Wilderness is a word of many meanings. From a place to be feared to a place to be revered, wilderness evokes images of wild animals, jagged mountains, vast prairies or deserts. For some, wilderness offers physical challenges, solitude or a respite from a complex, technological society.
On September 3, 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Wilderness Act which legally defined wilderness as "..an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain." Just nine days later, on September 12, 1964, President Johnson signed the legislation establishing Canyonlands National Park.
A prime architect in both pieces of legislation was Stewart Udall, who served as Secretary of the Interior from 1961 to 1969. On a flight over this area in the early 1960s, then Bureau of Reclamation Chief Floyd Dominy showed Udall where he wanted to build the "next" big dam: just below the confluence of the Colorado and Green rivers. But where Dominy saw a reservoir, Udall saw a national park. Today, over eighty percent of Canyonlands is managed to preserve its wilderness values.