The Canyonlands Research Center Study Area is located in the heart of the Colorado Plateau and comprises about 840,000 acres of private and public lands, including The Nature Conservancy's Dugout Ranch. The site rises from the Colorado River at an elevation of 3,600 ft, to the Abajo Mountains in the Manti-La Sal National Forest at 12,000 ft.
These lands have experienced a variety of historical land uses, ranging from grazing, mining, and tourism, to preservation. Canyonlands National Park acts as an excellent baseline for comparison with the adjoining multiple-use administered lands. In addition, both National Park Service and BLM lands contain pristine areas that have received little, if any, livestock or human use.