Utah Wilderness 50 Exhibit Portrays State’s Allure

"Blue Moon Mesa" in Canyonlands National Park by Dustin LeFevre

“Blue Moon Mesa” in Canyonlands National Park by Dustin LeFevre

By Ayrel Clark-Proffitt, Sustainability Resource Center

My first reaction when walking around the Natural History Museum of Utah’s new exhibit, Utah Wilderness 50, was, “Wow, Utah is stunning.”

Those of us who live in Utah, and even those who visit Utah, know its general splendor and beauty. But Utah Wilderness 50 takes the visitor on such a complete tour of the state’s wild places that it is hard to imagine that viewers won’t see at least one unfamiliar natural landmark. The exhibit is a compilation of 50 photographs, chosen from more than 1,400 submissions, that celebrate Utah’s landscapes as a tribute to the Wilderness Act turning 50 years old this month. Submissions came from around the world, which is not hard to believe given all the foreign tourists present at the state’s numerous parks, monuments, and forests.

"Pika Gathering Vegetation for Haystack" in Little Cottonwood Canyon by John P. George

“Pika Gathering Vegetation for Haystack” in Little Cottonwood Canyon by John P. George

The photographs are a feast of color, texture, and awe. I was struck by the many colors of Utah’s skies, with hues of blue, pink, purple, orange, yellow, and, of course, various shades of gray from burgeoning storm clouds. The pictures also display the state’s fascinating wildlife, from creatures as small as pikas to as large as bison.

Some of the images featured what I would consider quintessential Utah icons, such as Delicate Arch, Bryce National Park, and sunsets at Antelope Island. As a relative newcomer to Utah, there were multiple places that I had never seen or even knew existed, such as the Little Sahara Sand Dunes, the lava flow at Cedar Mountain Wilderness Area, the “red sea” along the beaches of Stansbury Island from the halophile bacteria, and Donut Falls in Big Cottonwood Canyon.

"Nature's Eye" in Big Cottonwood Canyon's Donut Falls by Shayne Shaw

“Nature’s Eye” in Big Cottonwood Canyon’s Donut Falls by Shayne Shaw

The photo of Donut Falls by Shayne Shaw was my first favorite among the images. I was struck by its colors and lighting and the unique shapes of the ice above the waterfall. But I was also in love with John P. George’s photo of the pika and its food, as well as Dustin LeFevre’s “Blue Moon Mesa” at Canyonlands National Park, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this weekend.

What will be your favorite? The exhibit is open until December 14. Students, faculty, and staff receive free admission to the Natural History Museum of Utah with a valid University ID.

Ayrel Clark-Proffitt is the outreach and education coordinator for the Sustainability Resource Center.

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