The Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness is a 109,400 acre (442 km²) wilderness area located in northern Arizona and southern Utah, USA, within the arid Colorado Plateau region. The wilderness is composed of broad plateaus, tall escarpments, and deep canyons.
The 112,500 acre (455 km²) area was designated by the U.S. Congress in 1984 and was largely incorporated into the new Vermilion Cliffs National Monument proclaimed in 2000 by executive order of President Bill Clinton.
Both the wilderness area and the U.S. National Monument are administered by the Federal Bureau of Land Management. The Colorado Plateau and it's river basins are of immense value in the Earth sciences, specifically chronostratigraphy as the region contains multiple terrain features exposing miles-thickRichard Burky, 1990 An Overview of the Geologic Record. Retrieved on 2008-06-21.. contiguous rock columns geologists and paleobiologists use as reference strata of the geologic record.
Ancient petroglyphs, granaries, and campsites indicate that ancestral Puebloan people utilized the Wilderness between AD 200 and AD 1200. They hunted mule deer and bighorn sheep and grew corn, beans, and squash in the lower end of the canyon. Paiute people later occupied and traveled much of the area before Europeans arrived. Because no habitations or large villages have been found in the canyon, researchers believe the canyon was primarily used as a travel route. People of Paria Canyon - Those Who Came Before - Arizona BLM
The first documented Europeans in the area were Fathers Francisco Atanasio Domínguez and Silvestre Vélez de Escalante of the Dominguez-Escalante Expedition. The expedition stopped at the mouth of the Paria River in 1776 after they unsuccessfully attempted to establish a route from Santa Fe, New Mexico, to Monterey, California. The 19th century drew outlaws who hid out in the Wilderness and prospectors who mined gold, uranium, and other minerals.
A variety of wildlife makes its home in the Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness.
Vegetation in the Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness can be divided into three different zones of riparian vegetation communities, which run parallel to each side of the river. Plants found closest to the water include cattails, common reeds, sedges, rushes, and horsetails.
Drier soil farther from the water makes a good environment for woody vegetation which has survived the repeated flooding, such as coyote willow, cottonwood, ash, tamarisk, and seep-willow. This zone is referred to as the "regeneration site" because some of the trees that grow here survive to produce the next generation of mature canopy.
Beyond the regeneration site trees grow strong and tall. Dominant vegetation includes cottonwood, willow, ash, and tamarisk. This zone is the fringe between riparian and desert uplands, often sharing vegetation like rabbitbrush, Indian ricegrass, arrowweed, and sand dropseed.
Hiking is the most common recreational activity in the Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness, followed by camping, photography, and canyoneering. Hikes through Paria Canyon are popular. The White House Trailhead is the main entrance and, therefore, more popular than the other trailheads in the Wilderness. Wire Pass Trailhead is the starting point for hiking into the canyon via Buckskin Gulch, as well as to spectacular sandstone formations such as the Wave on the slopes of the Coyote Buttes.
The BLM has placed a limit on overnight camping in the Paria Canyon portion of the Wilderness in order to protect it from overuse. It is also necessary to obtain a permit for the popular hike to the Wave formation in Coyote Buttes.