Water resources of part of Canyonlands National Park, southeastern Utah

Open-File Report 72-363
By:  and 



Canyonlands National Park is in about the center of the Canyon Lands section of the Colorado Plateaus physiographic province in southeastern Utah. The part of the park discussed embraces an area of about 400 square miles comprising isolated mesas, precipitous canyons, and dissected broad benches near the confluence of the Green and Colorado Rivers, the only perennial streams in the area. The climate is arid to semiarid; normal annual precipitation ranges from less than 8 to about 10 inches. Potential evapotranspiration is about 41 inches annually.

Geology of the park is characterized by nearly horizontal strata that dip gently northward. Exposed rock formations and deposits range in age from Middle Pennsylvanian to Holocene. Owing to the elevated and deeply dissected topography, only parts of the Cedar Mesa and White Rim Sandstone Members of the Cutler Formation of Permian age have potential for development of wells. Strata above and below them support only small springs, are dry, or contain brine.

In the northwest part of the park, the Green River at Taylor Canyon is a potential source of surface water for public supplies for the Island In The Sky area and a small part of the northwest White Rim area. It will require filtration and treatment before use. In the same area, two unused wells in Taylor Canyon will supply enough water for present requirements from the White Rim Sandstone Member of the Cutler Formation, about 140 gallons per minute combined, but yield mineralized water that will require treatment before use. Springs yielding good water at the Island In The Sky and White Rim are mostly intermittent and too small for public-water supply. Most of the White Rim area is dry, having no usable ground water. In The Needles area, wells provide water of good quality from the Cedar Mesa Sandstone Member of the Cutler Formation. Springs yielding good water in the same area are available for supplementary supplies. West of The Needles, The Grabens area is without springs or potential aquifers bearing usable water.

During 1970 about 510,000 gallons of water was used in Canyonlands National Park. Of this amount, 110,000 gallons was supplied to Island In The Sky by tank truck from a source outside the park, and about 400,000 gallons was withdrawn from the well in use at The Needles. Estimated total annual requirements in 10 years (1980) may be as much as 6 million gallons. Sources of water supplies within the park now in use and potential sources of surface water or ground water outlined by this investigation will meet the estimated requirements. Development of rainfall-collection and cistern-storage systems could furnish small emergency sources of water for waterless areas on the White Rim and in The Grabens.

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Water resources of part of Canyonlands National Park, southeastern Utah
Series title Open-File Report
Series number 72-363
DOI 10.3133/ofr72363
Year Published 1972
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Salt Lake City, UT
Contributing office(s) Utah Water Science Center
Description Report: 75 p.; Plate: 34.32 in. x 43.11 in.
Public Comments Prepared for the U.S. National Park Service
Country United States
State Utah
Other Geospatial Canyonlands National Park
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