Approvals for Access to Red Butte Canyon Research Natural Area

Red Butte Canyon is immediately adjacent to the University of Utah campus, and hosts a diversity of research projects conducted by scientists from the U, from other universities, and federal and state agencies.  Research has been conducted for many decades in the canyon.  General information about the canyon, including geology, hydrology, climate, and flora and fauna is available at https://redbuttecanyon.net/.

Access to Red Butte Canyon

The University of Utah owns land that surrounds a portion of Red Butte Creek as it exits the canyon and flows through campus.  Most of the canyon is public land managed by the USDA Forest Service with a special designation as a Research Natural Area (RNA).  Information about RNAs can be found at https://www.fs.fed.us/rmrs/research-natural-areas. There is a reservoir along Red Butte Creek, and land up to and including the reservoir is owned and managed by Salt Lake City Department of Public Utilities (SLCDPU).

Research and education within the RNA are allowed, but there are a number of restrictions.

In accordance with Forest Service regulations, the RNA is closed to public entry.  Permits are required for all activities within the RNA, including a single class field trip.

General information about allowed activities and how to apply for a permit can be found here https://www.fs.fed.us/rmrs/using-rnas.

There are 3 levels of approval needed for access to the canyon:

  1. District Ranger, Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, Salt Lake Ranger District  (local approval)
  2. Rocky Mountain Research Station (RNA approval)
  3. Salt Lake City Department of Public Utilities (SLDPU)

The first two approvals come from a single permit to the USDA Forest Service, and are submitted to the local District Ranger, who after approval will send on for RNA approval.  The third requires a separate application to SLCDPU. Due to demands on the Forest Service staff (including increased wildfires), it may take several months for approval to be granted.

If you are a student, faculty or staff member from the U and you want to apply for a permit, please coordinate with Dave Bowling, School of Biological Sciences.  He can provide information about the canyon, what is and is not allowed, and help with your permit application.

The two permits should be submitted together, using the templates provided below.

USDA Forest Service permit application  (Download and open with current Adobe Acrobat software.)

SLCDPU permit application

For the SLCDPU permit, all applicants must submit

  1. Permit Application Type – Specify if:
    • a. education/field trip -or-
    • b. research
  2. Applicant Information:
    • Name of institution
    • Name of research lead or field trip organizer
    • Email contact
    • Phone contact
    • Address
    • Website, if relevant.
  3. Duration of research project or activity (desired day of fieldtrip, etc)

4. US Forest Service permit – If applicable – for any activities on USFS lands.

Applications for research must also include

  1. Description of research or activity
  2. Project staff to be permitted: Include a list of all staff desiring access with accompanying photos, names and institutional affiliation.
  3. General schedule of access and research: times/dates/etc.
  4. Map of research locations: Include GPS locations of research sites.

Any application missing information from this list will be considered incomplete.

The phone number for the Forest Service general office is (801) 733-2660.