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National Park Quiz 57: Canyons

Boaters at Dangling Rope Marina in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. “Ahoy the shore! For crying out loud, does anybody know what time it is?!” Photo by skinnie minnie via Flickr.

1. Every square inch of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area is in the Mountain Time Zone, but the time of day can depend on where you are in the park, even if you never cross a state line during your entire visit. Why can two Glen Canyon National Recreation Area visitors standing just a few feet apart have different – and absolutely accurate -- times showing on their wristwatches?

2. True or false? Kings Canyon, the signature geologic feature of Kings Canyon National Park, is deeper than the Grand Canyon.

3. True or false? There are no bighorn sheep in Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area.

4. True or false? Walnut Canyon National Monument is one of the newest NPS units.

5.  True or false? Little River Canyon National Preserve is the only National Park System unit east of the Mississippi River that has “Canyon” as part of its official name.

6. True or false? The Natinal Park Service has banned cliff diving at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.

7. True or false? Visitors may enter Canyon de Chelly National Monument only if accompanied by an authorized guide.

8. True or false? The National Park System unit now bearing the name Chaco Culture National Historical Park was originally named Chaco Canyon National Historical Park.

9. True or false? River water leaving Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park eventually flows into the Gulf of Mexico via the Rio Grande.

10. The Grand Canyon of the Noatak in Alaska” Noatak National Preserve is
a. more than 60 miles long
b. almost completely filled with glacial ice and snowpack
c. a box canyon rimmed by sheer cliffs
d. about one mile from rim to rim at its greatest width

Extra Credit Question:

11. If I tell you that I took gorgeous photos of a canyon from Inspiration Point the same day I hiked Uncle Tom’s Trail, finding the stairway easy to handle on the way down and strenuous on the way back up, you can reasonably deduce that I visited
a. Lake Mead National Recreation Area
b. New River Gorge National River
c. Yellowstone National Park
d. Grand Canyon National Park

Super Bonus Question:

12. The national seashore situated closest to North America’s largest submarine canyon is
a. Cape Hatteras National Seashore
b. Point Reyes National Seashore
c. Cape Cod National Seashore
d. Cumberland Island National Seashore


(1) In summer, the state of Utah switches to Daylight Savings Time, and so does the Navajo Reservation. However, the state of Arizona doesn’t switch to Daylight Savings Time, nor does the Hopi Reservation, which is entirely surrounded by the Navajo Reservation. Boaters should also remember that the park’s Dangling Rope Marina does not switch to Daylight Savings Time, even though it is in Utah, and instead keeps Arizona time – meaning that the clocks there lag Utah time by one hour.

(2) True. With a maximum depth of around 8,200 feet, Kings Canyon is the deepest canyon in the United States. The deepest part of the canyon, measured from river level to the peak of Spanish Mountain, is actually outside the park in the Forest Service-administered Giant Sequoia National Monument.

(3) False. Although bighorns were extirpated in this vicinity in the 1800s, they were reintroduced nearby in the 1970s and subsequently moved into the park. The area along Bighorn Canyon is now home to more than 150 bighorns.

(4) False. Walnut Canyon National Monument is one of the older National Park System units, having been proclaimed in 1915. That’s the year before Congress created the National Park Service.

(5) True. Little River Canyon National Preserve in northeastern Alabama is the only National Park System unit east of the Mississippi that has "Canyon" as part of its name. It might have company some day, however. Many people feel that West Virginia's Blackwater Canyon would make a worthy addition to the National Park System.

(6) True. Because cliff diving poses a high risk of injury or death, and is “incompatible with other recreational values of the park,” jumping into the water off anything higher than 15 feet is prohibited at Glen Canyon. Some visitors do it anyway.

(7) False. Visits to ruins are supposed to be guided, but visitors need not be accompanied if they choose to view the ancient ruins and other scenery from the canyon rim, or if they hike to the canyon floor and back. Motorists using the North Rim and South Rim Drives can get excellent views from the turnouts without entering the canyon, which is home to an active Navajo community.

(8) False. This park has never been named Chaco Canyon National Historical Park. President Theodore Roosevelt proclaimed Chaco Canyon National Monument in 1907, and the park was expanded and redesignated Chaco Culture National Historical Park in 1980.

(9) False. The Gunnison River is on the Pacific side of the Continental Divide and therefore delivers its water to the Gulf of California via the Colorado River.

(10) a – The Grand Canyon of the Noatak, which is about 65 miles long and around four miles in average width, is one of the least-known scenic and ecological treasures of the National Park System. The canyon transitions between the arctic and subarctic environments, offering an important migration route for animals and birds as well as an array of flora that’s remarkably diversified for such a northerly location.

(11) c – Inspiration Point is one of several excellent vantage points from which to take great photos of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. Uncle Tom’s Trail, originally established in 1898, carries hikers deep into the canyon. Do not mess with this trail if looooooong, steep stairways are not your thing!

(12) b – The landward end of Monterey Canyon, the largest submarine canyon along the entire coast of North America, is situated in the center of Monterey Bay not far south of San Francisco (and therefore not far south of Point Reyes). Often compared to the Grand Canyon, this enormous underwater canyon is nearly 300 miles long, up to six miles wide, and more than 5,500 feet deep from rim to floor.

Grading: 9 or 10 correct, rest on your laurels; 7 or 8 correct, pretty darn good; 6 correct, passable fair; 5 or fewer correct, nothing to brag about.


Great quiz!

The observance of Arizona time at Glen Canyon NRA's Dangling Rope Marina in Utah is interesting. I visited Theodore Roosevelt National Park over Memorial Day and became a bit disoriented by the time zone split there. The South Unit is on Mountain Time, while half of the north unit -- everything on the north side of the Little Missouri River -- is on Central Time. The North Unit visitor center, almost spitting distance from the meandering river and time zone boundary, observes Central Time. So, visitors traveling north between the two at, say, 3 p.m. or so, may find themselves at a closed visitor center when they arrive at 5 p.m. Central Time. The ranger at the North Unit visitor center said even park staff get confused sometimes. It seems to make more sense for the entire park to pick a time zone to observe despite what side of the river the North Unit visitor center happens to be on. Glen Canyon clearly does it right!

Also, unless things have changed in the last five or six years, there is one trail leading to the floor of Canyon de Chelly that is open to visitors without a guide. I hiked down to the White House Ruin in 2003, one of the most beautiful canyon hikes in northern Arizona outside of the Grand Canyon. Of course, it's hard to tell if this trail is still open to the public without a guide because the park's Web site lacks a ton of basic information. The park map on the Web site implies that the trail remains open.

[Ed: Thanks. I'll check further into the Canyon de Chelly rules pertaining to trail use. Meanwhile, I've edited the answer explanation.]

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