Welcome to the Dixie National Forest

 Photograph collage

The Dixie National Forest, with headquarters in Cedar City, Utah, occupies almost two million acres and stretches for about 170 miles across southern Utah. It straddles the divide between the Great Basin and the Colorado River.

Elevations vary from 2,800 feet near St. George, Utah to 11,322 feet at Blue Bell Knoll on Boulder Mountain. The southern rim of the Great Basin, near the Colorado River, provides spectacular scenery. Colorado River canyons are made up of many-colored cliffs and steep-walled gorges.

The Forest is divided into four geographic areas. High altitude forests in gently rolling hills characterize the Markagunt, Pansaugunt, and Aquarius Plateaus. Boulder Mountain, one of the largest high-elevation plateaus in the United States, is dotted with hundreds of small lakes 10,000 to 11,000 feet above sea level.

The Forest has many climatic extremes. Precipitation ranges from 10 inches in the lower elevations to more than 40 inches per year near Brian Head Peak. At the higher elevations, most of the annual precipitation falls as snow. Thunderstorms are common during July and August and produce heavy rains. In some areas, August is the wettest month of the year.

Temperature extremes can be impressive, with summer temperatures exceeding 100 degrees Fahrenheit near St. George and winter lows exceeding -30 degrees Fahrenheit on the plateau tops.

The vegetation of the Forest grades from sparse, desert-type plants at the lower elevations to stands of low-growing pinyon pine and juniper dominating the mid-elevations. At the higher elevations, aspen and conifers such as pine, spruce, and fir predominate.

History

Southern Utah is rich in historical lore. The first inhabitants, the Indians, had been in the area thousands of years prior to the white man. The archeological record--pictographs, petroglyphs, dwellings, and artifacts--attests to the presence of these native populations. Evidence shows an early Desert-Archaid culture developed, one of hunters and gatherers. Later cultures to follow were the Fremont and Anasazi, more sedentary and mainly agricultural. The latter, known as the "Ancient Ones" lived in pueblos and for protection from marauding tribes and the elements they often built cliff dwellings high on the inaccessible canyon walls of Colorado River tributaries. This group vanished before the coming of the white man; but their stone huts, locally known as "Moqui Houses" remain in the high ledges. Many of these "Houses" are visible from the roads near Escalante.

The first white men were met by the Pah-Utes or Paiute Indians. This nation of many clans ranged the country from Utah Lake south to Navajo-land. In the beginning these Indians posed a serious threat to the settlers. Father Silvestre Veles de Escalante, a courageous Spanish priest, was the first white explorer to record his travels through Southern Utah, while searching for an overland route to California. He described the Dixie geography in 1776. Other Spaniards followed Escalante's footsteps, and by 1800, the Old Spanish Trail was an established route. It somewhat paralleled present Highway 91 for miles through Southern Utah. Used for many years by the Spanish, who traded horses for Indian slaves along the route, it was known also as the Slave Trail.

Between about 1835 and 1850, trappers, traders, gold hunters, and adventurers traveled this road regularly. In 1844, John C. Fremont found this to be a "well-defined trail" over which travel was possible with little difficulty, except for marauding Piute Indians.

Dixie National Forest Heritage Program - Southern Utah is rich in historical lore. The archaeological record - pictographs, petrogylphs, dwellings, and artifacts - attests to the presence of prehistoric and historic peoples. It is the objective of the heritage program at the Dixie National Forest to help interpret and preserve these irreplacable clues to our shared heritage.

Recreation Opportunities

Three National Parks and two National Monuments are adjacent to the Forest. The scenic beauty for which these areas were set aside prevails over much of the Forest. Red sandstone formations of Red Canyon rival those of Bryce Canyon National Park. Hell's Backbone Bridge and the view into Death Hollow are breathtaking. From the top of Powell Point, it is possible to see for miles into three different states. Boulder Mountain and the many different lakes provide opportunities for hiking, fishing, and viewing outstanding scenery.

Recreational opportunities on the Forest are highly diversified. Visitors may enjoy camping, hunting, viewing scenery, hiking, horseback riding, and fishing in very primitive settings away from the sight and sounds of motorized vehicles. Others, who prefer more developed areas and less primitive conditions, may enjoy vehicle-based activities such as camping, picnicking, resort lodging, recreation residence, sledding, skiing, hunting, gathering forest products, viewing interpretive exhibits, hiking, viewing scenery, driving for pleasure, snowmobiling, biking, horseback riding, canoeing, sailing, swimming, water skiing, and fishing.

  • Wilderness: The Forest has 83,000 acres of wilderness in three areas: Pine Valley, Box-Death Hollow, and Ashdown Gorge. Pine Valley and Ashdown Gorge offer opportunities for solitude, horseback riding, and hiking. Box-Death Hollow offers opportunities for solitude and hiking, but the terrain is much too rough for horses.
  • Nature Study: The Dixie National Forest supports a wide variety of wildlife species that provide many hours of viewing and enjoyment for Forest visitors, in addition to playing important roles in the Forest ecosystem. The variety of terrain on the Forest which varies from gentle plateaus to rocky cliffs furnishes habitat for many different wildlife species such as the cougar, bobcat, blue grouse, golden eagle, cottontail rabbit, wild turkey, antelope, and the Utah prairie dog.
  • Hunting: Big game hunting has traditionally been the major wildlife attraction on the Forest, although recently there has been an increased interest in viewing and photographing all types of wildlife. Mule deer are harvested on every District, and elk are expanding their range on the Forest.
  • Fishing: Good fishing is found in the many lakes, reservoirs, and streams located on the Forest. Gamefish include brook, rainbow, cutthroat, and brown trout. These lakes and streams also provide important habitat for many species of wildlife other than gamefish, and the Forest visitor can often observe many interesting birds and mammals next to a lake, stream, or pond.
  • Camping: Developed facilities are available for those who prefer to have drinking water and restrooms. There are 26 campgrounds and 5 picnic sites on the Forest. In addition, the Forest has several group camping areas and group picnic areas available for those who are traveling together, and would like to camp or picnic as a group. The group sites can be reserved by calling ahead. Some of the campgrounds are located near lakes and reservoirs (Panguitch Lake, Navajo Lake, Enterprise Reservoir). These areas have boating and fishing opportunities available.
  • Winter Sports: Opportunities for winter sports, such as cross skiing and snowmobiling are available in many of the areas. The Forest works with the State Parks to maintain some trails for skiing and snowmobiling. There are also over a thousand miles of timber roads that can be used for these sports. There is also downhill skiing at Brian Head Resort, which is located within the Cedar City Ranger District, Dixie National Forest.

Multiple Use Management

The Forest Service is charged by Congress to manage the National Forests for a variety of public benefits. "Multiple use" is the key phrase. During your visit to Utah and the Dixie National Forest area, you might encounter evidence of many management activities. Wildlife habitat projects including aspen regeneration, chaining, and controlled burning, to retain openings are often visible. You will see cattle and sheep grazing, mining, and timber activities.

Approximately 15 percent of the Dixie is used to produce timber. These lands are dedicated to this purpose. However, many other activities are taking place on the forest such as wildlife, range, recreation, and minerals. Many of the roads developed to remove timber from the land also provide opportunities for gathering firewood, hunting, driving for pleasure, or snowmobiling and cross-country skiing in the winter.