National Geographic Adventure - November 2008

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25 BEST NEW TRIPS in the world

The Best of Canyon Country

Grand Staircase: Wind & Water on the Colorado Plateau

The Colorado Plateau is a geologic anomaly—a tectonic block that has remained intact for 600 million years while the Earth’s crust surrounding it has lifted (forming the Rocky Mountains to the east) and stretched (creating the Great Basin to the west). The result is perhaps the world’s premier showcase of sedimentary rock: a massive complex of hoodoos, sandstone windows, arches, cliffs and canyons carved by the Colorado River. In 2009 California-based O.A.R.S. launches a first ever guided traverse of the plateau—an itinerary that’s equal parts whitewater rafting adventure, road trip, and hiking expedition. As travelers head south from Salt Lake City to Moab—with pit stops to hike 500-foot-deep Buckskin Gulch (the deepest slot canyon in the Southwest), raft Cataract Canyon and the Grand Canyon, or practice yoga on their own—they journey farther and farther back in time. Guides, trained in geology, discuss the finer points of plate tectonics and shed light on the region’s latest pressures. “The Colorado River system is overdrafted—there just isn’t enough water anymore,” explains George Wendt. “If people can see the source of the river and travel down through the plateau in a different way, they’ll have a new perspective on it.” Instead of sticking to the river or hitting just a handful of parks, O.A.R.S. highlights the entire region. Guests experience six national parks (Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Grand Canyon, and Zion), plus little-known Dead Horse Point State Park and Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monument.

Length: 12-days
Departs: May–September