Wild Lands of the West | The BLM, National Geographic Magazine: Dune Riders

ATV's and motorcycle ride vehicles down steep orange slopes.

Four-wheelers and motorcycles crest the top of a dune and head down a steep enbankment in Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park. Navajo sandstone eroded to form these unique colors and the only major sand dune field on the Colorado Plateau in Southwest Utah. It is believed that winds passing through a notch between Moquith and Moccasin Mountains eroded the stone and blew the sand to form the 15,000-year-old dunes.

The wilderness landscape is both playground and battleground as off-road enthusiasts fight for wide-open access and environmentalists fight to protect rare plant and animal species. Wilderness study areas in the dunes are comprimised as drivers cut through delicate vegetation, cutting paths further and further into previously undisturbed land.

Off-roading vehicles are replacing cattle drives as the most to blame for western dust storms, according to geologists with the U.S. Geological Survey. Other scientists with the Center for Snow and Avalanche Studies see relationships between the dust and snow melt on the high peaks of the Rocky Mountains. The dust potenially accelerates the rate and timing of snow melt in crucial watersheds.

The 1,200-acre state park located near Kanab was created when the land was bought in 1963 from the Bureau of Land Management, which still maintains acres surrounding the park. Off-road vehicle enthusiasts gather to drive their All Terrain Vehicles and sand rails, camping on the dry lake.