Arches National Park is an open window into our ancient past and symbolizes the prehistoric story of our natural world, but it’s also a disturbing talisman for what the future might bring for our ever more congested, fractious and complicated society. It seems to stand placid and serene in the face of the ravaging forces of time, weather and disintegration, and yet is profoundly threatened by the very popularity that has made this special place, and it’s portal back into time, a beloved stop for people interested in the National Parks and the natural history of North America.
Following the Colorado River as it flows out of the Rocky Mountains and onto the high desert plateau of Southeastern Utah is an epic camping, boating and outdoor adventure, and one of the most popular of all western tourist destinations. But the enormous pressure of the overwhelming crowds with their traffic and pollution, combined with decades of severe drought, expanding population density and the looming deterioration of the landscape because of climate change, has transformed the once tranquil and idiosyncratic Moab valley into just another over-crowded rest stop on the four-lane, divided interstate highway that the American West has become. That such a complete and stunning metamorphosis has taken place in a single lifetime is remarkable, but for those who have lived in this region for decades, sadly, not very surprising. The ongoing preservation and protection of the millions of acres of our National Parks, National Forests, Wildlife Preserves and public lands that make up the last of Wild America must be our number one priority going forward, or their future, and the future of our descendants, will surely be ground into dust and scattered to the wind.