"Along a base line nearly 50 miles in length the Tertiary strata bend upward to the summit in a single sweep, diversified by minor inequalities arising partly from minor fractures, partly from erosion, but never of such magnitude as to mask the general plan of the uplift, nor even to greatly disfigure its symmetry. The minor features, though elsewhere they might seem of considerable moment, are mere ripples upon the great wave"
- Clarence E. Dutton, Report on the Geology of the High Plateaus of Utah, 1880.
Headwaters for stunning and internationally renowned desert landscapes, the Wasatch Plateau provides an island of lush habitat for wildlife. This cool forested island high above the San Rafael Swell provides refuge for an incredible diversity of species. From the Wasatch Plateau flow numerous sources of life-giving water that nourishes the surrounding desert, among them, Muddy Creek, and the San Rafael and San Pitch Rivers.
Viewed from east to west, the Wasatch Plateau is the first in a series of high plateaus that act as a division between the Colorado Plateau and Great Basin ecoregions. The plateau, locally called the Manti Top or the Manti Mountains, rises to 11,300 feet elevation at its high point. On the east, it ascends to top a dramatic shear escarpment 1,000 to 2,000 feet above Castle Valley. On the west, it falls by steep slopes into the Sanpete Valley. The high elevation top contains several notable peaks and broad rolling ridges. The scene is reminiscent of other plateaus in the region with mixed conifer forests, open wildflower-filled meadows and dense Aspen stands, noted for their intense fall colors.
A popular spot for hunters, birders, hikers, horseback riders, anglers, and car-bound sightseers, the Wasatch Plateau contains many special places that are deserving of wilderness protection, including the following roadless areas: Benion Creek, Big Bear - Rock Canyon, Big Horseshoe, Black Mountain - Birch Creek, Bulger - Black Canyon, Cedar Knoll, Coal Hollow, Dairy Knoll, East Mountain, Heliotrope, Knob Mountain, Middle Mountain, Muddy Creek - Nelson Mountain, Musinia Peak, North Horn Mountain, Nuck Woodward, Oak Creek, Pleasant Creek, Price River, Rolfson - Staker, San Pitch Canyon, Sixmile Canyon, Trail Mountain, Trough Springs Ridge, Twelvemile Creek, White Mountain, and Wildcat Knolls, totaling approximately 612,000 acres.
When considered for wilderness protection, popular and well-traveled ATV trails that compose the Arapeen ATV trail system eliminate some places from consideration for wilderness protection. The UFN's wilderness proposal seeks to strike a balance for human users with the best interests of the land at the forefront. There is plenty of room here to preserve the wild and primeval character of a rugged landscape while allowing for motorized recreation where appropriate.
The Wasatch Plateau faces threats from a variety of sources, chief among them unregulated and uncontrolled ORV use. The forest published an updated travel plan in 1989 that restricted cross-country travel and designated routes that were acceptable for travel by wheeled vehicles. Unfortunately, little action has been taken to close and rehabilitate routes that are not legal under the travel plan. This has resulted in a spider web of routes that fragment habitat, degrade aquatic systems, contribute to soil loss and erosion, spread noxious and invasive weed species, and cause a loss of natural quiet on which wildlife and non-motorized recreationists depend. With little or no closure devices in place, future enforcement will be difficult. A casual visitor would have no idea that travel on many routes and trails is, in fact, a violation of the law. Other threats include overgrazing by domestic livestock, particularly sheep, oil and gas development, fracturing and subsidence of the land surface due to long wall coal mining, and harvest of timber without adequate monitoring of species and soils.
The Wasatch Plateau is located in central Utah, approximately 130 miles southeast of Salt Lake City. High standard dirt and gravel roads from the west reach the high elevation forested tablelands from the communities of Fairview, Ephraim, and Manti in the Sanpete Valley. Easy access is also available from Mayfield, located south of the Sanpete Valley in the Arapeen Valley. From the east, access is easy from the communities of Orangeville and Ferron. From the north, visitors traveling along highway 6 find easy access to the plateau along highway 96 to Scofield. A route known as The Skyline Drive runs from north to south along the length of the Plateau, providing access to fishing, camping, hiking, and equestrian trails, and affording superb views of the plateau itself, the Sanpete Valley, and the desert country to the east. Other scenic drives showcasing the plateau include the Huntington and Eccles Canyon scenic byways, accessed from Fairview and Scofield.
Geology and Landforms
Composed of high table land at the southern end of the Wasatch Range, The Wasatch Plateau rises to a high point of 11,300 feet at South Tent Mountain. On the southern end of the Manti-La Sal National Forest near the border with the Fishlake, scenic Musinia Peak rises to an altitude of 10,986 ft. The average altitude of the plateau is roughly 11,000 feet. It towers over a vertical mile above Sanpete Valley on the west and Castle Valley on the east. The summit is defined by a long narrow platform that never reaches more than 6 miles in width. To the east, the land drops off dramatically through a series of striking white, pink, pale orange and buff-colored cliffs. The lower terraces and benches, at intervals of about three to six miles, reveal older and older strata as they descend. Geologically complex and fascinating, the Wasatch Plateau contains Cretaceous, Laramie, Tertiary, and Jurassic formations.
Learn more about the Wasatch Plateau at a number of websites or by "googling" Wasatch Plateau.
1. Go to the location and locate the Wasatch Plateau Plaque.
2. The Plateau was formed when thick, sedimentary rock layers were deposited during the age of dinosaurs, uplifted and eroded. When did this uplifting occur?
3. Where would a good location be to learn more about the geology of this area according to the plaque?
4. Enjoy, have fun, and learn something!!!