Hikers stand atop Covert Arch in Arches National Park. [Fran Barnes/Moab Museum Collection]

The Barnes Collection at the Moab Museum is a treasure trove with tens of thousands of photographs capturing the remote reaches of canyon country. The man behind the camera, Francis A. “Fran” Barnes (1922-2003) was an avid traveler, photographer, and writer who invested most of his life from 1965 onward in documenting the natural wonders of the Moab area with his wife, Terby Barnes. Fran was born on January 31, 1922: 100 years ago this year.

Fran published scores of guidebooks as well as articles for outdoor magazines and columns for prominent newspapers. Longtime Moabites and adventure enthusiasts may be familiar with the series of 46 “Canyon Country” guidebooks Barnes published—many of which are still in wide circulation today. Barnes was also involved in local civic affairs, serving on the Grand County Travel Council and on the Bureau of Land Management’s Advisory Board.

Each book in Barnes’ ”Canyon Country” series covers a topic uniquely related to the region, including off-road vehicle trail guides, mountain biking guides, botanical guides, geologic phenomena, paleontology, and cultural and archaeological history. Many of Fran and Terby’s books are still available for sale in Moab, informing visitors and residents alike about the natural and cultural environment.

After Fran’s passing in 2003, Terby Barnes donated Fran’s collection of photographs and documents to the Moab Museum. Since 2020, the Moab Museum has undertaken the digitization of this photographic collection in collaboration with Southern Utah University’s Special Collections Library and with the financial support of the Utah State Historic Records Advisory Board. Since the fall of 2021, the Grand County Public Library has also been hard at work scanning Barnes Collection photographs, helping to make this incredible collection available to the public online. The writings and photography of Fran Barnes shaped the Moab travel experience indelibly: to explore more of his photographs, visit www.moabmuseum.org.

The Moab Museum is dedicated to sharing stories of the natural and human history of the Moab area. To explore more of Moab’s stories and artifacts, find out about upcoming programs, and become a Member, visit www.moabmuseum.org.