by Alex Gugel , all rights reserved
Official Brochure of Zion National Park (NP) in Utah. Published by the National Park Service (NPS).
Zion Zion National Park Utah National Park Service U.S. Department of the Interior All this is the music of waters. John Wesley Powell, 1895 Large photo: Towers of the Virgin and The West Temple © TOM BEAN Wrought by Water multiplies with each slope, aspect, and soil type, with each minute change in precipitation or tempera ture. Add to these infuences species from nearby ecosystems, and Zion becomes an assemblage of plants, and thus of animals, found nowhere else exactly like this. Although the southwestern desert may look homo geneous, each fold, wrinkle, bend, slope, mesa top, and canyon bottom creates its unique conditions. This un likely desert harbors a mosaic of envi ronments, each fnetuned to place. Welcome to the one called Zion. More than the river’s music and the soaring heights alone, Zion’s nature GREAT D A R s Pink Clif f Zion National Whi e Cliff n Ca Vi r n gi Ri n n li s ver Ver milio n Cliffs th 3,100 ft 945 m Zion • COLORADO PLATEAU NAVAJO SANDSTONE Stratigraphy, The Kolob Canyons and Hurricane Clifs (photo above and diagram at left) are at the western edge of the massive, uplifted Colorado Plateau (map at left). Zion Canyon Kayenta mudstone features dinosaur tracks. KAYENTA FORMATION Zion. These rocks formed in environ Lower Moenave deposits testify to pooling waters; upper ones indicate swiftmoving foods. MOENAVE FORMATION ments as varied as sand dunes and CHINLE FORMATION Chinle Formation shales are soft and contain petrifed wood. PETRIFIED FOREST MEMBER © DAViD PETTiT Shinarump Conglomerate is composed of varied sizes of eroded Moenkopi rubble. SHINARUMP CONGLOMERATE MOENKOPI FORMATION Westward expansion eventually brought new settlers to the canyon. In the 1860s, early Mormon pioneers came to the region and built small communities and farmed the river terraces. Through hard work and faith, the new residents endured in a landscape where fash foods de stroyed towns and drought burned crops. The same threats exist today, but Zion daily draws new explorers to experience the beauty and the sanctuary of this place that countless generations have considered home. Zion’s beauty and bounty have beckoned to humans over a great span of time. This corn and its storage jar, found in the park, are over 1,000 years old. NPS LiBRARY OF CONGRESS as Ancestral Puebloans. The diverse geological setting gave them a com bination rare in deserts: terraces to grow food, a river for water, and an adequate growing season. On the Colorado Plateau, crops grow best between 5,000 and 7,000 feet of ele vation, which makes Zion’s elevations nearly ideal. But drought, resource depletion, and migrations eventually decreased the Ancestral Puebloans’ dominance. The Southern Paiute peo ple who followed brought traditions suited to the harsh desert climate and thrived here. Virgin River The Moenkopi Formation records a shallow sea withdrawing, so the marine fossils differ in its bottom and top layers. NPS In a Haven of Habitats People have occupied the landscape of what is now Zion National Park for thousands of years. Zion’s frst resi dents tracked mammoths, camels, and other mammals though open desert and sheltered canyons. With climate change, disease, and overhunting, these animals died out 8,000 years ago. Hunters adapted by hunting smaller animals and gathering food. As resources kept diminishing, people adjusted to suit their location. One desert culture, evident here still, evolved over the next 1,500 years as a community of farmers now known The Vermilion Clifs, White Clifs, and Pink Clifs (diagram at left) are part of the Grand Staircase, the southwestern edge of the Colorado Plateau. The Bryce Canyon and Cedar Breaks amphitheaters are etched into the Pink Clifs at the top of the Grand Staircase. Navajo sandstone’s sweeping lines of contrasting color record the move ments of sand dunes. the study of rock layers, reveals the relative age of the rocks before you at s yo Park ff Nor Zio © TOM TiLL Kolob Canyons TEMPLE CAP FORMATION shallow sea bottoms. Bryce Canyon National Park Cedar Breaks National Monument rric a n e C Long before today’s landscape even appeared, streams, oceans, deserts, and volcanos deposited thousands of feet of mud, lime, sand, and ash. The immense pressure and heat of accu mulating sediments turned lower lay ers to stone. Later, underground forces uplifted the Colorado Plateau, a 130,000squaremile mass of rock, over 10,000 feet above sea level. Rain’s watery fngers then worked the Plateau’s minute cracks, loosening grains and widening fractures—and eroding today’s mighty canyons. These processes continue; rivers still deposit sediments that turn to stone, earthquakes still punctuate the Pla teau’s upward journey, and erosion pries rockfalls from Zion’s seemingly immutable cliffs. Eventually, this beautiful canyon will melt away and others will form. All it takes is time. DESERT 11,307 ft 3,446 m LO Colorado Plateau waters run. Zion’s gathered waters, known as the Virgin River, traverse Mojave Desert lands and join the Colorado River in Lake Mead’s handmade basin before com pleting their Pacifcbound journey. O Water creates emerald oases of lush plants in an otherwise red desert landscape. Red rocks of a remarkable slot canyon reveal how rushing waters forcefully shaped its narrow and twisting walls. Tinted blue by sky, winter’s snow highlights the landscape, and then melts to feed scouring river torrents in spring. AU Hu It’s ironic, in this seemingly unending desert, that water creates most of what we see. North of Zion, rain fall ing on the 11,000foothigh Colorado Plateau races downhill, slices Zion’s relatively soft layers, and pushes its debris off the Plateau’s southern edge. This edge is not abrupt, but it steps down in a series of cliffs and slopes known as the Grand Staircase. Above Zion, topping the Staircase, Bryce Canyon’s crenellated edges form as water trickles off the Plateau. Below Zion, Grand Canyon forms the lowest rung into which 90 percent of P TE CO Geologic Contrasts Create Diversity BASIN LA © FRED HiRSCHMANN Green canyons, red clifs, blue skies: Zion’s colors can stop you in your tracks , as the three photos at left show. © TOM TiLL Everything in Zion takes life from the Virgin River’s scarce desert waters. Water fows, and solid rock melts into cliffs and towers. Landscape changes as canyons deepen to create forested highlands and lowland deserts. A rib bon of green marks the river’s course as diverse plants and animals take shelter and thrive in this canyon oasis. From the beginning people sought this place, this sanctuary in the desert’s dry reaches. The very name Zion, meaning ”promised land,” evokes its signifcance. © LAURENCE PARENT Immutable yet ever changing, the cliffs of Zion stand resolute, a glow ing presence in late day, a wild calm. Melodies of waters soothe desert parched ears, streams twinkle over stone, wren song cascades from red rock cliffs, cottonwood leaves jitter on the breeze. But when lightning fashes waterfalls erupt from dry cliffs, and foods fash down water less canyons exploding log jams, hurl ing boulders, croaking wild joyous ness, and dancing stone and water and time. Zion is alive with move ment, a river of life always here and always changing. In the 1800s, popular artist Thomas Moran captured the majesty of Zion Canyon (left) that sparked making it a park and a premier American vacation destination (far left in 1929). Water both fashions beauty and supports the richness that makes Zion such a haven of habitats. Zion’s Natural Diversity Quaking aspen Mountain lion GERAlD & BUFF CORSI © CAlIFORNIA ACADEMY OF SCIENCES Tarantula Desert tortoise Canyon treefrog Black-chinned hummingbird © STEPHEN O. MUSkIE SCIENCES © FRED HIRSCHMANN Prince’s plume Colorado columbine NPS RED ClIFFS DESERT RESERVE © lARRY UlRICH Pallid bat with scorpion RIVER Peregrine falcon Elk © GEORGE H.H. HUEY CANYON GERAlD & BUFF CORSI © CAlIFORNIA ACADEMY OF SCIENCES NPS GERAlD & BUFF CORSI © CAlIFORNIA ACADEMY OF SCIENCES Steller’s jay GERAlD & BUFF CORSI © CAlIFORNIA ACADEMY OF That’s also true away from the river, where aridity has real meaning. Zion Canyon’s annual precipitation may total a mere 15 inches. This national park is beautiful but not pristine. Research shows that 150 years of farming, grazing, and recreation changed Zion’s environment. Exotic species like tamarisk and cheatgrass replace native willow and native grasses. It is the mission of the National Park Service to provide sanctuary for and reinvigorate Zion’s remaining diversity. Although most park species are not unusual and much has changed, these unique assemblages create and sustain the relevance and sanctity of this wondrous place called Zion. Sego lily lARRY BlAklEY © CAlIFORNIA ACADEMY OF SCIENCES In the desert over 500 times more species are found at water sources than in the surrounding arid country. The Virgin River’s perennial waters give life to an overstory of Fremont cottonwood, singleleaf ash, and boxelder. The rare Zion snail lives only in Zion’s isolated hanging gardens that grow lush with maidenhair fern, scarlet monkeyflower, and golden columbine. Canyon treefrogs bleat while campers sleep, and great blue herons wade the river’s currents. When summer monsoons send flash floods roaring down canyon, it’s a testimony to evolution that anything survives. Part of Zion’s uniqueness comes from its geology. Great Basin and Mojave Desert soils tend to be similar over great distances. But Zion’s stacked prehistoric environments erode into many soils. The Chinle Formation’s ancient lakes and volcanic ash, for example, corrode into a soil rich in the poisonous mineral selenium. Specialized plants like prince’s plume and milkvetch (also known as locoweed from the effects of its selenium-infused leaves) grow on such odd soils and increase Zion’s diversity. Individual and unconnected canyons also increase diversity because isolation can lead to variation among species. RIM © MERlIN TUTTlE, BAT CONSERVATION INTERNATIONAl Water, and the lack of it, decides what grows where. On the plateau, above the canyon rim, annual precipitation tops 26 inches. In this relatively cool and moist environment, sego lilies sprout under greenleaf manzanita, yellowbellied marmots scurry between white fir, and elk mix with an occasional black bear. Here the Virgin River begins in an underground cavern of melted snow. At the lowest elevations, Mojave Desert species—desert tortoise and honey mesquite— infiltrate Zion’s dry, south-facing canyons. At mid-elevations, Great Basin Desert species like shadscale and big sagebrush mingle with the Colorado Plateau’s bigtooth maple and Utah juniper. Zion’s biotic diversity is the result of these three communities coming together in one location. ROBERT POTTS © CAlIFORNIA ACADEMY OF SCIENCES Tucked in niches, hidden in soil, peeking from cliffs, or scampering between our feet, an amazing array of plants and animals thrive in Zion National Park. Tiny piñon mice, golden eagles, mountain lions—all thrive in Zion’s many habitats. Park elevations range from 3,600 to 8,700 feet and provide vastly different environments. Fir, ponderosa pine, and aspen prefer snowy highcountry winters, while piñon, cliffrose, and mesquite flourish in the desert’s heat. DR. llOYD GlENN INGlES © CAlIFORNIA ACADEMY OF SCIENCE The Nature of Sanctuary Fremont cottonwood A crack in Navajo sandstone affords a home for this blooming Indian paintbrush (background photo). Maidenhair fern Be Prepared, Plan Well, Live Long NPS © wIllIAM NEIll / lARRY UlRICH STOCk A human body is no match for floodwaters that rampage through narrow canyons, pushing a raft of boulders and logs (left). Know the weather and flash flood potential before your trip. If bad weather threatens, do not enter narrow canyons. 15 Kolob Canyons Visitor Center • Plan your trip. Choose trails that are within your ability. • Falls cause most injuries and deaths at Zion. • Carry and drink one gallon of water per person per day. • wear a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen. • Avoid or get off high places when lightning threatens. • know the weather before you go. Distant storms can cause fash foods. when in doubt, stay out! • Cell phones don’t work in most areas and don’t make you invincible. • Your safety is your responsibility. La v Wilderness In 2009, Congress protected nearly 84 percent of the park as wilderness under the 1964 wilderness Act. wilderness designation protects forever the land’s wilderness character, natural conditions, opportunities for solitude, and scientifc, educational, and historical values. els nd ndi dn 17 9 Visiting the Park 9 Zion Human History Museum Zion Canyon Visitor Center 9 9 59 Zion Canyon Visitor Center is open year-round. A 22-minute orientation flm is shown regularly at the Zion Human History Museum. Spring through fall, Zion Canyon Scenic Drive is open to shuttle buses only. Check the park website (see below) or the park newspapers for dates and times: Map and Guide and Backcountry Planner are available at the entrance gate, visitor centers, and on the park website. Service animals are welcome. For frearms regulations visit the park website or ask a ranger. Zion is one of over 390 parks in the National Park System. To learn more about parks and National Park Service programs in America’s communities, visit www.nps.gov. More Information Zion National Park Springdale, Utah 84767-1099 435-772-3256 www.nps.gov/zion ✩GPO:20xx—xxx-xxx/xxxxx Reprint 20xx Printed on recycled paper.