The Needles District showcases some of the finest rock sculptures in Canyonlands National Park. Spires, arches, and monoliths appear in almost any direction you look. Prehistoric ruins and rock art exist in a greater variety and quantity than anywhere else in the park. Year-round springs and streams bring greenery to the desert.
BLM Newspaper Rock Historical Monument
Although not in the park itself, Newspaper Rock lies just 150 feet off Highway 211 on the way to the Needles District. At Newspaper Rock, a profusion of petroglyphs depict human figures, animals, birds, and abstract designs. These represent 2,000 years of human history during which archaic tribes and Anasazi, Fremont, Paiute, Navajo, and white travelers have passed through Indian Creek Canyon.
The patterns on the smooth sandstone rock face stand out clearly, thanks to a coating of dark desert varnish. A short nature trail introduces you to the area's desert and riparian vegetation. Picnic areas and a primitive campground (no water, no fee) lie along Indian Creek across the highway.
The cracks in the rock walls around Indian Creek offer world-class rock climbing. (Climbers should track down a copy of Indian Creek: A Climbing Guide, by David Bloom, for details and lots of pictures.) From U.S. 191 between Moab and Monticello, turn west on Highway 211 and travel 12 miles to Newspaper Rock.
A general store just outside the park boundary offers a campground ($12 tent or RV without hookups), groceries, ice, gas, propane, a snack bar, showers, jeep rentals and tours, and scenic flights. Call or write ahead, if possible, to arrange for jeep tours and scenic flights (P.O. Box 1107, Monticello, UT 84535, 435/979-4007). The season at Needles Outpost is mid-March-late October. The turnoff from Highway 211 is one mile before the Needles visitor center.
The Needles Visitor Center (western end of Hwy. 211, 435/259-4711, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. daily mid-Mar.-late Oct.; 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. daily late Oct.-mid-Mar.) has information on hiking, back roads, and other aspects of travel in the Needles, as well as backcountry permits (required for all overnight stays in the backcountry), maps, brochures, and books. Take a moment to look at the little computer-animated slide show on the region's geology—its graphics make it all clear! When the office isn't open, you'll find information posted outside on the bulletin board.
A road to Squaw Flat Campground ($15 fee mid-Mar.-Sept., free Oct.-Feb.) turns left 2.7 miles past the ranger station. The campground is about 0.5 mile in from the main road and has water mid-March-September; water can be obtained year-round at the visitor center. Rangers present evening programs at the campfire circle on Loop A from spring through autumn. The Needles Outpost, just outside the park boundary, has a campground ($12 tent or RV without hookups).
© W.C. McRae and Judy Jewell from Moon Utah, 9th Edition