Explained: Here’s what’s under the surface at St. George Regional Airport

 / St. George Spectrum & Daily News

An airport runway that was expected to last 20 years will be torn apart and redone after less than half of that time has passed, generating the obvious question: How could this have happened?

After only eight years of use, the runway at the St. George Regional Airport is scheduled to be excavated, repaired and repaved — causing the airport to close its doors for four months this summer.

St. George Regional will close May 29 while an excavation team digs 17 feet underneath the runway to remove Southern Utah’s infamous and destructive blue clay from beneath its surface. The project is expected to last around 120 days, with the grand reopening scheduled for Sept. 26.

Bike Mag: Southwest Utah’s rise to riding fame

Devon O’Neil / BikeMag.com

As I climbed out of a truck in Utah’s Gooseberry Mesa parking lot, toothy, redrock peaks filled the view to the north and east, highlighted by the world-famous skyline of Zion National Park. I’d been told to expect a two- to three-hour ride that was rugged and technical. But perusing our flat surroundings made me skeptical.

Perhaps sensing my apprehension, Jake Weber, a retired Army combat engineer-turned guide with Utah Mountain Biking Adventures, offered a measure of reassurance. “We get a lot of people who show up and say they want to ride 30 miles every day of their trip,” he told me. “But after about 15 miles on their first day, they’re like, ‘Yeah, we’re good,’ and they’re ready for a beer at the trailhead.”

Read the full article on BikeMag.com

Nat Geo Traveler: Another Side of Utah

Zion National Park and its gateway, Springdale, are featured in National Geographic‘s Summer Issue 2018/2019 edition. The article, “Another Side of Utah,” pinpoints Zion as a stunning winter travel destination, and calls out surrounding opportunities like mountain biking, canyoneering, and jeep and helicopter tours.

Subscribe to Nat Geo Traveler

Old fire station in downtown St. George to be converted into brewery and pub

Joseph Witham / St. George News

A Southern Utah-based brewing company has received approval to open up a new brewery and pub in downtown St. George.

During a public meeting Thursday evening, the St. George City Council unanimously approved an application by Zion Brewing Company for a conditional use permit to convert the now-vacant Fire Station 2 at 150 N. Main Street into a brewery.

Old downtown Fire Station 2, St. George, Utah, Feb. 21, 2019 | Photo by Joseph Witham, St. George News

Old downtown Fire Station 2, St. George, Utah, Feb. 21, 2019 | Photo by Joseph Witham, St. George News

The city is going to sell the building to Zion Brewing proprietor Brooks Pace, St. George Communications Director David Cordero said.

The fire station had recently become defunct, and equipment and personnel were moved to more modern facilities. Plans are in place to build a new fire station elsewhere to replace it.

Read the full article at St. George News

Cycling Hub: St. George

Studded with sprawling mesas and red sandstone cliffs, the countryside surrounding St. George is straight out of “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” literally. The classic Western, shot near St. George in 1969, isn’t St. George’s only claim to fame; the town of over 80,000 is just 30 miles from Zion National Park. It’s also adjacent to a half a dozen other adventure destinations, including Snow Canyon State Park, Red Cliffs Desert Reserve, and Gooseberry Mesa. Time to grab your bike, there’s a lot to see.

Road biking Snow Canyon State ParkFor a pleasant warm-up, head into Snow Canyon State Park for a 20-mile loop. From downtown St. George, jump on your bike and head north on S.R. 18 to the junction with Snow Canyon Parkway, and hang a left. Stay in the narrow shoulder for just over four miles. This will take you towards the entrance to the park on Snow Canyon Drive.

You gain just over 1,300 feet of vertical in the first 11 miles of this loop, but don’t worry, the downhill cruise begins when you meet back up with S.R. 18 at mile 11.5. As a bonus, the shoulder widens considerably as you head back into town. It’s good to have the extra room — the views of Snow Canyon’s vermilion cliffs may drive you to distraction.

If you are looking for a challenge, follow the century-length course of the annual Spring Tour de St. George, which skirts the western edge of Snow Canyon State Park, swoops down to the Utah-Arizona border, passes through Sand Hollow and Quail Creek state parks, and finishes alongside Red Cliffs National Conservation Area.

Boasting an average 300 days of annual sunshine, it’s no surprise that St. George trends significantly warmer than the rest of the state. Its arid desert climate is emblematic of the desert southwest, averaging in the high nineties and hotter in the summer months. Wherever you’re riding, plan to bring plenty of water, and consider acclimating to the dry heat with shorter loops before taking on a big day.

Accommodations and Bike Shops

Thanks to its proximity to outstanding road and mountain biking, St. George is home to many bike shops, plus an all-around outdoor gear supplier, the Desert Rat. The town is supremely bikeable, too: its easy-to-navigate bike routes and trails system will get you nearly anywhere in St. George, including lodging and the myriad restaurants on Main Street. There are dozens of budget-friendly accommodations in town; those looking for a luxury getaway should head north from town toward Snow Canyon State Park for a stay at the upscale Inn at Entrada.

Extend the Adventure

When you’re ready for a break from saddle time, you won’t need to look far for rest day activities: In addition to the aforementioned state parks and monuments, visitors can check out one of St. George’s five museums, including a children’s museum. For an adventurous, family-friendly outdoor alternative, head to the Warner Valley Dinosaur Track Site trail, just 15 miles southeast of St. George proper, where over 400 perfectly preserved dinosaur tracks have been discovered. Complete the dinosaur diversion with a visit to an excellent museum, the Dinosaur Discovery Site at Johnson Farm.

Want to check out St. George’s other outdoorsy offerings? There’s plenty of rock climbing (mostly sport) and canyoneering on the sandstone in the surrounding cliffs, not to mention a lifetime’s worth of singletrack — often favorably compared to the mountain biking scene near Moab.

Written by Utah Office of Tourism.

Featured image provided by Dave Becker

Dinosaur Discovery Site at Johnson Farm

Looking out across the floodplain of the Virgin River in southwestern Utah, I imagine that I’m looking at a great lake. It’s the late Triassic and the water is beginning to dry out. Turning west, I imagine an ancient shoreline of a Paleozoic ocean — now I’ve gone back too far in time, but it’s important to consider eras of dramatic changes that have culminated to this moment. Hundreds of millions of years all leading to this. The city of St. George spirals out in almost every direction from the red rock outpost, laying its grid over the desert to tame it in a way certain predecessors of this land never could. Dinosaurs weren’t exactly “civilized,” by our definition of the word.

First, a little background for the geology buffs.

In 2000, a local optometrist Dr. Sheldon Johnson was leveling a hill on his property in St. George when he found a thick level of sandstone as he removed layers of sedimentary rock. As he removed large blocks of rocks, Dr. Johnson discovered a fully preserved, three-dimensional dinosaur track that was visible in both the brittle clay below and also on the bottom of the sandstone block. The track was just one of the thousands made by dinosaurs and other animals almost 200 million years ago on the shores of an ancient lake near St. George and within the broader Colorado Plateau and surrounding areas that are world-renowned for the high concentration of Triassic-Jurassic fossil resources.

Experts converged on the site to verify and reveal an extensive “trackway” found on the farm. Realizing that these dinosaur tracks would be best served if they were maintained for scientific and educational purposes, Dr. Johnson and his wife LaVerna donated the found tracks and arranged for the land to be cared for by the City of St. George. This is now the museum found here today at the St. George Dinosaur Discovery Site at Johnson Farm.

But it’s not just the in situ dinosaur tracks that draw local and international geology enthusiasts year after year. Many other fossils have been found in the area (like fish bones, dinosaur bones, leaves and plant seeds, and aquatic animal shells) that have allowed paleontologists to reconstruct the approximately 200-million-year-old ecosystem, with a clarity that some call “unprecedented” and a “rarity for rocks of any time period.”

The museum isn’t just for geologists. Families and children will have a great time here following dinosaur tracks along the ground, making tracks on their own, uncovering replica fossils or putting together dinosaur puzzles.

The Dinosaur Discovery Site at Johnson Farm is also great for solo travelers with a copy of “Roadside Geology of Utah” who are looking to deepen their appreciation of a place whose red rock splendor is so visible it begs a closer look.

 

Plan Your Trip

St. George is the largest city in southwestern Utah and is home to a wide range of great restaurants, shopping, and other city amenities. The city is a gateway to some of Utah’s most famous parks and destinations. Many visitors travel to the area for Zion National Park, but full vacation itineraries are easily created by including state parks such as Snow CanyonSand Hollow and Gunlock, and vast outdoor landscapes like Red Cliffs Desert Reserve.

 

To find events at the museum during your visit, check out the museum website.

The St. George Dinosaur Discovery Site at Johnson Farm is located at 2180 East Riverside Drive, St. George, UT 84790.

Hours Open seven days a week, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The museum is open for all summer holidays, including Memorial Day, July 4th, Pioneer Day (July 24th), and Labor Day. Closed on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas and New Year’s Day; and shortened hours on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.

Admission is $8 for adults, $7 for seniors, $4 for children ages 4-16, and children 3 and under are free.

GPS Coordinates: 37.101096, -113.5369087

Written by Utah Office of Tourism

Featured image provided by Courtesy of Utah Office of Tourism

The Desert Southwest Tour: St. George to Zion

Why should Moab have all the two-wheeled fun? Southwestern Utah boasts some of the best desert cycling in the state, and it’s all just a stone’s throw from some of America’s most dramatic national parks. For this tour, stock up on supplies in the road cycling hub of St. George — the town of 80,000 is home to plenty of grocery stores and three bike shops.

The desert southwest isn’t all sandy washes and red cliffs: the St. George area is colloquially known as “Color Country” for good reason. Snow Canyon State Park, just 11 miles from St. George and the start of a phenomenal 65.3-mile tour of the area, features red and white Navajo sandstone formations, black lava rock, and countless species of vibrant flora and fauna.

The Tour

Situated at the intersection of the Mojave Desert, the Great Basin, and the Colorado Plateau, Snow Canyon was originally inhabited by Ancestral Puebloans, who hunted and gathered in the canyon thousands of years ago. Begin your desert southwest journey by camping at one of the park’s tent sites ($20/night) — in the morning, you can explore the area where classic Westerns like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and Jeremiah Johnson were filmed and, if you’re lucky, spot a Gila monster. Several concessioners also offer guided climbs and horseback tours of the park.

From Snow Canyon, head through nearby Ivins and St. George and onto the Virgin River Trail. This paved, well-maintained bike route winds along the Virgin River and provides access to Sand Hollow State Park, 27 miles from Snow Canyon. There are several campground options at Sand Hollow, but cyclists looking for a quieter experience should head to the primitive camping area ($15/night), where no motorized vehicles are allowed. To cool off after a long ride in the desert heat, head to the beach at Sand Hollow Reservoir to swim or rent a kayak.

It’s a little under 10 miles from Sand Hollow to Hurricane (insider tip: locals pronounce it “HUR-a-kin”). Here, cyclists can stock up on supplies before heading toward Zion National Park on Utah S.R. 9 — this scenic highway provides the first glimpse of Zion’s jaw-dropping rock formations. This 38-mile leg gains just over 1,200 feet of elevation.

The South and Watchman Campgrounds (both $20/night for tent-only sites) are the closest Zion campsites to the park’s Springdale Entrance. Camping within the park gives cyclists, who pay a discounted park entrance fee of just $12 per person, a head start to maximize time in Zion.

From the Zion Canyon Visitor Center, take the 1.4-mile paved Pa’rus Trail to Canyon Junction, where the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive begins. Beyond Canyon Junction, no private vehicles are allowed, which is great news for road cyclists: Aside from professional shuttle drivers, you’ll have the roadway to yourself. The nine-mile one-way ride to the end of Floor of the Valley Road, as it’s also known, is breathtaking. Plan to bring a bike lock and check out some of the area’s hiking trails, which vary in difficulty and exposure. Adventurous spirits won’t want to miss the hike to Angels Landing, one of the most iconic views in Zion National Park. Bring a change of shoes, too — the steep, rocky trail to the summit has sheer drop-offs and shouldn’t be attempted in clipless shoes.

Travelers can opt to spend another day in Zion, where there’s no shortage of hikes and scenic views. A ride up to the Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel and back will mean negotiating heavy vehicle traffic, but views of the park are unparalleled. In any case, the ride back to St. George trends downhill and can be comfortably split into two easy days.

Pro Tips and Map

Regardless of the timing of your visit, the desert is a wild place. Temperatures can soar into the triple digits during the summer months, so plan to carry plenty of water. Thanks to its high desert status, though, the weather also turns quickly: It’s not uncommon to experience snow flurries in late August and beyond. The desert southwest is prone to wind, triggered by weather patterns making their way into Utah — dust storms kicked up by high winds can seriously reduce visibility, so avoid heavily trafficked areas and take shelter if there’s wind in the forecast.

Here is a map of the route for further details.

Written by Visit Utah for Utah Office of Tourism.

Featured image provided by Dave Becker