Navajo Lake, and creeks provide easy access to water. Bike trails, hiking trails, horseback riding, backpacking, camping, boating, waterskiing, canoeing, kayaking, swimming, picnicking, fishing, ATV trails, snowmobile trails, and deer hunting are allowed in the forest. Lava beds abound and create areas that allow visitors to see the volatility of nature. Mammoth Cave is actually a lava tube that was formed by cooling lava and water that can be explored with proper preparation. Ice Cave is also a lava-formed creation and requires more experienced exploring due the year round ice found inside the slippery cave. Lodges, cabins, and campgrounds are located throughout the two million acres of the forest for accomodations.
A few miles from Navajo Lake is Zion National Park which was named by 19th century Mormon settlers who proclaimed the mountains were natural temples of God; they called the area Zion after the heavenly city described in the Bible. The area was slowly created over two million years by water, snow and ice eroding the rock foundations to produce this spectacular awe-inspiring creation. Also, once home to Anasazi and Paiute Native Americans, there are 26 known sites in the park that contain petroglyphs or rock art, abandoned cliff houses, and chipping sites. With its deep red canyons, towering cliffs, mesas, and buttes, this natural playground attracts hikers, backpackers, and casual observers to challenge and enjoy its unique splendor. Impressive rock formations or landmarks throughout the park include Temple of Sinawava, the Great White Throne, and Cathedral Mountain. Hiking trails range from daring climbs along the canyon rims to easy walks by the Weeping Rock Trail to paved trails for handicap accessibility that make the park home to some of the best hiking in Utah, while some might boast perhaps the best hiking in the United States. Vacation rentals for your stay here include cabins, a lodge, motel, and a RV park.
Bryce Canyon National Park, a short ten miles northwest from Dixie National Forest and Navajo Lake, is not really a canyon at all. The canyon was named after Ebenezer Bryce, an early Mormon settler, who homesteaded here in the 1870's. Described as the eastern edge of the Paunsaugunt Plateau that extends down 1000 feet, is about 20 miles long and includes 36,000 acres that make up 14 amphitheaters of natural rock formations, Bryce Canyon is a four-season destination that proclaims the spectacular scenery is even more beautiful topped with pristine white snow and glistening layers of ice. Miles of hiking trails are designed with all levels of ability including a family-friendly trail with spots for families to splash around in the cool water; these trails double as snowshoe trails during the snowy days of winter. Visitors will delight in observing wildlife scurrying around the park including animals on the Endangered Species list thriving and multiplying including the Utah Prairie Dog, the California Condor, and the Peregrine Falcon. Overnight accommodations for a stay here include a lodge and campgrounds but are only open from early spring to late fall.
Cedar Breaks National Monument is located on the western edge of the Markagunt Plateau which is the same plateau where Navajo Lake is located. The colorful rock formations here have no equal as analysts have identified more than 50 different hues in the impressive display of nature. In fact, the Paiute named the colorful amphitheatre "circle of painted cliffs." Today's name is a misnomer as there are no cedar trees in the high elevation area, but early settlers mistakenly called the local juniper trees cedars and the name survived to present time. Few visitors include this impressive monument in their vacation itinerary in favor of spending more time in the larger Zion and Bryce Canyon Parks, but the intense colors, meadows of wild flowers, the impressive 2500 foot depth is magnificent and worth a minor detour as you travel to other destinations. However, plan your trip during the summer months as deep snow closes the main road from late October to late May. A campground is located in the National Monument but be forewarned that even on the hottest summer day, night time temperatures can drop to as low as 30 degrees.
Kane County boasts that it "offers easier access to more National Parks and Monuments that any other place on earth." With 95 percent of the county lands administered by State and Federal Agencies, the opportunities for outdoor adventure are limited only by your imagination. In addition to Dixie National Forest, Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, and Cedar Breaks National Monument, a short drive from Navajo Lake will take you to Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, Pipe Spring National Monument, Kodachrome Basin State Park, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Throughout the county, vacation rentals are plentiful for your stay and include lodges, resorts, cabins, bed and breakfast inns, private home rentals, campgrounds and motels for all budgets.
Known as the Color Country Tourism Region in Utah, it is easy to understand how this area gained that title. Whether it is the many shades located in the geologically formed playgrounds with multihued rock formations, or the brightly colored foliage that surrounds Navajo Lake in the Dixie National Forest, colors attack your senses every way you gaze. This is a picture that only Mother Nature can paint, so be sure to pack your camera when you visit because words can not describe the beauty that awaits you.
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