New book explores the life and legacy of Bates Wilson
Jul 31, 2014 | 2530 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The recently released “Blow Sand in His Soul” profiles the life of Bates Wilson and his efforts to establish Canyonlands National Park.
The recently released “Blow Sand in His Soul” profiles the life of Bates Wilson and his efforts to establish Canyonlands National Park.
In honor of the upcoming 50th anniversary of Canyonlands National Park, the Friends of Arches and Canyonlands Parks-the Bates Wilson Legacy Fund has released a newly published book that traces the park’s origins through the story of one man’s “singular devotion” to the landscape of southeastern Utah.

“Blow Sand in his Soul,” written by former Moab resident Jen Jackson Quintano, follows the journey of Bates Wilson as he worked tirelessly, and using his own unique approach, to convince local residents and Washington politicians alike to support the establishment of Canyonlands National Park.

In 1949, Wilson moved to Moab to work as custodian of Arches and Natural Bridges national monuments in Grand and San Juan counties, respectively. The move launched Wilson’s love affair with a million-acre stretch of wild country within the two landmarks and the landscape in between.

Wilson, with his native Western sensibilities, began a campaign of dutch-oven diplomacy to convince local residents and the politicians of the land’s intrinsic worth. Rather than engage in partisan bickering that characterized the land-use debate of his time, Wilson invited the decision-makers to go camping. His preferred town hall meeting was the one he conducted around the campfire, fueled by steak and potatoes. He trusted in the power of the country itself to make the case for its preservation.

Wilson’s common sense approach succeeded. In 1964, Congress established Canyonlands National Park, and today, Wilson is often called the “Father of Canyonlands.”

“Bates was a force of nature, like a river. Or a flash flood,” Quintano writes in the book. “He carved a course through southeast Utah, collecting those who might join him, quietly gaining momentum, leaving a mark.”

The Friends of Arches and Canyonlands Parks-the Bates Wilson Legacy Fund spearheaded the publication of the book. The nonprofit group is partnering with the National Park Service to celebrate the half-century mark for Canyonlands in a series of events, culminating in three days of activities in Moab and at the Needles District in Canyonlands National Park in mid-September.

Friends of Arches and Canyonlands Parks was founded by the family of Bates Wilson to support the Park Service’s mission to protect and preserve by offering programs that embody the stewardship legacy established by Bates Wilson. The group’s mission is to “connect people to place in ways that continue Bates Wilson’s values of exploration, collaboration and stewardship of our Southeast Utah National Parks and Monuments.”

For information about ordering a copy of the book, as well as details of Canyonland’s 50th anniversary, visit

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