City Creek Nature Notes – Salt Lake City

August 21, 2017

June 14th; Revised, Reposted

Filed under: Foxglove beardtongue, Horsechestnut, Seasons, Western salisfy, Wild carrot — canopus56 @ 2:20 pm

The Web-of-life

Expanded to summarize ecological relationships between soils, plants and animals in the canyon.

6:45 p.m. This is the last day of the vernal season, or the time of the year in which plants grow at their greatest rate (Feb. 16th). An early heat wave near 100 degrees Fahrenheit has fallen on the city, and I have come to the canyon for a short run in the cool evening air. At the end of the vernal season, early spring flowering plants in the first mile have largely passed and their thickened ovaries grow pregnant with this year’s seeds. Wood rose blossoms are shriveled or have have dropped their leaves, revealing bulbous green spheres beneath. The largest of these are the infant berries of the chokecherry bushes. Western salisfy, also called Giant dandelion, has almost all gone to seed. Its blossom have transformed into a large compound head of achenes – larger version of dandelion weed seeds. The small floating seeds grow out equally spaced from an inverted saucer-shaped head. A result of the large floater seeds competing for limited space is that the giant dandelions’ spherical heads form geodesic dodecahedrons.

The base leaves of the Wild carrot (also called Fernleaf biscuitroot) plants that line the first mile have turned turned yellow and orange, and their blossoms have formed seeds that are turning from green to a light purple. Their fibrous tap roots extend beneath the surface for about a one foot, and they were widely used by First Peoples throughout the Intermountain west (Natural Resources Conservation Service 2011). Great Basin Indians ate the seeds and boiled the roots to make a drink. Other tribes used the first shoots in a salad (id). Modern city “foodies” also collect the plants.

A new delicate penstemon, Foxglove beardtongue (Penstemon digitalis) has appeared overnight along the road. This is an eastern native, and in the canyon, it first appears with white flowers that turn a streaked pink as the flowers age. This is a later spring replacement for the many failing flowers along the first mile. Horsechestnut trees now bear sprays of its spiked fruit, but these new fruits are miniature one-inch diameter versions of falls’ three inch spheres. This year’s growth has returned and the land is pregnant.

This is the last day of my experience of an ecological year in the canyon, and with a new sense of awareness and knowledge, I can feel the canyon’s web-of-life between its some 310 species and families of life (Index). The web begins with the soil that is makes up its ground, and that the nature of that soil begins with the canyon’s geologic formation. West of the Rudy Flat Fault and Freeze Creek near mile 4.3, the soils are Tertiary limy sand and sandy earth, and in the lowest first mile of the canyon, the land around the stream is overlain by deposits from ancient Lake Bonneville. These were formed by a 100 year old mountain range in Nevada that eroded eastward into present-day Utah and that created the sandstone cliffs at milepost 1.0. These lands west of the Rudy Flat Fault are also lower and drier, and thus, the land supports a drought tolerant Wasatch chaparral of Gambel’s oak trees away from the stream and a Rocky Mountain lower montane habitat closer to the stream’s wetness. East of the Rudy Flat Fault, geologically lower strata that consist of limestones have been lifted to higher altitudes, and, thus, those wetter lands support a Rocky Mountain upper montane habitat of pines, firs, spruces, and aspen trees.

Rain and microorganisms, including bacteria, fungi, and lichens, break down rock and soil to release nutrients to diverse and abundant plant life. Hungry trees signal the fungi in the their roots and beneath their shade to breakdown needed extra minerals from deficient soils (July 1st). The trees also talk between each other directly with airborne chemicals and via subsurface networks of fungi to coordinate their defense against disease, insects, and herbivores (July 1st). The trees summon beneficial insects and birds with chemical scents to feed on nectar or seeds (July 2nd). In a square meter from 10 kilometers above the ground and down to 4 kilometers below the surface of the canyon, there are trillions of protozoans that interact with the geophysical environment (December 20th). Between 84,500 and 169,000 earthworms along the first road mile churn and overturn the soil beneath the trees between every 6 to 10 years (March 23rd).

Plants are winning the evolutionary war with animals (June 30th), and this is evidenced by their use of toxic chemicals to limit mammals, birds and insects to consuming at most twenty percent of their mass each year. The 100ft tall, older Narrowleaf cottonwood trees, their hybrids, and Box elder trees comprise as much as twenty-percent of the biomass of the first mile road forest, and their shade over the stream provides beneficial conditions of the lower montane habitat that supports a diverse insect, bird and mammal population.

The principal plant producers that support the next higher trophic level of insects, birds and mammals are the Gambel’s oak forest and grasslands of Cheat grass, native Wild bunchgrass, and native Bluebunch wheatgrass (July 7th, March 5th). The oaks yield tons of acorns each year (August 30th) and in the late spring and early summer, the grasslands support at most 310 million House crickets (July 6th) and a lesser number of several types of grasshoppers. Engelmann spruce and other conifers provide another base of seeds in the upper montane habitat higher in the canyon. Algal mats and mosses in the stream support a massive population of Gnats (e.g. August 11th). Hidden in the understory of the streamside forest are as many as 126,000 flies hide (May 10th).

Primary consumers of grasses include Mule deer, Elk, and Shira’s moose (moose, August 27th), House crickets and grasshoppers. Primary consumers of the bounty of seeds include Rock squirrels, Mule deer, Western scrub jays, Black-billed magpies, Stellar’s jays, Black-headed grosbeaks, Wild turkeys, Song sparrows, Mountain chickadees, Black-capped chickadees, and Black-hooded juncos. Primary consumers of the bounty of gnats include Variegated meadowhawks and cliff swallows (August 11th, August 22nd). Crickets are also hunted by Desert tarantula. Other consumers of the bounty both gnats and crickets include the many small birds who overwinter or who in the spring reproduce in the canyon including Lazuli buntings and Yellow warbler.

Flowering plants also support a diverse community of primary nectar consumers – butterflies and bees. These include white cabbage , Western tiger swallowtail, Mourning cloak, Painted lady, Spring azure butterflies, and native tri-colored Central bumble bees. These, along with common flies, are preyed upon by Variegated meadowhawks, Blue-eyed darners, Common whitetail dragonflies, Bald-faced hornets, Western yellowjacket wasps and Praying mantis. Butterflies favor the streamside bushes, and Orb weaver spiders fish for gnats, mosquitoes, and butterflies by stringing silken nets just above the stream’s surface (June 25th).

At the pinnacle of trophic levels reside the consumers of consumers including small and mid-sized birds and mammals by Peregrine falcons, Cooper’s hawks, Red-tailed hawks, and Western screech-owls. At the pinnacle of trophic levels also reside consumers of larger mammals. These include Coyotes, Mountain lions and Homo sapiens.

The stream supports trout and its agal mats attract Mallards. The trout are principally preyed upon Homo sapiens rarely assisted by Belted kingfishers. Although anglers follow catch-and-release best practices, about one-quarter of released fish die from the stress of the experience.

Animals and plants die and their waste needs to be recycled. Larger carrion removers include Turkey vultures, American crows and Common ravens. Flies, protein hungry Bald-faced hornets (August 20th), and ants assist. Carpenter ants consume fallen logs. Bacteria and fungi finish the job for both plants and animals.

I can only take in a small part of the canyon ecology’s totality, and taking in the limited part that I can perceive is more than my mind and emotions can absorb. I cannot see it all at once; I am spent; I am exhausted; but I am still smiling.

* * * *

In Thoreau’s “Journal” on June 14th, 1852, he notes that “[t]he twilight seems out of proportion to the rest of the day.” On June 14th, 1851, he lists birds heard on a twilight walk including bobolink, swallows, fifteen whippoorwills, blackbirds, a robin and night hawk. He contrasts the evening song of the robin with crickets, and notes fish rising in a stream to feed on insects. On June 14th, 1852, he sees a wild rose bush. On June 14, 1853, he hears the season’s first locust and observes aphids on tree leaves. He sees white lily, blue-flag flower, mosquitoes, and fish in the stream. He sees hummingbirds and hears a cuckoo, a red-eye, and a wood thrush. On June 14th, 1854, he sees a cicada. On June 14th, 1859, he sees a grosbeak and a pout’s nest.

* * * *

A cousin of Foxglove beardtongue, Common foxglove (Digitalis purpurea), is the source of digitalis heart medication. Digitalis is commonly used to strengthen the contractions of the heart muscle in the aged.

* * * *

On June 14th, 1914, the Salt Lake Tribune describes various outdoor hikes around Salt Lake City, including to Big Black Mountain. On June 14th, 1908, the L. H. Murdock of the U.S. Weather Service reported a storm with one-half inch of rain and heavy snowfall in City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake Tribune). On June 14th, 1908, Mayor Bransford, City Engineer L. C. Kesley, Waterworks Superintendent Hobday and Street Supervisor Jake Raleigh discussed steps to abate current flooding from City Creek Canyon (Intermountain Republican). Raleigh defended his use of manure embankments to contain the flood waters (id).


July 1st; Revised, Reposted

Talking Plants – Part I – Hidden Scents, Hidden Networks

Revised to include plants talking to each other by subsurface common mycorrhizal networks.

2:00 p.m. In the heat of the afternoon, it is another butterfly day. Cabbage white and Western tiger swallowtail butterflies line the road. Families stroll through the heat on a holiday weekend.

It is also the time of mature trees. The giant trees of the canyon – those taller than seventy-feet – now dominate the canyon experience. Species include Box Elder trees, Rocky Mountain narrowleaf cottonwood trees and Freemont’s cottonwood trees (Populus fremontii). They now provide a partial canyon that protects the mid- to small-sized trees and the understory bushes from the harsh summer sun. Walking past one of these biological skyscrapers, one can feel the increase in humidity from their exhalations. In winter, their skeletons are ignored and when walking up-canyon during the cold season, one does not give them a passing thought.

At Guardhouse Gate, Black-headed grosbeaks and Lazuli buntings dominate. At picnic site 3, Song sparrows are prominent, and at third active zone of birds appears at milepost 1.1.

At seep below picnic site 6, the Starry solomon’s seal has, in seemingly a few days, been overrun by Western poison ivy (Toxicodendron rydbergii). It is now a deep green, and in the fall will turn a deep red (Sept. 23rd).

* * * *

Per Thoreau’s “Journal” on July 1st, 1852, he notes that rabbit’s foot clover is turning colorful, mulleins are turning yellow, wild roses are at their peak. He describes a white lily in depth. He hears a red-eye, oven-bird and a yellow-throat. On July 1st, 1854, he again notes that the edges of distant objects are distinct in clear air. He watches the shadows of clouds moving across the land. On July 1st, 1859, he notes white ranunculus is in bloom.

* * * *

Plants communicate with each other and with insects by volatile airborne chemical signals in order to coordinate defenses against herbivores (Hartley 2010, Hartley 2009, Alba 2012, Engelberth 2012, Heil and Karbon 2009, see Witzany and Baluska (ed) 2012). Experiments suggest that Box Elder trees, the Gambel’s oaks, the bushes of the understory, the Curly dock weeds, the Starry Solomon plants, the sagebrush, and the other plants currently active in the canyon are carrying on a conversation, unheard by human interlopers. Experiments have been done on plants outside species of the Gambel’s oak forest, but one example exists for communication between the sagebrush groves along east Bonneville Drive. In 2011, Shiojiri at Kyoto University, Karban at University of California at Davis and Ishizaki at Hokkaido University replicated and expanded Karban’s 2006 study on Great basin sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata) plant communication (Shiojiri, Karban and Ishizaki 2011). They found that the neighbors of sagebrush plants mechanically damaged with scissors but allowed to spread VOCs suffered less damage from grasshoppers than sagebrush plants not allowed to receive VOC emissions from the damage sagebrush. In short, sagebrush plants talk with their sagebrush neighbors and warn them to start producing insecticides to ward off grasshoppers. In 2008, Mäntylä et al at the University of Bristol demonstrated that birch trees issue volatile airborne chemicals, not detectable by humans, when attacked by caterpillars. To control scents, they contained some damaged branches in plastic bags, but left other branches exposed. Birds preferentially visited and attacked branches where trees’ VOC scent was present. In short, their Great Britain birches talk to birds. Although the specific species in investigated in Great Britain are not present in the canyon, the canyon hosts Birchleaf mountain mahogany (Cercocarpus montanus Raf.). In 2011, Mäntylä et al demonstrated a similar effect in Scottish pines (Mäntylä et al 2011). Engelberth notes that some plants use VOCs to signal predatory insects, e.g. predatory wasps, that they have been damaged by insect herbivores that are preferred foods of the predator insect (Engelberth 2012).

Plant species talking between themselves, with other species of plants, and with insects and birds may have arisen by conferring an evolutionary advantage (Heil and Karban 2010). By alerting its same-specie and inter-specie neighbors, sagebrush, for example, can create a herd-like resistance to grasshopper attacks. Similarly, by talking with insects and birds, plants create co-evolutionary relationships that benefit both the plant and associated insect eating birds (id., Engelberth 2012). Through 2010, Heil and Karban summarize known examples of plant “talking” with VOCs (id). In this Great Basin canyon, such communication has only been shown specifically for Great basin sagebrush, but Heil and Karban also list known plant VOC demonstrations for families of plants whose cousins are also present in the City Creek Canyon, including willow trees, sugar maples, poplar trees and alder trees. That the other trees and other plants present in City Creek Canyon are talking to a each other seems a reasonable extrapolation, but demonstration of their VOC communication remains to be shown by future researchers.

Trees also may be talking with each via networks of fungi that permeates the soil beneath the trees. That tree roots make complex associations with fungi has been known for many years (Lanner, pp. 98-100), but with respect to canyon and Wasatch Front Mountain Range trees, this has only be studied extensively with respect to Douglas firs (Pseudotsuga menziesii), and even then, studies were performed principally in Washington State. When trees and fungi form associations, they are called mycorrhiza, and such associations are broken down into two parts. First, when fungi merge with interior of a root, they are termed arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF), and second, when fungi form fungal mats underneath and around the roots, they are termed ectomycorrhizal fungi (EMF). When AM or EM fungi connect between trees, they form a common mycorrhizal network (CMN). There can be more than 200 species of fungi that participate in arbuscular mycorrhizal association with a single plant. In this symbiotic relationship, fungi, for example with respect to Douglas firs, release additional nutrients from the soil that increases the firs’ ability to grow (Cline 2004), and conversely, the trees manufacture and provide unique nutrients to the fungi that they cannot obtain from the soil such as glucose. Thus, although trees can grow without an AMF or EMF, they grow slower and with less vitality (Cline). The CMN is formed by long hypae, or narrow primitive vascular tubes – that are characteristic of fungi. AMF or EMF associations occur in 80 percent of terrestrial plants.

A recent hypothesis suggest that the common mycorrhizal network of AMFs that provide a pathway by which chemical information is exchanged between trees (Barto et al 2012). Under this hypothesis, plants coordinate their defense against insects and disease using the CMN, and experimentally, this has been shown to occur in AMFs for three invasive grasses (id). Gorzelak and colleagues at the University of British Columbia extended this theory to EMFs (Gorzelak et al 2015). Once again, new modern biochemical and genetic analysis techniques provide insights into the complex life of seemingly simple trees. In 2015, Song and colleagues found in British Columbian forests where they artificially defoliated Douglas firs chemically signaled Ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) through the EMF-CMN. The pines responded by issuing stress chemicals. Thus, two different species of trees “talked” with each other over a fungal network.

Both Douglas firs and Pondersa pine are found in the Wasatch Front Mountain Range generally, but not in the canyon specifically. Given that eighty-percent of species and over ninety-percent of families of pldants form AMF and EMF associations, many of the other unstudied trees with AMFs and EMFs in the canyon, like the oaks and maples, may also be talking between themselves over fungal networks. But this is supposition, a “just so” story, and confirmation of whether the canyon’s trees along the first road mile awaits future research by biologists.

* * * *

On July 1st, 2001, City Planning Director Stephen Goldsmith notes that a gate has been added at Memory Grove to control traffic (Salt Lake Tribune). On July 1st, 1997, a small grass fire broke out near Memory Grove (Salt Lake Tribune). On July 1st, 1925, a Salt Lake Telegram editorial approved of the City’s use of “hoboes, drunkards and indolent men” on the prison road work crew then working in City Creek Canyon. On July 1st, 1920, twenty-five service men convalescing at St. Marks Hospital will be given a picnic outing in City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake Herald). On July 1st, 1919, a Salt Lake Telegram editorial reported that a large fire had been burning in City Creek for several days (Salt Lake Telegram). The Telegram reported rumors that the fire may have been started by I.W.W. members (id). (Famed I.W.W. organizer Joe Hill had been previously executed in Salt Lake City in November 1915.)

Table of Lists

Filed under: Uncategorized — canopus56 @ 10:58 am

The table of lists is ordered date beginning with the estival season on June 15th. The referenced dates are in parentheses.

• Exemplar Trees at the University of Utah, Westminister College Emigration Creek Natural Area and Miscellaneous that Correspond to Trees in City City Creek Canyon (2017) (July 19th)

• Lichens (July 21st)

• Bird and Insect Nests Found in the First Two Miles of City Creek Canyon on December 1st-7th, 2016, supplemented December 23rd, 2016 (December 10th)

• Permanent and Intermittent Springs and Seeps Found in the First Mile of City Creek Canyon on January 20th, 2017. (January 20th)

• Common Native Plants by Habitat (March 5th)

• Non-Native Plants found in the Biologist Surveys (April 3rd)

• Biophilia Values (April 26th)

• GPS Locations for Flowering Cultivar Trees for Miles 0.0 to 2.0 (N=17) (Apple and Plums) dated April 27 to May 2nd, 2017 (May 4th)

• Common Spring Butterflies (May 10th)

• Possible Plant Hosts for Butterflies and Their Caterpillars in City City Creek Canyon (May 19th)

• Spring Birds in City Creek Canyon March through May, 2017 by Order and-or Family (N=54) (May 20th)

August 9, 2017

Table of Essays

Filed under: Other, Uncategorized — canopus56 @ 9:00 pm

About ninety daily entries contain mini-essays on historical events and scientific research related to City Creek Canyon generally or to the topic of the daily narrative, but the existence of these essays is not always apparent from the title of the daily narrative. This separate Table of Essays provides a supplemental table of contents for those materials grouped by subject.


• June 15th: What are the different definitions of the seasons in popular culture, astronomy and ecology?

• November 13th: Cross-quarter holidays occur when the speed of change in the length of the day is minimal.

• March 20th: What is the relative light energy that falls on the canyon on the winter solstice as compared to the other seasons of the year?

• May 13th: How did nearby supernovas and novae influence the evolution of life on Earth?

• May 13th: What is the orbital path of the Solar System through the Milky Way and through the local supercluster of galaxies over the next billion years?

Biology, generally

• November 12th: Trout have nearly 180 degree vision.

• December 10th: What bird and wasp nests are in the canyon?

• December 20th: How many cells are there in one meter rectangular parallelepiped between 4 kilometers below the surface of the Earth, including a human standing on the surface, and to 10 kilometers above the surface?

• December 21st: How do the number of cells in the human brain, the number of neural connections in the human brain, and the number of stars in the visible universe compare?

• March 23rd: How many earthworms live along the first mile of canyon road?


• July 1st: How do plants talk with each other and to insects in order to coordinate plants’ defenses against parasites and herbivores?

• July 2nd: Why do plants emit strong fragrances in the early spring but not in the summer?

• July 3rd: Part I – The Gambel’s oak forest in the canyon and surrounding the Salt Lake Valley are hybrids and are not pure oak stands. They are second generation crosses of Gambel’s oak ad Arizona shrub oak.

• July 4th: In the Salt Lake valley, there are rare hybrid first generation crosses between Gambel’s oak trees and Arizona shrub oak.

• July 5th: The Gambel’s oak forest consist of second generation hybrids of Gambel’s oak trees and Arizona shrub oak.

• July 17th: How do plants transport seeds uphill?

• July 19th: Cottonwood trees in the canyon are, like the Gambel’s oaks, also principally crossed hybrids.

• July 19th: What are the common trees in the canyon and where can example of those trees be found in the city?

• July 21st: What lichens can be found in the canyon?

• October 11th: When do deciduous trees, including Gambel’s oaks loose their leaves?

• October 19th: What edible plants exist in the canyon?

• November 3rd: What are the aerodynamics of helicoptering maple seeds?

• December 6th: Utah lichens cannot be used as an indicator for Salt Lake air pollution.

• February 10th and February 11th: What are characteristics and distribution of a Gambel’s oak tree?

• February 11th and February 12th: In the canyon, what are the hybrid crosses between the Gambel’s oak and Arizona scrub oak?

• February 13th, February 14th and May 9th: Since Gambel’s oaks reproduce asexually, are they essentially immortal like aspen trees?

• March 17th: What kills old, large-diameter Narrowleaf cottonwood trees in the canyon? How are large diameter trees important to the canyon’s ecology?

• May 5th and June 1st: When do various temperate forest tree species leaf-out in the spring during the spring?

• June 5th: Horsetail pollen has the ability to walk.

• June 8th: What percentage of animal species engage in metamorphosis during development?

• June 10th: When did invasive Cheat grass arrive in the Salt Lake foothills? Can the foothills be restored with native grasses?

• June 10th: Does the Fibonacci series appear in whirls of thistles and other plants in the canyon?


• June 23rd: What are the various habitats in the canyon by increasing altitude?

• June 24th: Since 1870, has the Gambel’s oak forest been increasing downslope along the canyon’s foothills?

• July 7th: During 1850 to the 1930, early Utah ranchers in the pursuit of eighty percent profit margins in cattle grazing, transformed Utah’s and the canyon’s native grasslands from native grasses to invasive Cheat grass. How that environmental disaster may have contributed to the passage of the 1964 Wilderness Act.

• December 22nd: What are the trophic ecological levels of the canyon?

• March 3rd to March 6th: What was the natural state of the canyon and Salt Lake valley prior to arrival of the Euro-American colonists in 1848?

• May 10th: How much animal dung do flies remove from the canyon? What is the mass of flies along the first mile of canyon road?


• June 19th: In a modern temperate forest, when did various plants and animals first appear in the geologic record?

• June 30th: Are plants defenseless or are they winning a 300 million year evolutionary war?

• November 5th: One-hundred and forty-five million years ago, how did flying insects and web spinning spiders co-evolve?

• May 30th: Did modern bird groups evolve before or after the KT extinction?

• May 31st: When did butterflies evolve?

• June 2nd: When did flowering plants and trees evolve?


• September 1st: What geologic faults exist in the canyon

• September 8th: What is the Grandview Peak landslide?

• December 24th: What is the geology of natural rock bridge at mile 0.9 and the Red Bridge?

• January 3rd: What is the geology of the canyon between Guardhouse Gate and the natural rock bridge at mile 0.9?

• January 5th: What caused one mile long landslide in the canyon at mile 1.5?

• January 6th: Where are the shorelines of ancient Lake Bonneville in the canyon?

• January 7th: How did the subduction of the Fallaron continental plate under the North American plate between 110 and 35 million years ago create the present day geography of the Great Basin, of Utah, and of the canyon? Where in the canyon are the volcanic breccia deposits from Utah’s volcanic era about 35 million years ago?

• January 9th: What are the geologic strata seen a cross-section of the Wasatch Front Mountain Range between City Creek Canyon on the north and Big Cottonwood Twin Peaks on the south?

• February 15th: What did the canyon look like 12,000 years ago in the Pleistocene and where humans present?

• February 21st: How much of the canyon’s surface consists of dust that fell from outer space? When jogging four miles, how many grams of space dust do you breath?

• March 2nd: What is the Anthropocene?

• March 19th: How City Creek stream transported about 1.5 billion tonnes of sediment (0.008 cubic miles) to the City’s delta over the last 11,000 years.

• May 14th: How did earthquake faults make City Creek Canyon in the north Salt Lake valley salient different from the south Salt Lake valley salient at Traverse Mountain?


• June 18th: How accurate was the first location of the Salt Lake Base Meridian marker? In 1879, How were the modern survey township and range section markers located?

• June 28th: How has the civil and social advancement of women reflected in changes in clothing of female bicyclists?

• July 24th: In 1871, how General Philippe Régis Denis de Keredern de Trobriand averted a massacre in the streets of Salt Lake City.

• July 12th: Do the Mormons have special religious or cultural values that are disposed to preserving nature?

• November 30th: How the Utes and Goshutes taught the Mormon colonists to survive by eating Sego lily roots and thistles.

• January 21st: How Salt Lake City tried and then missed the opportunity to have an Emerald Ring park found around many eastern United States cities.

• March 6th: In December 1848, the colonists form a committee of extermination that kills 3,374 mammals, birds and other wildlife in the valley.

• March 7th: What First Peoples where in the canyon and valley on the arrival of the Euro-American colonists in 1848? What major cultural factors determined the relationship between the Mormons and the valley’s Ute tribal members?

• March 8th: In January 1850, the colonists form a committee of extermination to kill the remaining 150 Ute Tumpanawach band First Peoples in the Salt Lake and Utah valleys. On February 13th, 1850, the colonists massacre those First Peoples at the Battle of Table Mountain, Utah in, what in modern terms, amounted to a war crime.

• March 9th: The economic miracle of the United States and of Utah between 1800 and the 1960s can be explained simply in terms of equity capitalization and not in terms of exceptional abilities.

• March 10th: Did City Creek have enough water to support the initial 5,000 Euro-American colonists of 1847?

• March 11th: When designing Salt Lake City, the Euro-American colonists of 1847 underestimated the flood cycles of City Creek Canyon.

• March 20th: What was the legal basis for Brigham Young’s control of the canyon from 1847 to the 1870s?

• March 21st to March 30th: How was City Creek Canyon exploited for its natural resources?

• March 28th: How did 14,000 deaths from typhoid fever in Salt Lake City during the late nineteenth century drive residents to protect City Creek Canyon as a natural area?

• April 1st: In the 1980s, the City adopts a master plan and zones City Creek Canyon as a protected natural and recreational area.

• April 4th: How did public and business interests fight for City Creek Canyon during the nineteenth and early twentieth century>?

• April 5th to April 7th: Will and how will the canyon be protected from development in the future?

• May 28th: How will Utah’s population change in the future?

• May 29th: When and how was Memory Grove Park constructed in the lower canyon as a memorial to Utah’s war dead?


• July 6th: There may as many as 310 million crickets in the canyon and in the city foothills.

• July 16th: From the 1850s to the early 1900s, the Intermountain West, Utah, and the canyon were subject to Rocky Mountain locust plagues of up to 3.5 trillion insects. Then the locusts mysteriously went extinct.

• May 7th: Butterflies also see in the ultra-violet spectrum.

• May 10th: What are common spring butterflies in the canyon?

• May 19th: What plants host which butterflies in the canyon?


• September 7th: Does Utah’s coyote bounty program increase automobile deaths by reducing coyote predation of deer?

• November 2nd: How do Western porcupine populations fluctuate?

• April 10th: The life-span of mammals is limited by a constant number of heart beats, about one billion for most mammals, but humans uniquely are allocated about 3 billion heartbeats.

• June 3rd: Why do Salt Lake County officials remove all the beavers from the canyon? What is Utah’s population of beavers?

Meteorology, Hydrology, and Climate

• July 18th: Why in the afternoon, the wind in City Creek Canyon blows the wrong way – downhill instead of uphill.

• July 21st: What glaciers existed in the past in the Salt Lake valley canyons, when did they retreat, and what do they tell us about Utah’s future climate?

• February 1st and February 2nd: What SNOTEL weather stations exist in the canyon and what is average annual snowfall in the canyon?

• February 6th: What is the stream flow of City Creek Canyon?

• February 7th: What is the Pacific Quasi-Decadal Oscillation and how does it affect the canyon’s and northern Utah’s weather?

• February 8th: When is the season of heaviest air pollution in the canyon and in Salt Lake City? How does Utah’s and United States’ air pollution levels relate to the de-industrialization of the United States and globalization of United States’ manufacturing capacity?

• February 9th: How has the canyon’s and northern Utah’s climate changed over the last 576 years based on tree ring studies?

• February 24th: What flood and drought cycles have occurred in the canyon and in Salt Lake City since 1847? How do those relate to increases in Salt Lake City’s population growth since 1847?

• February 26th: During air pollution inversions, PM 2.5 air pollution decreases fifty percent from the valley floor to higher elevations along the ridgeline above the Avenues and in the canyon.

• February 27th: Does living at higher altitude Intermountain cities increase the rate of depression as compared to sea level due to decreased air pressure?

• February 28th: Is global warming detectable in local weather station data?

• March 1st: Is the Pacific Quasi-Decadal Oscillation and its sister oscillation, the Atlantic Muti-Decadal Oscillation masking the effects of global climate warming on North American continent?

• March 12th: The downtown has been repeatedly flooded by high-snowpack and cloudbursts since 1847.

• March 13th: Between 1900 and the 1930s, cloudburst storms coupled with overgrazing at the headwaters of the canyons, caused torrential floods in northern Utah’s cities, including Salt Lake City.

• March 14th: What is the Advanced Hydrographic Prediction Service? How will future flooding from City Creek Canyon affect the City’s downtown district?

• March 19th: How City Creek stream transported about 1.5 billion tonnes of sediment (0.008 cubic miles) to the City’s delta over the last 11,000 years.

• April 4th: How does the jet stream over the canyon change over the seasons?

• April 14th: What causes the April to June wind storms in the canyon and in Salt Lake valley?

• May 16th: What is the physics of standing waves in mountain streams?

• May 26th: Will the Great Salt Lake evaporate to become a dry bed and how does this relate to the future of Utah’s migratory bird populations?

• May 26th and May 27th: What studies have modeled the present level and future levels of the Great Salt Lake? What factors will change the lake’s future levels?

• June 1st: How will the United States’ withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement impact future bird populations?

• June 4th: What is the volume of underground water stored in the Salt Lake salient?


• July 16th: Do birds sing in regional dialects?

• January 14th: How birds sing at frequencies designed to best penetrate sound absorbing leaves.

• May 6th and May 20th: What are the spring birds in the canyon?

• May 6th: How do birds see their iridescent refraction of their feathers in the ultra-violet spectrum? The view that humans see of birds is not what they see of each other.

• May 15th: How many nesting Peregrine falcons are there in Utah?

• May 20th: How has the diversity of birds in the canyon changed since the nineteenth century?

• May 21st: Are populations of Utah migratory and resident birds increasing or decreasing?

• May 22nd: Are regional populations of migratory and resident birds increasing or decreasing?

• May 23rd: Are continental populations of migratory and resident birds increasing or decreasing?

• May 24th: What are the birds of concern in the canyon?

• May 26th: Will the Great Salt Lake evaporate to become a dry bed and how does this relate to the future of Utah’s migratory bird populations?

Philosophy and Nature Experience

• July 13th: Why Henry Thoreau and Wallace Stegner believed that nature needed to be preserved in order to protect our souls and sanity.

• March 18th: How does experiencing nature without digital devices restore the mind’s attention and executive functions? What is Attention Restoration Theory (ART).

• April 8th: How has changing views of competition vs. cooperation changed the United States economy since the early twentieth century?

• April 16th: Does modern technology hinder or enhance our appreciation of nature?

• April 19th to April 22nd: What is the scientific evidence that love and experience of nature an inherent, biological human need?

• April 23rd to April 25th: What is the scientific evidence that experiencing nature and the outdoors restores the body, restores the mind’s executive functions, reduces stress, and reduces crime?

• April 26th: What values do humans express when relating to nature?

• April 27th: How should expert studies citing statistical evidence be rated?

• April 27th: Should preservation of nature be predicated on an inherent, biological need for nature or on simple political will?

• June 6th: How causation is proved in experiments using the logic principles of sufficiency and necessity.

• June 13th: What do nineteenth and early twentieth century maps tell us about what Salt Lake City residents felt about City Creek Canyon?

July 30, 2017

Conclusion – End of Blog

Filed under: People — canopus56 @ 7:57 am


The mountains rise into the cool sky, furrowed with canons [sic] almost Yosemtic in grandeur and filled with glorious profusion of flowers and trees. Lovers of science, lovers of wilderness, lovers of pure rest will find here more than they may ever hope for. John Muir. Deseret News July 11, 2017, quoting the Salt Lake Herald, June 27th, 1877 and Muir on his visit to the Salt Lake Valley and on his opinion of its canyons.

This completes a year’s worth of daily journal entries, and is the end of this blog. If you elected to follow this blog, please unsubscribe at this point. This site will be removed in one month. WordPress registered users have an account option to unsubscribe and public email subscribers should have a link at the bottom of the blog emails to unsubscribe. Let me know if you have any difficulties in unsubscribing. I have retained a list of persons who followed this blog. In a few months when I have this completed in epub format, I will offer a copy to the blog followers. Be well – Kurt

Thoreau’s nature experience of the early nineteenth century can be replicated in the contemporary western United States by observing nature on a daily basis for one year. In some respects, nature experience in this present day western United States canyon adjacent to a major urban center exceeds Thoreau’s nature. Species eradicated in the east during Thoreau’s time such as moose, elk, otter, and bear still exist in City Creek Canyon today. The benefits of consistent nature observation are many, and these include daily restoration of attention and executive functions (April 23rd and April 24th). My motivation in observing nature closely every day for one year came from Thoreau. He insisted that daily exposure to natural places was necessary for the maintenance of mental health (July 13th), Thoreau self-prescribed four hours of daily nature exposure (Thoreau 1862, 658), and he noted that “[t]here is a subtile [sic] magnetism in Nature, which, if we unconsciously yield to it, will direct us aright” (Thoreau 1862, 662). I wondered if I would be set “aright”, if I also focused on experiencing nature. After a year, some things became apparent.

I cannot claim to be set “aright”, but after a year, I am more contented. I like to think that I am a better person because I am kinder and gentler with others. When I go back to the canyon for restoration, I am more connected to the experience because I have a better innate understanding of ecological relationships between the canyon’s organisms. Because the canyon provides me with a stable base, I am better prepared resist the wear of daily life.

The pursuit of a Thoreauian nature experience is not self-absorbed. Nature experience is about sensitivity to the subtle relationships between plants, animals, geology and weather, and there are few better metaphors for preparing oneself to better understand human relationships or to be a more caring, tolerant person (July 13th).

Thoreau’s nature experience can be replicated, but it differs from his nineteenth century encounters in some significant ways. First, the modern landscape has been substantially modified, not by population increase or development, but principally by anthropochory, that is the importation of non-native plants and insects (July 17th). The grasslands of Utah that comprise most of the State’s and much of the Salt Lake salient and canyon’s surface area look nothing like it did before before the Euro-American colonization of 1847 (March 4th, 5th and 6th (pre-colonization state); March 6th and July 7th (extinction of Rocky Mountain locust); March 23rd to March 26th (early lumbering and mining in the canyon); April 23rd (non-native plants); July 7th (livestock grazing and the cheatgrass invasion), July 9th, (hobospider infestation)). The extent of modification of the landscape by non-native plants, animals and insects is far more than the average Utahan is aware off. Even so, the natural residual is substantial and remains inspiring. Second, the modern Thoreauian nature experience also is changed by information technology. That anyone can access vast reservoirs of sensor information about small areas of the Earth’s surface and quickly find and read the newest scientific journal articles about weather, plants, insects and wildlife makes the modern nature experience different from Theoreau’s explorations. But the difference is not in kind – Thoreau also traveled to Cambridge and consulted the leading books, journals and experts of this day. The difference is in degree and the incremental increase in that degree of information access qualitatively and fundamentally changes the modern encounter with nature (July 13th). I do not judge whether that change is on the whole for the better or worse, but simply note that it provides another more deep understanding of the world around us and it is consistent with our time.

This exploration uncovered some cautionary environmental issues that deserve awareness by present and future Salt Lake City residents. On June 16, 1881, J. J. Branch, a former L.D.S. Church member turned evangelist, predicted that God would send a great flood from City Creek Canyon to destroy the City in retribution in retribution for the “wickedness and lying and blasphemy and abomination” of the L.D.S. church (Salt Lake Tribune). While Branch can be disregarded as a lunatic, as is sometimes the case, there is a modern scientific basis for such predictions. In two contemporary policy decisions by Salt Lake City, insufficient weight was given to the potential for catastrophic snowmelt and-or cloudburst floods to again flood the downtown. Those decisions warrant re-examination. A fourth issue involves the potential for the Great Salt Lake to evaporate and become dry lake bed.

First, after the 1983 downtown flood from high snowmelt, the City rebuilt the storm sewers that divert City Creek Canyon stream from its historical delta, on which the modern downtown is constructed, sufficient to handle 210 cublic feet per second flow. That capacity is insufficient to handle future high snowmelt flooding or cloudburst flooding events. The highest recorded flow in City Creek from the 1983 flood was 331 cubic feet per second (March 12th to March 14th). The need for a higher capacity City Creek storm sewer is particularly true in light of recent research that indicates Utah’s climate is regressing to a 500 year mean pattern (id). In that weather pattern, the City’s climate will be drier, but also will punctuated by more severe peak precipitation events. A permanent, higher capacity solution to carry City Creek storm flows proposed in 2007 by the Army Corps of Engineers envisaged moving City Creek along North Temple from 300 West to the Jordan River on a proposed abandoned railway right-of-way (March 13th, Love 2007). But the City decided not to pursue that 20 million USD project, and instead used the proposed above ground route for an interurban railway. A large fire in City Creek Canyon, coupled with a rare cloudburst event could send far more floodwaters down City Creek than the 2,400 cubic feet per second that issued from Perry’s Hollow in 1945 (July 7th). The diversion of City Creek Canyon stream to the west of the downtown was a historical urban planning mistake caused by the Mormon church’s insistence on adherence to a divinely inspired grid plan (March 10th). In light of the current high density residential development of the downtown, that urban planning error made during the City’s foundation must be permanently corrected.

Second, in 2010, the City decided not to pursue a controlled-burn experiment for the oak forest and cheat grass hillsides in City Creek Canyon (April 23rd, July 8th). Such controlled burns should be reconsidered in consultation with national experts (Young and Clements 2009, Monson and Kitchen 1992) in order to restore native Wild bunchgrass. Cheat grass is to susceptible to frequent burns that put the City at risk for subsequent summer cloudburst flooding. At costs around 1,000 USD per acre to treat about 8 square miles (5,120 acres), a rough estimated total cost is 5 million USD.

Third, there are still substantial lands that are privately owned on either side of the first one-half mile above Guardhouse Gate. The city should make acquisition of conservation easements over those lands a priority.

Fourth, the City should aggressively work with the Great Salt Lake Commission to determine the population carrying capacity of the Wasatch Front given the water supply constraint of not drying up lakebed of the Great Salt Lake. If more water is withdrawn for human consumption it is probable, and not a speculative proposition, that the Great Salt Lake will disappear in the next thirty years (May 26th). If the Great Salt Lake disappears like the Aral Sea on the Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan border, great dust haboob-like dust storms may make the City an undesirable, if not uninhabitable, place to live. As in many social and environmental issues, as Utah’s largest city, Salt Lake City needs to take a self-interested lead on this question and not leave the matter to Utah State government. The evaporation of the Great Salt Lake is an existential threat to the City and the health of its human residents. The loss of Great Salt Lake as an transnational continental migratory bird flyway would have inexcusable impacts on Utah’s birds and on northern Utah’s forests. The extinction of the trillions of Rocky Mountain Locust in the west is testament to our ability to induce large scale changes to the west’s and Utah’s environment through simple inattention (July 16th).

With respect to the continuing national debate concerning trade-offs between economic expansion and environmental development, the history of the exploitation of City Creek Canyon and its preservation mirrors the larger debate framed by Thoreau in the nineteenth century. As economic expansion occurs, what should be left alone? Stegner documented the failure of the nation to preserve lands as suggested by Thoreau, and as a representative of his time lobbied for the completion of Thoreau’s worldview. The modern environmental movement expanded that issue by insisting of the preservation of health from the deleterious effects of industrialization. The national consensus in favor of the desire for a healthy urban environment lead to both the improved air quality enjoyed in America today (February 8th, February 26th) and to the offshoring of polluting industries and United States manufacturing jobs to India, Indonesia, and China (February 26th). A consequence of that trade-off has been increased economic inequality in the United States and other countries suffering the adverse effects of our consumption. As I write this, the Air Quality Index in Salt Lake City is 28; in parts of Bejing, the AQI is 216. The cultural and engineering challenge for the United States for the next generation is development of zero-pollution manufacturing techniques in order to return of manufacturing to the United States without the associated ill effects of pollution. This is a matter of national and cultural will.

How do natural areas come to be preserved? A final lesson from a year pursuing a Thoreauian experience is that our modern nature experience with its greatly increased access to scientific information does not change the basic moral quandary identified by Henry David: When do we decide to move out of that gray area between the injustices committed by our communities in our name and the desire to choose the easier course of becoming insensitive to them (Menrod 2012)? The history of City Creek Canyon’s preservation as a natural area is instructive. The decision to remove an area from commerce (April 7th, April 27th) in order to serve the inherent non-economic needs of citizens for recreation and nature (April 19th to April 27th) is the sum of a thousand individual actions. It is not the result of leaders making decisions that benefit citizens. In the nineteenth century, the impetus to preserve City Creek Canyon as a natural area was borne from its residents’ desire to protect their children from waterborne diseases that claimed an estimated 14,000 Salt Lake resident lives between 1870 and 1917 (March 28th, Cater at 94 ftn 5). While modern water treatment technology and antibiotics obviated that concern, in the 1960s, Stegner identified the new motivation to continue to protect and preserve City Creek Canyon and the other Salt Lake Valley canyons is the equally important need to preserve mental well-being (July 13th). Since the 1970s, that has been the driving force that keeps City Creek Canyon a protected natural area. The specific experience recorded here for a small nature area outside this remote western metropolitan center can be illustrative for other citizens elsewhere in the United States who wish to move out the gray area and to preserve one of Stegner’s refuges of sanity in their lives. ve retained the

July 21st, 2016 – End of Cyclical Year, Revised and Reposted

Microorganisms, Moss, Lichens, Glaciers, and Climate Trends

(Revised and expanded after lichen identification completed.)

3:30 p.m. It is another day intense summer heat, and as I pull into the parking lot, I take notice of a large Limber pine (Pinus flexilis at the lot’s end, south of the row of cultivar Horsechestnut trees. The Limber pine, Narrowleaf cottonwoods and the Horsechestnuts are among the largest plant organisms in the canyon, excepting some of the 50 foot diameter copses of Gambel’s oaks that may be one large, genetically identical sister plant. A bizarrely twisted, immature Limber pine hides behind to the east of side of the Guardhouse Gate building, and just past the gate, another conifer, a mature 70 foot tall native Engelmann spruce (Picea engelmannii). Key taxonomic differences between the two is that round pine needles occur in groups of two and flat fir and spruce needles are single. At mile 1.7 at picnic site no. 12. There a forty foot tall Rocky Mountain juniper (Juniperus scopulorum) is flanked by two taller Engelmann spruce trees. Although native to northern Utah, these three trees have been artificially planted to provide shade for picnic area.

Jogging up canyon about 100 yards up from the gate, I pass a deadly Bittersweet nightshade plant with small 1.5 inch green fruit. Splitting one of the fruit open, it is full of 1 mm bright orange larvae, and testing a few more, they are all infected. Given the number of young children that pass this spot, this is probably not a good place for a poisonous plant.

In the heat, I jog alone through an empty road, except for bicyclists. Near mile 0.3, sounds in the Gambel’s oak forest undergrowth betrays an yearling Mule deer stares back through the leaves. It is waiting for me to pass, so it can reach the stream and water. A bicyclist streaks unaware of its presence. A slight anabatic up-canyon wind provides a brief relief.

Beginning at mile 0.5 and the pond at picnic site 5, I collect the sponges placed in the stream and seeps on July 15th. The sponges have been collecting microorganisms for several days. I have looked at water samples from the stream under a microscope several times since May, but have never seen any microorganisms. That is a testament to how pure City Creek Canyon water is. My microorganism observing guide suggests using the sponges to trap organisms over time. The sponges also provide a protected framework that might appeal to microorganisms by providing shelter. The first sponge was located below the pond at picnic site 5, and it was placed under a cover of rocks such that stream water would continuously flow through the sponge. The first from the stream is a dark brown – a good sign. The second collected from the seep below picnic site 6 and the third is retrieved from the watercress seep also below picnic site 6. All three are a dark brown-grey color; the sponges have worked.

At the seep below picnic site 6, the Horsemint is in full bloom, and I count 32 Cabbage white butterflies feeding on them. A single Central bumble bee (Bombus centralis) collects among the butterflies. These are joined by an orange Mexican queen butterfly. I stand mesmerized by the glade for a few minutes. Nightshade is now also blooms in this glade.

Carpenter bee (Xylocopa californica) reappear after their first spring flight. Uniquely, they fly in a circular pattern closely around me twice, and having rejected me as potential food, they fly off with purposeful intent.

Proceeding again up canyon through the heat, only a few birds are heard at some distance from the stream. I cannot distinguish their calls, except for the nasal cawing of a Red-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta canadensis).

At mile 1.1, I stop where a large rock ledge overhangs the stream and admire a tremendous cottonwood cross, a Populus angustifolia x fremontii S. Wats. This 100 foot tree with a twenty-four inch trunk betrays it hybrid nature through two suckers, each 8 inches in diameter at the base. The parent tree has ovate leaves typical of the cross. Those leaf forms continue on one of the suckers, but at its very tip is one perfectly formed triangular Fremont popular leaf. Mid-way up the second sucker, that is also covered in hybrid leaves, is a bracket of perfectly formed thin Narrowleaf cottonwood leaves. This tree must be at least 100 years old, and perhaps it is older and witnessed the arrival of the Euro-American colonists in 1847. At a few minutes of enjoying this tree, I notice that it is looking back at me. More precisely, another Mule deer is on the rock ledge on the far side of the stream, and it is intently following me. I continue up canyon so it can reach water unmolested.

At mile 1.2, I turn down-canyon on the Pipeline Trial in order to photograph some of the lichens on rocks that line the trail down to where it is perpendicular to the Red Bridge and Chimney Rock. The Gambel’s oaks that border each side of the trail are covered in a ubiquitous dusky orange lichen that is found throughout the canyon. Here the rocks are principally volcanic breccia or limestone conglomerates. The first rock has lichens that are three inch diameter turquoise dollops with raised fruiting centers. The second rock has a large turquoise dollop on one corner and fire yellow bright lichen on one face. This rock also has small dark black lichen circles. The third rock has bright orange circles with darkened brown centers. The fourth has similar bright orange two inch dollops with fruiting orange centers. This same orange rock lichen is common in the canyon. For example, it covers parts of the rock bridge at Weeping Falls near mile 5.2. This bright orange lichen only appears on rocks, and its dusky orange brother keeps to the trees. Near the end of this segment, a gully provides more shade an water. Here, the rocks are covered in complex moss complexes, and unidentified green-black small-onion like moss with fine white hairs.

Continuing up canyon to a western gully near mile 2.3, there is another slope with favored lichen rocks. Here the rocks are sandstone based. In the gully, the first rock is a kaleidoscope of circular lichens colored bright orange, turquoise, and black. The next rock is covered with a bulbous green-black moss with fine white hairs. This is followed by a rock covered in turquoise-green lichen that has a darker brown center. Finally, two foot square areas of an unidentified green-black bulbous lichen attach to a rock ledge’s horizontal surface. Looking over some of my other lichen photographs above milepost 5.0, two prominent upturned limestone ledges stick out next to the road. On these a montane grey-milk lichen that look like delicate leaf petals cling to the stone.

This is all a riot of color mixed with abstract design. Lichen are oldest and, for me, they embody the most alien of terrestrial life. I also hold them in the highest respect because they are all a form of extremophile. They thrive on canyon rocks that both bake to temperatures over 150 degrees during the summer, and they continue to reproduce during the subzero cold of deepest winter. They live on the surface of barren rocks and take all that they need from the passing air and rain. And, what else the need in terms of minerals, they obtain by dissolving the solid rocks to which they attach. Moss are less of an extremophile, but tree moss are one of the few plants that continue photosynthesis through the depths of winter (January 10th).

Returning down-canyon near mile 1.3, ahead, I again here the screeching of a Peregrine falcon. Two falcons are chasing two unidentified hawks away from the sandstone cliffs on the east wall of the canyon near mile 1.0. One falcon easily chases a hawk up canyon and over the ridge. The second hawk begins to climb in lazy, large circles, and the remaining peregrine follows. The peregrine raises higher and then stoops the hawk, all the while screeching loudly. This continues for about 15 minutes. At times I loose sight of the pair as they circle overhead with the Sun behind them. The spring sky is a deep blue, but today, the summer sun makes the atmosphere a white turquoise.

Continuing down-canyon, at picnic site 5 where I collected one sponge, an innovative young couple using long lengths of climbing webbing, have suspended two bright Central American woven hammocks over the stream. They lay side-by-side enjoying the stream-cooled air.

At Guardhouse Gate, there are the cut fireplace-sized remains of a large tree. A quick count of its rings indicates the tree is over one-hundred years old. As the the city cuts down infirm trees in the canyon, they leave the carcasses here as free firewood. The cause of this tree’s demise can be seen in one segment of log – it is riddled to the inner pith with boring beetle tunnels. To supplement my gathering of water borne small life, I also collect from the logs’ surfaces, samples of Green tree moss (probably Orthotrichum sp.) and of orange, black and turquoise lichens.

The lower flood retention pond is full of algae mats. A family of mallards graze on the greenery. The chicks, who a few weeks ago where only four inches long, are now twice that size.

At home, I examine water from the three sponges in under a microscope at 60 power of magnification in order to see some of the smallest plants and animals of the canyon. All of the samples consist mostly of bits of algae, some of which are strung on the ends of mold filament, pulverized bits of plant, and specks of silica. No moving protists are seen. A few rectangular-celled with diatoms with well-defined glass-like walls of the genus Fragellaria are found. Two circular diatoms of the genus Stephanodiscus are seen. Finally, a single, transparent perfectly formed leg of an insect exactly fills the eyepiece and then floats away. This is clean City Creek water.

At home and through the hand-lens, the leaves of the moss, which are present both on trees and on rocks in the stream, reveal their earlier evolution as compared to the leaves of the surrounding trees. They are thin and transparent sheets of green cells, and they lack any vascular features found in true leaves.

Under the hand-lens, where the black lichens interface with the tree’s bark, a separate white hyphae through which digestion occurs. Lichens are composite organisms of algae or green bacteria living symbiotically with fungi. Through the hand-lens, one can see two colors, representing the two organisms in the turquoise and orange lichens. The turquoise portion of the turquoise lichen is also surrounded by white hyphae. The second color is green, and through the lens, these resolve as small bits of algae. That lichens exist on almost all of the trees in the first two miles of road is a good sign. Lichen are sensitive to air pollution and will disappear if Salt Lake’s air quality severely deteriorates over a long period.

The length of the day have changed noticeable from June 20th’s summer solstice. Sunset comes an hour earlier around 9 p.m.

* * * *

St. Clair, Newberry and Nebeker (1991 and 1995) provide a comprehensive list of Utah lichens. They and Flowers (1954) describe which species of lichen are common in various northern Utah habitats, including for the scrub oak forest of Gambel’s oaks, the higher subalpine habitat of Quaking aspens, and the montane habitat of conifers. Brodo of the Canadian Nature Museum and Sharnoff and Sharnoff of the Missouri Botanical Gardens published the definite photographic identification guide for lichens: their massive 2001 “Lichens of North America”. They note common lichen species for the Gambel’s oak forest include Lecanora hageni, Phaeoplzyscia orbicu/aris, Physcia adscendens, Physcia dubia, Physcia stellaris, Plzysconia grisea, Xanthoria fallax, and Xanthoria polycarpa. Using these sources, my descriptions and photographs match with the following scientific names:

List of Lichens

• Hooded sunburst lichen (Xanthoria fallax): This is the dusky-orange lichen that covers most of the Gambel’s oak trees in the canyon (Brodo, Sharnoff and Sharnoff, 744).

• Pin-cushion sunburst lichen (Xanthoria polycarpa): This is the bright orange lichen that covers many rocks in the canyon, including the stone bridge at mile 5.2 (Brodo, Sharnoff and Sharnoff, 746).

• Stonewall rim-lichen (Lecanora muralis): This lichen was the even-toned yellow-green (turquoise) circles on rocks along the Pipeline Trail (Brodo, Sharnoff and Sharnoff, 383)

• Sagebrush rim-lichen (Lecanora garovaglii). This is the yellow-green (turquoise) lichen with a darker green center on a rock along the Pipeline Trail (Brodo, Sharnoff and Sharnoff, 380).

• New Mexico rim-lichen ( Lecanora novomexicana): This darker yellow-greenish lichen with yellow fringes was found in the gully near mile 2.2 (Brodo, Sharnoff and Sharnoff, 384).

• Gold cobblestone lichen (Pleopsidium flavum): This is the bright yellow lichen on one rock along the Pipeline Trail. (Brodo, Sharnoff and Sharnoff, 578).

• Powder-tipped rosette lichen (Physcia dubia): This is the delicate leaf-shaped lichen on the limestone vertical fins near mile 5.0 (Brodo, Sharnoff and Sharnoff, 554).

Like today’s Great Salt Lake (May 26th), ancient Lake Bonneville’s water levels and glaciation of the Salt Lake’s canyons at the end of the last ice age gives clues as to the climate of the Salt Lake valley and the canyon. That record is hidden within the valley’s rocks and trees. In 2015 and updating a prior study from 1997, Oviatt at the University of Kansas reconstructed date ranges in which ancient lake rose and fell by radiocarbon dating organic material in tufa deposits along the lake’s former shorelines. He concluded that Lake Bonneville began its rise about 30,000 years ago (id., Table 1). Between 15,000 and 18,000 years ago, Lake Bonneville reached its maximum height at about 5,100 feet, or near the northern end of Pleasant Valley in the canyon near mile 1.7. Following the failure of the Red Rock ice dam in Idaho, the Lake drained to the Provo Shoreline, which is Bonneville Drive and 11th Avenue in the City. Other the next 15,000 years, the lake gradually declined to the current level of the Great Salt Lake (id).

In 2011, Laabs, Marchetti, and Munroe and colleagues used residual Beryllium 10 isotopes in rocks, taken from the glacial moraines in Little Cottonwood Canyon in Salt Lake valley and American Fork Canyon in Utah valley, in order to date when glaciers retreated up from the ancient lake’s shores. An ongoing question existed amongst geologists, based on conflicting earlier studies, concerning whether the Salt Lake glaciers receded before, coincident with or after the end of the last Ice Age and-or before, coincident with or after the end of the peak level of Lake Bonneville. Figure 1 of their study shows the area of glaciation stretching from American Fork to the south and Farmington, Utah in the north, thus, including City Creek Canyon. They concluded that glaciers covering the Salt Lake valley canyons started to retreat 15,700 plus or minus 1,300 years before the present, either during or shortly after the maximum 5,100 foot shoreline height of ancient Lake Bonneville. Their confidence interval overlaps the 15,000 to 18,000 years before the present found by Oviatt for the maximum height of Lake Bonneville. Deglaciation started about 4,000 years after the end of the continental Ice Age at 18,000 years ago. Because the lake reached its maximum and retreat of the local glaciers started after the end of the Ice Age, Laabs, Marchetti, and Munroe et al concluded that the local climate between 18,000 and 15,000 years ago was wetter than thought by prior geologists.

That there were glaciers in City Creek Canyon below Grandview Peak and at the canyon’s final hanging valley (September 8th) seems evident from an examination of any terrain map and hiking the canyon. But to my knowledge, there are no studies dating the glacial deposits in City Creek Canyon. Van Horn and Crittenden’s geologic map shows no surficial glacier features (Van Horn and Crittenden, 1987, U.S.G.S. I-1762). Perhaps there was a lighter ice sheet over the canyon 15,000 years ago, but it was insufficient to crave the bedrock.

The Engelmann spruces and other pine trees that live in association with the spruces, tell the history of Salt Lake valley’s and the canyon’s climate for the last 13,000 years before the present. In Little Cottonwood Canyon, Engelmann spruce share the glacial scoured hillsides with Limber pine (Pinus flexilis). Engelmann spruce is more tolerant of wet earth and colder soil temperatures, and Limber pine is more tolerant of dry earth and warmer soil temperatures. Thus, as climate changes occur over thousands of years, the relative amount of pollen left in soil layers beneath their canopy gives a general indication of weather in the distant past. In 1979, Madsen and Currey at the University of Utah used a bog in Gad Valley near Snowbird Ski Resort to reconstruct Utah’s late Holocene climate (Madsen and Currey 1979). Based on moraine deposits, the maximum extent of glaciation that extruded glaciers into the Salt Lake valley floor occurred about 25,000 years ago. After a period of warming, a second smaller glacial period ensued and Madsen and Currey, using the bog at Gad Valley places that around 12,500 years ago. Then glaciers within Little Cottonwood Canyon retreated and disappeared. A similar bog in Albion Basin at the top of Little Cottonwood is dated at 9,500 years (id, 258). Using the ratio of Engelmann spruce and Limber pine in the Gad Valley bog, Madsen and Currey were able to reconstruct the relative climate of the canyon, and by extension the Salt Lake Valley and City Creek Canyon, for the past 12,500 years. Between 13,000 and 8,000 years before the present, the valley’s climate was cooler and wetter than today. Between 8,000 and 5,000 before the present, advancing Limber pines indicate a warmer and drier climate than today. Then there was a brief period in which temperatures greatly declined, followed by a quick warming and a gradual decline to today’s cooler temperatures with respect to the 13,000 year mean (id, at Fig. 6 and 265). In contrast, precipitation has been on a gradual decline for the last 6,500 years and is currently near the 13,000 year mean (id). These are consistent with Grayson’s climate divisions for the Great Basin Holocene generally: 10,000 to 7,500 years before the present (early), 7,500 to 4,500 years before the present (middle), and 4,500 years before the present until today (late) (Grayson, Chap. 8).

Over the last 4,500 years, a picture of trends in Salt Lake City’s local climate can be developed from tree ring, Gad Valley bog pollen, and other climate research. Since 4,500 years before the present, there was a brief period in which temperatures greatly declined, followed by a quick warming and a gradual decline to today’s cooler temperatures with respect to the 13,000 year mean (Madsen and Currey, Fig. 6 and 265). It is now colder than average than over the last 13,000 years. The Little Ice lasted from about 1300 C.E. to 1850 B.C. There were highly variable swings in temperature during this time, but those changes were not global, but regional (Solomon et al 2007; Houghton et al 2001). In Utah, the Little Ice Age ended in 1850 and was followed by the most severe winter in Utah history, the winter of 1855-1856.

Since 4,500 years before the present, precipitation has been on a gradual decline for the last 6,500 years and is currently near the 13,000 year mean (Madsen and Currey). From 1492 to the present, the tree rings show that persistent, severe droughts were far more prevalent in the distant past than in the 150 years of Euro-American presence in northern Utah (Bekker et al 2014). Variability in Salt Lake City precipitation since the 1960s, including severe drought in the 1960s and peak flooding in the 1980s, is tied to the Pacific Quasi-Decadal Oscillation, an 11 year cycle of drought and heavy precipitation tied to ocean temperatures off the coast of California and Japan. The level of the Great Salt Lake acts as a recorder of climate, and the Lake’s level has been recorded continuously since 1875 (USGS, 2017a, USGS, 2017b). In the summer of 2016, it dropped to a new historical low of 4,190.1 feet (id).

In 2010, Wang and colleagues at the Utah State University associated the Pacific Quasi-Decadal Oscillation (PQDO) with a northern Utah three-year leading precipitation and a six year leading level of the Great Salt Lake (Wang, Fig. 4 at 2166). In the association with the level of the Great Salt Lake, PQDO warm phase peaks are associated with the lowest lake levels and PQDO cool phase troughs are associated with the highest lake levels. In 2013, DeRose, Wang and colleagues used tree rings to reconstruct the level of the Great Salt Lake back to 1429, and they associated the lake’s level to the pacific oscillation back to 1700 (DeRose 2013). In recent years, the PQDO has been good for Utah. While California has suffered severe drought, the PQDO has kept annual precipitation relatively higher in Utah (IWWA Project).

The PQDO has not had a phase change since 1997 and the change to a heavy precipitation pattern is overdue. Despite heavy winter snowfall in the high mountains during the winter of 2016-2107, Utah remains in an extended drought with unseasonably warm summers.

Future uncertainty is added by the effect of global warming. Has global warming disrupted the Pacific Quasi-Decadal Oscillation? What will its future impact be? However, even excluding global warming, Salt Lake City and Utah are on a path towards relatively hotter weather and declining water supplies as compared to the past.

* * * *

On July 21st, 1942, the City banned the entire north bench of Salt Lake City to entry due to fire hazard, but access to City Creek Canyon would remain open (Salt Lake Telegram). On July 21st, 1906, the Deseret Evening News published a picture of a 10 foot snow bridge across City Creek Canyon about nine miles up the canyon. On July 21st, prize fighter Tommy Reilly trained by taking a long run up City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake Telegram). On July 21st, 1903, about 100 Ute Tribe members gathered for an annual celebration at the mouth of City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake Herald). (In the present, the Ute Tribe holds an annual meet at Liberty Park.)

July 28, 2017

July 16th Revised, Reposted

Bird dialects; Grasshoppers and Locusts

2:30 p.m. With the continuing heat, an inverted layer of polluted air continues to building in valley, but the pollution has not yet entered the canyon. Today, the canyon air is clear, but later in the summer, the inversion layer will rise in altitude. A small black and white “bee” hover next to the road, but on closer inspection, it is a fly – Sacken’s bee hunter (Laphria sackeni). I find a small stink-bug like insect on several plants. It is a 3mm dark grey diamond with a orange-yellow border. It is probably a member of the Bordered plant bug (Largidae family), but I can find no specific specie example in my guides. Another dead Grasshopper (Melanoplus sp.) is on the road, and the continuing seasonal heat removes other characters from late spring’s cast. Yellow sweet clover has lost its leaves and become dried green sticks. Pinacate beetles have not been seen for a week.

Fruits betray infrequent lower canyon plants. On the trail spur leading from the road up to the Pipeline Trail, there is a single lower-canyon example of a dwarf Mountain ash (Sorbus scopulina) with bright red-fruit. Near mile 0.2, one Western blue elderberry bush (Sambucus nigra ssp. cerulea) sports deep blue fruit.

I have continued self-study on learning to read the bird soundscape of the canyon (May 6th), but I have become disillusioned with my reference recordings of bird songs. It is evident that the canyon’s birds use calls that not among my reference recordings, and I suspect between some unrelated species that the birds are imitating each other’s calls. I have followed another of the many Lazuli buntings in the lower canyon today, and they use a trill call that is not in my sample recordings. Like birds, the several species of grasshoppers that frequent Utah are difficult for amateurs to distinguish, because they are mostly are seen only during flight before they disappear into thick grass.

* * * *

Birds form regional dialects (Podos and Warren 2007, Luther and Baptista 2010). A consequence of this is that without amateurs building a large centralized body of recordings, no one reference audio will sufficient for a local area. Only long experience, in which visual observations can be paired with local dialectal calls, can make one a “wizard” of the local bird soundscape.

Grasshoppers are often confused by North American lay people, including myself, for a variety of insects, including katydids and locusts. The Mormon crickets (Anabrus simplex H.) of that religion’s 1848 “Miracle of the Gulls” (Nov. 30th) were katydids and not crickets. In addition to katydids and grasshopper outbreaks that continue to the present day, historically, Salt Lake City was also visited by many locust plagues. There are several species of grasshoppers in Utah. The principal kinds are Melanoplus confusus Scudder, Melanoplus packardii Scudder, Melanoplus sanguinipes Fabricius, Camnula pellucida Scudder, and Aulocara elliotti Thomas (Watson 2016).

Salt Lake City and Utah were one of many regions that were devastated by the Rocky Mountain Locust outbreaks of the nineteenth century. Between the 1855 and 1900, the Plains states of North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa and Missouri, and the Intermountain States (Colorado, Wyoming, southeastern Idaho and Utah) were inundated with periodic plagues of this mega-pest locust. In one June 1875 stream seen crossing the Nebraska plains, a swarm of 3.5 trillion locusts were seen (Lockwood, 19-21), and on the shores of the Great Salt Lake, drifts six feet high and two miles long, or 1.5 million bushels, were reported by Orson Pratt (Lockwood, 10; Deseret News May 25, 1875). The volume of the Salt Lake 1855 locusts were sufficient to cover four and one-third of Salt Lake City’s ten acre blocks with a one foot layer, or about 507 Salt Lake City ten acre blocks, or 0.8 square miles, one-inch deep (id). While the exact population of Rocky Mountain Locusts at their peak is unknown, one carrying capacity estimate for the western and plains lands puts the maximum 1875 Rocky Mountain Locust population at 15 trillion insects (Lockwood, 163-164). In terms of biomass, the Rocky Mountain Locusts of 1875 weighed in at an estimated of 8.5 million tons, and this compared favorably to the estimated 11.5 million tons of the 45 million North American bison of that same time. Nebraska, Minnesota, Iowa and Missouri were particularly hard hit by the 1875 locust outbreak, and those states and the federal government had to reluctantly implement large scale relief programs to aid bankrupted and starving farmers who had moved to those states and taken up undeveloped farm lands under the Homestead Act (Lockwood, Chap. 5).

The crisis lead to a governors’ commission, the creation of the United States Entomological Commission headed by prominent entomologists Charles V. Riley, Cyrus Thomas, and Alpheus Spring Packard, Jr. to study the insects, and the Entomological Commission issuing several classic nineteenth century scientific reports (Riley 1877, Packard 1877, United States Entomological Commission 1878 and 1880). Figure 1 of the Commission’s 1878 First Report elegantly shows the migration patterns of the Rocky Mountain locusts from their permanent nesting zones somewhere in the foothills leading to Yellowstone National Park in northwestern Wyoming and their circular migrations west and south to Utah and north and east through the Great Plains. Key among the Commission’s findings were that the Rocky Mountain locusts had a permanent nesting zone and within that zone, they preferred a particular type of sandy soil in which to reproduce.

The impact of Rocky Mountain Locust invasions were also substantial in Salt Lake City and Utah. In May 26, 1875, Wilford Woodruff, church apostle and then president of the Deseret Agriculture and Manufacturing Society noted that significant locust “grasshopper” infestations occurred in Utah in 1855 and during each year from 1866 to 1872. The 1855 invasion was the worst. Packard reported that in 1855, about 75 percent of all food stuffs were devoured, and this required the Utah settlers to live on thistles, milkweed and roots (Packard, 603-604). Heber C. Kimball estimated that there was less than fifty acres of standing grain left in the Salt Lake Valley and that the desolation stretched from Box Elder county to Cedar City (Bitton, Davis, and Wilcox, 342-343). The 1855 outbreak was part of a larger outbreak that covered present day Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, parts of Texas, and the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains (Packard, 34). The 1855 outbreak was followed by one of the worst winters in Utah history, the winter of 1850. 1850 marked the end of the 1300-1850 Little Ice Age. In the 1850s, one Salt Lake child described dunes of dead locusts along the Great Salt Lake shoreline as high as houses (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints 1986). In June 1868, Alfred Cordon reported crossing a locust stream while traveling north of Salt Lake City for four miles, and in Tooele, an 1870 resident described the destruction of all of his crops (Bitton, Davis and Wilcox, 338).

As the Rocky Mountain Locust hordes passed, they would lay eggs in favorable sandy soils, such as those found in the foothills above Salt Lake City. In August 1879, Taylor Heninger and John Ivie of Sanpete County estimated that Rocky Mountain Locusts had laid 743,424,000 eggs on each acre (Bitton, Davis, and Wilcox, 344). On August 28th and 29th, 1878, the Entomological Commission’s Packard witnessed a few locusts hatching from the benches above Salt Lake City (e.g. including the present day Avenues foothills) for a radius of ten miles (Packard 1880 at Second Report, 1880, 69-70).

Through 1896, further outbreaks occurred, but the locust population continually diminished in size through the Plains and the Intermountain states (Bitton, Davis, and Wilcox, Table; United States Entomological Commission 1880). Without explanation, by the early 1900s, the Rocky Mountain Locusts disappeared, and by 1931, it was considered extinct (Lockwood, 128-136). That made the North American continent the only continent, excluding cold Antarctica, that is free of locusts. In 2012, a locust outbreak destroyed part of Russia’s wheat crop, resulting in that country halting wheat exports, and another Russian outbreak occurred in 2015. Curiously, since there were some many of the locusts, adequate specimens were not preserved in the United States’ academic insect collections.

Various theories arose between the early 1900s and the 1950s concerning why the Rocky Mountain Locusts became extinct (Lockwood, Chap. 10). Lockwood reviews why each was discarded in turn: The end of the Little Ice Age in 1890 and the decimation of the bison populations occurred after, not before the locust outbreaks. The decline of the rate of fires associated with the decline of Native American populations was rejected because Native Americans did not burn a sufficiently large part of the Great Plains. In another theory, the Rocky Mountain Locust (Melanopus spretus) in response to the planting of alfalfa by farmers phase transformed into another grasshopper that still exists today – the Migratory grasshopper (Melanopus sanguinipes). This was rejected because the number of alfalfa fields planted in the Great Plains was insufficient to deny the Rocky Mountain Locusts of their preferred food sources (id).

In order to obtain further evidence regarding this last theory, in the 1980s, Lockwood and colleagues searched glaciers in Idaho, Wyoming and Montana for Rocky Mountain Locusts that had been preserved. Eventually, frozen locusts were located in Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains and at Knife Point Glacier in Wyoming. Subsequent taxonomic comparision confirmed that the Rocky Mountain Locust (Melanopus spretus) and Migratory grasshopper (Melanopus sanguinipes) are two distinct species (Lockwood, Chap.s 10 and 11). Genetic testing in part confirms that conclusion (Chapco and Litzenberger 2004).

Then what caused the extinction of the Rocky Mountain Locust – the mega-pest of the nineteenth century? Lockwood suggests that the permanent breeding zones of the Rocky Mountain Locust were similar to the Monarch butterfly (Lockwood, Chap. 13). The Monarch butterfly overwinters in a few small forest groves in California and Mexico. The Monarchs (of which I saw two of in City Creek Canyon on July 24th) could easily be made extinct by a few loggers armed with chain saws. The Rocky Mountain Locusts concentrate their favored breeding zones on sandy soils in foothills raised above stream banks. Lockwood suggests that a triumvirate of three human activities brought the end to the locusts. First, farmers in Wyoming or Montana flooded, as suggested by the Entomological Commission in 1880 (Second Report, 311-313, Utah irrigation practices), or farmed the relatively small permanent breeding refuges of the Rocky Mountain Locust. Farmers also planted alfalfa for cattle feed, a plant disfavored by the locusts. Second, ranchers released millions of cattle that quickly denuded sandy grasslands next to streams and canyon headwaters. Third, this led to cloud-burst flooding that washed out the breeding areas and-or covered breeding zones with layers of thick mud. Combined, these factors destroyed the Rocky Mountain Locusts permanent breeding refuges and led to their extinction.

These factors were also seen locally in the Salt Lake Valley. On their arrival, Euro-American colonists found a valley inundated with Rocky Mountain Locusts and kaytdids (March 6th). Their first tasks included forming a committee of extermination to kill much of the bird life in the valley that might eat agricultural crops and that incidentally eat locusts (March 6th). They then released some of the 4,500 cattle brought with the first 1848 settlers on both the valley floor and the foothills, and planted large tracks of grains on the valley floor. Next they began lumbering operations that denuded the upper canyons (March 13th and March 14th), and removal of the time resulted in cloudburst flooding (March 11th and 12th, July 7th) (id).

In modern Utah, outbreaks of less robust katydids and other grasshoppers still occur. On May 7, 2002, former Governor Micheal Leavitt declared a state of emergency in Utah due to an outbreak of Mormon crickets and other grasshoppers in which 3.3 million acres in Utah were infested (Ut. Exec. Order May, 7, 2002, Karrass 2001). Grasshoppers periodically infest up to 6 square miles in the Salt Lake valley, but their cousins, the Mormon cricket (Anabrus simplex H.), had their last 2 square mile outbreak in 2009 (id). Statewide, grasshoppers peaked in 2001 (1.4 million infested acres) and 2010 (approx. 800,000 acres) (Watson 2016, Karrass 2001). Acres infested by Mormon crickets crashed from 3 million in 2004 to only 10,000 in 2016 (Watson).In Salt Lake County, the last Mormon cricket infestation was about 1,300 acres in 2009 (Watson 2016). Given the rapid urbanization of the west half of the Salt Lake valley beginning in 2008, the katydids’ breeding ground on the valley floor has been further reduced, and thus, it is unlikely that they will return here. On July 16th and after their hatching, I saw four Mormon crickets in the trees around mile 0.5 in City Creek Canyon.

This does not mean that the ecological niche occupied by the Rocky Mountain Locust and the Mormon crickets remains empty. On July 6th, I estimated that in the foothills surrounding the north end of Salt Lake City – these are the same hills that Packard saw Rocky Mountain Locusts rise from in 1879 – there were 310,000,000 million House crickets (Acheta domestica) with a mass of 85 tons on the city’s northern foothills. Unlike the larger Utah grasshoppers and katydids, the House crickets do not invade the valley floor, and they are not perceived as a pest despite their numbers.

Mormons have a cultural tradition of storing one year’s worth of food against hard times. This practice has a thin doctrinal basis. There is an ambiguous reference in their texts directing members to “organize yourself; prepare every needful thing, and establish a house . . . ” (Smith, Doctrine and Covenants, 109:8), but a more direct religious source is Levicitus, Chapter 25:1-13, of the Christian Bible. In Levicitus, followers are enjoined to observe a fallow seventh sabbath year after six years of harvests. The fifty year after seventh sabbath years is to be a jubilee year in which debts are forgiven.

In present day Mormon country from Idaho to Arizona, selling and buying a year’s worth of dried disaster supplies is big business. Probably, this cultural practice is an echo of western colonists’ encounters with the now extinct Rocky Mountain Locust (Melanopus spretus). Numerous plague scale invasions of this locust visited Salt Lake City between 1855 and 1877.

The outbreak of 1855 was seven years after the 1848 “Miracle of the Gulls” katydid incident. On July 13, 1855, church apostle Heber C. Kimball drew the parallel between biblical injunctions in Leviticus to allow land to lay fallow every seven years and the need to store food stuffs to tide a believer over the seventh Sabbath year:

“How many times have you been told to store up your wheat against the hard times that are coming upon the nations of the earth? When we first came to the valley our President [Brigham Young] told us to lay up stores of all kinds of grain, that the earth might rest . . . This is the seventh year, did you ever think of it?” (quoted in Lockwood, 44-45).

After touring the devastation of the 1868 locust outbreak in the Salt Lake valley, Brigham Young in a sermon to the Mill Creek congregation returned to the need to keep a seventh sabbath year of provisions on hand as a hedge against calamity:

“We have had our fields laden with grain for years; and if we had been so disposed, our bins might have been filled to overflowing, and with seven years’ provisions on hand we might have disregarded the ravages of these insects, . . .” (quoted Bitton, Davis, and Wilcox, 354).

Thus, the Mormon practice of storing a year’s worth of food supplies is in part inspired by their encounter with the extinct Rocky Mountain Locust.

* * * *

On July 16th, 1946, the Salt Lake Telegram reported on the costs of recovery from an August 1945 cloudburst flood. The airport was wrecked and a flash flood down Perry’s Hollow ripped through the city cemetery and tombstones were swept onto N Street. The downtown flooded:

Two hours later [after the cloudburst] State St. was still blocked by the overflow from flooding City Creek. Boulders weighing 300 and 500 pounds were left along the way. Parked automobiles were carried for blocks. Tree branches and trash cans were left in four and five-foot drifts.

On July 16th, 1940, a young bicyclist lost control of his machine and was injured on crashing into a tree (Salt Lake Telegram). On July 16th, 1922, hundreds of young girls hiked up City Creek Canyon as part of a city parks recreation program (Salt Lake Telegram). On July 16th, 1916, the YMCA planned a hike up City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake Telegram). On July 16th, 1891, District Court Judge Zane in Duncan v. E. R. Clute declared the City’s water main improvement district that developed the City Creek water system infrastructure to be unlawful and he suggested that the City Council should be impeached for implementing their plan (Deseret Evening News). On July 16th, 1882, Salt Lake City passed an ordinance establishing the Salt Lake City Waterworks for the development of water system infrastructure in the city and in City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake Herald). The ordinance set a schedule of connection fees to City water mains (id).

July 27, 2017

July 24th Revised, Reposted

Filed under: History, People — canopus56 @ 10:17 pm


External Link to Image

Brigadier General Philippe Régis Denis de Keredern de Trobriand circa 1860 to 1870. United States Library of Congress.

5 p.m. Near milepost 0.6, someone has made a small memorial on the passing of a local pastor. It is a simple affair. A poem with his photo that was clipped from the newspaper has been inconspicuously pinned at the base of a small tree. It would go completely unnoticed but the bereaved also scattered a trail of white blue rose petals for a couple of hundred yards leading to the monument. At its base, four or five each of now faded white and red rose petals below the newspaper clipping. He was a clinical pastor and also on the board of directors of Saint Mark’s Hospital. His obituary hints at an even more complex personality. His undergraduate degree was in chemistry but then he switched and obtained a masters in divinity studies. He must have resolved the modern dichotomy between science and religion. This shows another use of the canyon: as scared and memorial space.

Sept. 26th. 5:30 p.m. New flower blooms have been placed at the base of this memorial tree.

November 14th, 4:30 p.m. The flower memorial has blown away and no trace of it can be found.

* * * *

On July 4th, 1871, Fort Douglas commander Brigadier General Philippe Régis Denis de Keredern de Trobriand averted a massacre by refusing to open fire on a July 4th parade led by Brigham Young. As part of preparations for the July 4th parade of 1871, Salt Lake City officials planned to have the City parade led by the Navuoo Legion and Brigham Young (Grandstaff 1996, Deseret News and Van Leer, Nov. 19th, 1996). At that time, Salt Lake City’s mayor was Daniel Wells who also an apostle of the LDS Church and a lieutenant general in the Navuoo Legion. The then federally-appointed Utah Territorial Secretary George A. Black had previously issued a proclamation prohibiting any local militia from mustering, drilling, or parading (Grandstaff at 217). In context, 1871 was still a few short years after the end of the Civil War, and during the era of Reconstruction, such proclamations were used in the South to prevent a return of the Confederacy. Black and Utah’s Territorial Governor George L. Woods desired to prevent the Mormon Legion from marching in the parade. de Trobiand refused to enforce the proclamation and requested to guidance from his supervising officer, Brevet Brigadier General Christopher Augur, of the Army’s Platte Department in Omaha, Nebraska. Auger directed de Trobriand to prevent the Legion from marching and to use force if needed (Grandstaff at 218). On the critical date of July 3rd, 1871, Black was the acting-Territorial Governor.

Woods was an Oregon attorney during the early 1860s and did not serve in the Civil War, and Black’s Civil War service is unknown. General deTrobriand was a French aristocrat who had served in the Civil War at the Battles of Williamsburg and Gettysburg, including at the bloody battle of the Wheatfield. Civil War photographer Timothy O’Sullivan, after whom O’Sullivan Peak in Big Cottonwood Canyon is named, gained national recognition for his photograph of war dead entitled the “Harvest of Death” taken at Gettysburg’s Wheatfield battleground.

Around July 3rd, Black met with de Trobriand (Grandstaff at 218). de Trobriand refused acting governor Black’s order to fire on any armed Navuoo Legion members in the parade, but stated that Black was free to personally issue the order to de Trobriand’s troops. On July 3rd, de Trobriand deployed armed troops carrying 40 rounds each of ammunition along the parade route near the existing Alta Club and on the delta of City Creek Canyon stream. Next, de Trobriand met with Brigham Young. Young took the position that the Navuoo Legion would march and stated that the Legion could easily defeat the federal troops if necessary. de Trobriand’s replied that, “[it] would not inconvenience the United States in the least, but would ensure the prompt and thorough destruction of Mormonism” (Grandstaff at 219).

The next day as the federal troops waited for the start of the July 4th parade, Brigham Young exited the parade marshalling area in what is now Memory Grove leading a group of young teen women crowned with flowers. The Legion did not march. de Trobriand deftly navigated a difficult domestic peace-keeping dispute between two opposing sets of civilian authorities and averted a public massacre in the streets of Salt Lake City.

Brigadier General de Trobriand is memorialized at Fort Douglas with De Trobriand Street, the street that runs in front of the Fort Douglas Commander’s House at 1965 De Tobriand St., University of Utah, Fort Douglas, Salt Lake City, Utah. The Commander’s House is now a reception and meeting center run by the University of Utah Guest House.

* * * *

On July 24th, 2006, the Deseret News reported on the history of the Lone Cedar Tree monument at 300 South and 500 East. The Lone Cedar Tree originally grew at a corner store at the intersection. In 1933, the dead tree was placed in its monument. In 1958, vandals cut the tree down. In 1960, the stump of the tree was installed in the monument, and then the stump was stolen. It was replaced with the present stone monument. On July 24th, 1905, Thomas Homer, the owner of new automobile, bet Dr. W. F. Beer, the owner of a horse drawn carriage, that Homer could take his car anywhere that Beer’s carriage could go (Salt Lake Telegram). On July 24th, 1897, the Salt Lake Tribune profiled four of the twenty-eight still living pioneers of 1847, and the paper reported that the first Euro-American death in the valley was the death of three-year old child of George Therikill. The child wandered off from the pioneer camp on August 11th and drown in City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake Tribune). The Tribune reported that it procured 91 photographs of the original 168 advance party pioneers. On July 24th, 1894, boys camping in City Creek Canyon set off a small brush fire (Salt Lake Tribune). On July 24th, 1886, the Salt Lake Herald endorsed a proposal to build a twenty-five mile road from Morgan County down City Creek Canyon so perishable dairy products could reach Salt Lake without longer trip through Parley’s Canyon (Salt Lake Herald).

July 26, 2017

July 23rd

Filed under: American dipper — canopus56 @ 12:46 pm

Dapper Dipper

3:00 p.m. An American Dipper or Water ouzel (Cinclus mexicanus) is playing along the stream at mile 0.7. It darts tirelessly over the rocks and in and out of the stream with frenetic abandon. Both John Muir in his “Mountains of California” and Barnes in “Four Seasons” speak highly of the water ouzel as an entertaining and delightful bird to watch. Its reputation is reinforced by its pleasant song. For me, the American dipper is a metaphor for the modern rushed life. I see little difference between its life of frenetic activity in search of sustenance and the endless work people need to do in order to support themselves in a post-industrial hyper-marketing world. The dipper reminds to me to also some fun and sing along the way, no matter how hot the day may be.

* * * *

On July 23, 2011, a brush fire broke out at Bonneville Drive and City Creek Canyon. (Salt Lake Tribune). A young man turned himself into the Salt Lake City Police, admitted to setting three fires, including two in Memory Grove (id). He was charged with arson, convicted and later released (Salt Lake Tribune, July 31, 2011 and October 13, 2011). (On May 13, 2014, the man, who had mental health issues, was convicted of attempting to set another fire in Memory Grove.) On July 23rd, 2010, a 2 acre grass fire broke out in City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake Tribune). On July 29th, 2007, historian Ardis Parshall published a piece in the Salt Lake Tribune regarding Fisher Harris, a tourism promoter who in the early 1900s in conjunction with the Commercial Club hosted an annual three-day carnival festival at 200 South and 300 East. In the three day carnival, “Hatumai”, the Wizard of the Wasatch would descend from City Creek Canyon to host the carnival (id). “Hatumai” is “I am Utah” spelled backwards. On July 23rd, 2003, the Deseret News published a historical piece on the drought of 1931. During the 100 degree summer days, the hills north of 11th Avenue and City Creek Canyon were closed and patrolled to keep residents out due to fire danger. On July 23rd, 1938, a fire burned 50 acres on Ensign Peak and 100 acres near Fort Douglas (Salt Lake Telegram). On July 23rd, 1913, the first adobe manufacturing mill built on City Creek in 1847 was torn down (Salt Lake Telegram).

July 25, 2017

July 22nd, 2016, Beginning of Cyclical Year

Filed under: Western flycatcher — canopus56 @ 6:42 am


3:00 p.m. A Western flycatcher (Empidonax difficilis) is playing around the pool at picnic site 2. It flits from stream rocks into vegetation on the stream banks, apparently attempting to flush out small insects. It is full of nervous energy. I am in a mood today and my affect projects on the flycatcher. Is the flycatcher a ceaseless worker like so many people are in modern post-industrial capitalism with no real prospect of rest? Or is the flycatcher at one with itself and nature, and so it goes about its work with a sense of joy and wholeness?

* * * *

On July 22nd, 1992, a 150 acre brush fire started near the Lime Kiln near the Avenues-City Creek ridge and next to luxury homes on Tomahawk Drive (Salt Lake Tribune, July 23, 1992).

Older Posts »

Blog at