National Geographic : 1999 Jul
CELEBRATING CANYON COUNTRY GRAND STAIRCASE-ESCALANTE NATIONAL MONUMENT By T. H. WATKINS Photographs by DIANE COOK and LEN JENSHEL T HE GHOST OF Everett Ruess, some say, still haunts the canyons of southern Utah, for it was here that he vanished in 1934. The 20-year-old writer and artist had set off from the town of Escalante with a couple of pack burros to spend some time painting and writing in red rock country. "I am going south towards the river now," he wrote his parents, "through some rather wild country. I am not sure yet whether I will go across Smokey Mountain to Lee's Ferry." Ruess was never seen again. The young man's ghost may have been watching last November when the U.S. Bureau of Land Man agement (BLM) issued the first draft of a proposed management plan for the nation's newest national monument--Grand Staircase-Escalante, 1.9 million acres that Ruess probably knew as well as anyone of his time. These are acres to be managed, the BLM's plan emphasized, in such a way as to "maintain the unspoiled nature" of their much celebrated beauty. Ruess no doubt would have approved that part of the plan. Me, I was ready to do at least a modified jig. Storm clouds swell above the deep repose of red rock desert in Utah's Grand Staircase-Escalante, a vast addition to America's protected lands.