double clickCanyonlands: The Soul of the American Southwest

Canyonlands: The Heart and Soul of the American Southwest

Desert landscapes are forbidding and alluring all at once. You may get a sense of it on Route 66 somewhere between Winslow Arizona and that left turn you should have taken in Albuquerque, but the further you get from roads, cities, or cheap cliches, the more you'll sense that it actually is possible for a place to have a soul. Use these tips to find out for yourself why we say Canyonlands is the very place where the soul of the American Southwest not only whispers but beats like a drum...

1. Silent Synchronicity Amidst Towering Canyons

Find a secluded spot amidst the towering sandstone canyons of Canyonlands. Feel your pulse, and see if the rhythm matches the heartbeat of the land, the river, or the sky. You might be surprised what you observe!

Canyonlands Reflection

​2. Night Sky Meditation under a Blanket of Stars

As night falls over Canyonlands, outline the silhouette of the darkened canyon walls. Notice the brightness of the night sky. Get curious about the light coming from the blanket of stars and let your mind float like an untethered astronautinto the infinite expanse of stars you see in front of you. Think about the entire planet floating in space and suddenly you are the pilot, hurtling at nearly 70,000 miles an hour, though you can't sense the speed. In the darkness, feel a connection to the cosmic forces that have shaped the landscape over millennia. Imagine a young child in the native tribes that lived here... what did they think when they looked up into the night sky?

Insider Tip: Download RadioLab's episode on "The Dark Side of the Earth"where astronaut Dave Wolfe describes things that will... well, just download the episode on your device and wait until your second or third night sleeping out under the stars, lay back, and enjoy the ride!

Canyonlands Night

​3. Surrendering Peacefully to the Flow of the River

River trips have a way of forcing you to surrender to their pace. Even with motors moving us along, the river is in charge and we move at her pace. The meanders of the river have a way of unwinding the inner clock that has become attuned to a man-made pace with things coming at us from many directions. On a river, life becomes linear and begins to make sense again. Rivers know exactly where they are going, and they are in no particular rush - except in the rapids of course! While the water is calm, feel the cool water against your skin and the warm sun on your face as you observe the cliffs passing before you.

When you get to the confluence of the Green River and the Colorado River, listen closely... do you hear the clash of two Titans? Other than the guides mentioning it, would you have any sense that another river, just as large as the one you've been riding has just merged in from miles and miles of travel to be right there in that moment with you? Is there any sound at all where these two behemoth rivers merge into one? If the American Southwest has any heartbeat at all, surely it is where these great waterways connect in concealed silence.

Take a deep breath here, because your pulse is about to hammer as the emboldened rivers plunge into the heart of Cataract Canyon!

Canyonlands Confluence

​4. Encounter Signs of the Ancient Ones

Petroglyphs can be found throughout the 337,598 acres of Canyonlands National Park - and of course throughout the entire American Southwest. But is there any ancient petroglyph more "American" and more "Southwest" than the "All American Man"? He bears a shield, like many others etched into the stone faces, but his decorations and clothing have a remarkable resemblance to that of our United States Flag! He's tucked safely (exact location withheld) under one of the many cliffs and overhangs somewhere in the vast expanse of Canyonlands. Who put it there? What inspired that? Makes ya wonder!

But any encounter with signs of the Ancient Ones that lived here is enough to give you a sense of mystery and wonder. You'll see.

Canyonlands All American Man

​5. Sunrise Meditation at Mesa Arch or Deep in the Canyons

Some places just feel unreal. When morning light breaks over the horizon and bounces light through the stone arch perched high above the cliff face- perfectly framing the desert canyons below, Mesa Arch is one of these places. One of many in Canyonlands. Unfortunately, this amazing scene is easily accessible from the highway north of Moab, Utah and therefore gets crowded with photographers vying to snap their perfect shot. We get it, but that's the very reason we take our journey where there are no roads - no crowds. Down in the depths of the canyon, near the lapping sounds of the river, you can get a sunrise meditation all your own.

Canyonlands Mesa

​​6. Reflection by the River's Edge

Is there anything more beautiful than water in the desert? Backpackers who trek for days in the myriad canyons that peel off from the Colorado River may never witness the pulsing waters. For them, the trickling sounds of an occasional stream will be all they hear or see of water in their wilderness experience. Reflect by the tranquil banks of the Colorado River and watch as it comes and goes from miles away. You're rich with water, right there in the middle of the dry American Southwest! That's exactly how the natives that lived here anciently must have felt about that life-giving water! They weren't just surviving here, but thriving, as evidenced by their artwork, pottery, and widespread trading with other tribes.

What other experiences during your rafting trip through Canyonlands National Park made you feel renewed and enriched?

Cataract Canyon Sunrise
Kam Wixom
Kam began guiding in the Grand Canyon in 1991, met & guided with his wife in 2000, and is the proud daddy of 5 kids. He now works as the Marketing Director for Western River Expeditions.
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