Salt Creek is the largest drainage in the Needles district of Canyonlands National Park. The creek supports one of the most important riparian ecosystems in the park. It is also the heart of the Salt Creek National Register Archeological District, the area with the highest recorded density of archeological sites in the park. A tributary canyon contains the spectacular Angel Arch, a well-known geologic formation that for many years has been a destination point for park visitors. In 1998 the U.S. District Court for the State of Utah ruled, in a lawsuit filed by the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, that the National Park Service violated the NPS Organic Act (16 U.S.C. 1 et seq.) by failing to close the upper 8.2 miles (above Peekaboo campsite) of the Salt Creek four-wheel drive road in the 1995 Canyonlands Backcountry Management Plan. The jeep road weaves in and out of the creek, sometimes remaining in the streambed for extended lengths. The court found that vehicles upstream of Peekaboo Spring caused permanent impairment of park resources, and enjoined the NPS from continuing to allow limited use of the area by motorized vehicles. Four-wheel-drive groups appealed the decision, and in 2000 the U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals remanded the case to the district court. The remand included instructions to re-examine the administrative record and consider the new NPS Management Policies in regard to the question of “impairment of park resources or values,” the central issue in the case. With the concurrence of the U.S. District Court of Utah, the NPS has prepared an environmental assessment (EA) to analyze the impacts of a range of alternatives for recreational access to the portion of Salt Creek Canyon from Peekaboo Camp to Angel Arch Canyon (“Middle Salt Creek Canyon”), and to apply the new NPS Management Policies on impairment to the alternatives. The management objective, toward which the EA alternatives are directed, is based on the NPS Organic Act, the act establishing Canyonlands National Park, and the issues on remand to the district court: To provide recreational access to Middle Salt Creek Canyon without major adverse impacts or impairment of the natural and cultural resources. The list of possible management alternatives includes limited year-around vehicle access under the permit system established in the 1995 Backcountry Management Plan (BMP), part-year vehicle access under the permit system, realignment of the existing four-wheel-drive road, year-round prohibitions on motorized vehicles, or a combination of these actions. The three vehicle-access alternatives, each of which would permit vehicle travel through substantial portions of the streambed and riparian area, have been found to cause impairment of park resources or values, which is prohibited by the National Park Service Organic Act. Consequently, an alternative prohibiting motorized vehicles year-round, but permitting access by hiking or pack stock, is identified as the preferred alternative.
National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior and Canyonlands National Park, "Environmental Assessment : Middle Salt Creek Canyon Access Plan Canyonlands National Park, Utah" (2002). Canyonlands Research Bibliography. Paper 226.