Dixie National Forest

Dixie National Forest is a United States National Forest located in Utah with headquarters located in Cedar City. It takes up 2 million acres and stretches for about 170 miles across southern Utah. As it is the largest national forest in Utah, it straddles the divide between the Great Basin and the Colorado River. It is located in parts of Garfield, Iron, Kane, Wayne, Washington, and Piute counties. The majority of the forest lies in Garfield County. There are local ranger district offices located in Cedar City, Panguitch, St. George, Escalante, and Teasdale.

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

The forest is split up into four geographic areas. High altitude forest in the gently rolling hills characterize the Markagunt, Aquarius, and Paunsaugunt Plateaus. Boulder Mountain, one of the largest high-elevation plateaus in the United States, is spotted with hundreds of minute lakes 10,000 to 11,000 feet above sea level. The forest incorporates the Pine Valley Mountains that are located north of St. George.

This forest has a lot of climatic extremes. Precipitation ranges from 10 inches within the lower elevations to over 40 inches per year near the Brian Head Peak. At the higher elevations, the majority of the annual precipitation falls as snow. Thunderstorms are common during August and July and offer heavy rains. In some areas, August is the wettest month of the year.

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

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

The Dixie Forest Reserve was established on September 25th of 1905 by the General Land Office. The name was derived from the local description of the warm southern portion of Utah as “Dixie”. In 1906, the U.S. Forest Service assumed responsibility for the lands, and on March 4th of 1907, it became a National Forest. The western portion of Sevier National Forest was added on July 1st of 1922, and all of Powell National Forest on October 1st of 1944.

There are four officially designated wilderness areas in Dixie National Forest that are part of the National Wilderness Preservation System; Ashdown Gorge Wilderness, Cottonwood Forest Wilderness, Box-Death Hollow Wilderness, and Pine Valley Mountain Wilderness.

Image Caption: Scenic Byway 12, Red Canyon, Dixie National Forest, Utah, USA. Credit: Joseph Cesare/Wikipedia (CC BY 3.0)