Natural History of a City Creek Canyon Year

September 29, 2018

A Reading List for the Northern Great Basin

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A reading list for key books about the ecology and history of Northern Utah and the Salt Lake valley.

Barnes, C. T. (1996). The Natural History of a Mountain Year: Four Seasons in the Wasatch Range. (P. M. Poulsen, Ed.) (2nd ed.) Salt Lake City, Utah: University of Utah Press.

Garber, H. (2012). Utah’s Wasatch Range: Four Season Refuge. Portsmouth, New Hampshire: Peter F. Randall Publisher.

Keller, C. (2010). The Lady in the Ore Bucket: A History of Settlement and Industry in the Tri-Canyon Area of the Wasatch Mountains. Salt Lake City, Utah: University of Utah Press.

Lanner, R. M. (1984). Trees of the Great Basin: a Natural History. Reno, Nevada: Univ. of Nevada Press.

McPhee, J. (1981). Basin and Range. New York, New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Pratt, M., Reid, C., Banner, R., and Bowns, J. (2013). Wildflowers and Other Herbaceous Plants of Utah Rangelands: A Field Guide. (All Current Publications No. 1755). Logan, Utah: Utah State University.

Trimble, S. (1999, 2d). The Sagebrush Ocean: a Natural History of the Great Basin. Reno, Nevada: University of Nevada Press.

Waring, G. L. (2011). A Natural History of the Intermountain West: Its Ecological and Evolutionary Story. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press.


September 23, 2018

Book Review: A Natural History of the Intermountain West

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This book concerns similar topics to those discussed in “The Natural History of City Creek Canyon Year.” If you liked “City Creek”, you may also enjoy this book:

Book Review: A Natural History of the Intermountain West

Waring, G. L. (2011). A Natural History of the Intermountain West: Its Ecological and Evolutionary Story. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press.

Northern Utah readers and tourists who plan to explore the region find this book and Trimble’s “Sagebrush Ocean” essential reading.

Ecologist Dr. Gwendolyn L. Waring has written one of the classics of Intermountain West ecology. With an ecologist’s insight, she reviews how the geologic formation of the Great Basin and Colorado Plateau formed a uniquely diverse environment. For example, as the Colorado Plateau rose and eroded rock layers, the region’s highly variable seasons husbanded the highest diversity of endemic vascular plants (141) and fishes (34) in North America. In contrast, during what was a geologic flicker, the great glacial melt lakes of the Great Basin such as Lake Bonneville, wiped out species and caused a low diversity in northern and central Utah. As the land of the Great Basin fell and the region warmed, relic Ice Age species became marooned on mountain ranges divided by basins of deserts. In response to the post-Ice Age warming climate, along with the Basin’s unique combination of stressors – low water, scorching summers and freezing winters – grasses and shrubs plants exploited polyploidy – having multiple copies of DNA strands – to evolve completely new pathways of carbon metabolism (C4). The plants new metabolism allowed them to more efficiently breathe while using less salt-contaminated water (128-130 – grasses, 137-142 – salt brush, sagebrush). Higher, cooler and wetter foothill and mountain lands favor less efficient C3 plants; lower hot summer basins favor C4 plants.

Repeatedly her writing emphasizes connections and patterns that long-time Basin residents might miss. Mountain trout – who once like salmon roamed the shallow inland ocean that was Utah – live in higher parts of mountain streams because the rocks erode less and water is clearer, but downstream sedimentary rocks cloud the water and favor chubs and suckers (34-43). This pattern is repeated in the large scale structure of the Colorado River system. Engelmann spruce, Limber (white) pines, and Ponderosa pines battle for space depending on water availability. The high montane pine forests burn on a natural cycle of 150-250 years and groves of water loving aspen act as natural fire breaks to prevent the spread of fire. Pine trees co-evolved to make their seeds attractive to nuthatches, who stockpile large caches of seeds each winter and allow forests to regenerate after 100 year destructive fires. Penstemons first evolved in the Intermountain West before spreading across North American. The region’s 70 penstemon species have short tubular flowers that perfectly fit the diameter of a bee. In contrast, the spurs of columbines restrict pollination to long-beaked hummingbirds and the long-tongued hawkmoths (159-161). Her book omits the evolution of the northern Great Basin’s hybrid Gambel’s oak forest, but this understandably due to her Arizona residency. With expert understanding she clearly constructs the pre-European condition of the Intermountain West’s various sub regions, how modern humans have changed it, and the current state of science on how these lands might change in response to increased carbon dioxide and warming.

Similar to another Intermountain natural history classic – Steven Trimble’s 1989 “The sagebrush ocean: a natural history of the Great Basin” – Waring’s book is organized by biological sub-region: high western mountains, lower ponderosa pine forests, pinyon-juniper forests, grasslands, shrub lands of basin bottoms, and water systems that connect them. Although Waring writes in a readable and at time poetic style of a naturalist, her book discusses about 700 scholarly books and journal articles between Trimble’s 1989 work and 2011. For example, the title of her chapter on the northern and central Great Basin valley bottoms of Utah and Nevada is titled “The Spare and Beautiful Cold Desert” – not the way the most people driving between Salt Lake City and Reno would view shrub lands. Her “Natural History” is an invaluable compendium of biological and ecological research work during that period.

Salt Lake’s Marriott Library and the Salt Lake City Library both hold one copy each, but the book can be ordered in hardcopy only through Abebooks or Amazon.

September 12, 2018

Book Award for “City Creek Year”

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Winner – League of Utah Writers’ 2018 Published Book Contest, Non-Fiction

League of Utah Writers' Non-Fiction Award

July 19, 2018

Second Update to The Natural History Year of a City Creek Canyon Year

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An update to the February 2018 release have been uploaded to the Kindle and Kobo digital platforms. The current version is dated July 17, 2018. For prior purchasers, those changes should automatically update to your local digital readers, when you log back into your respective accounts. The update adds summary entries of historical events from the Salt Lake City Municipal Record, a monthly City journal that was active between 1913 and 1929, regarding City Creek Canyon and water infrastructure development of Salt Lake City. The March 1st entry has been revised to discuss cyclical northern Utah long-term precipitation trends and how those weather trends related to the development of Salt Lake City. A graph of the historical elevations of the Great Salt Lake is included. There is a modification to the Conclusion describing how from the 1910s to the 1950s, industrial and citizen residents interests were aligned to preserve Wasatch Front Canyons as a water source. Commercial and citizen interests began to diverge from the 1950s to the present. Happy reading. – Kurt

Revision History:
February 2018 – Initial release
April 2018 – 1st Update
July 2018 – 2nd Update

April 3, 2018

Corrections to “Natural History . . . City Creek”

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Corrections and updates to the February 2018 release have been uploaded to the Kindle and Kobo digital platforms. The current version is dated April 3, 2018. For prior purchasers, those changes should automatically update to your local digital readers, when you log back into your respective accounts. Happy reading. – Kurt

February 13, 2018

“Natural History of City Creek Year” has been published

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“A Natural History of a City Creek Canyon Year” has been self-published as an ebook. More details about the book can be found on the Discussion and Contact page.

  • Amazon Kindle ebook edition. Price: 2.99 USD. Amazon Standard Identification Number B079RY7CTD. Kindle edition is part of the Kindle Lending Program™. You can purchase the ebook and then lend it others who also have an Amazon account. Amazon does not have a program to affiliate an account and share sales revenues with your local bookseller.
  • Kobo ebook edition. Price: 2.99 USD. ISBN-13: 978-0-692-07443-5. A 5.00 USD credit is available for new Kobo users toward their first book purchase. (Feb. 2018). Kobo also has a 10 USD credit program where if you refer a friend and they purchase a Kobo book, you receive an account credit. (Feb. 2018).

    You can support your local independent bookseller Weller Book Works, 6 Trolley Square, Salt Lake City, Utah, by linking to Kobo through your local bookseller’s website. Look for the Kobo logo at the bookseller website. If you sign up for Kobo through your local bookstore’s website, then all of your future purchases through Kobo will be affiliated with that local bookseller. All of your future Kobo ebook purchases will direct part of the sale price to the local bookseller.

    See also “Notes on Installing Kobo Reader”, below. Power Windows users should read the “Notes” on the discussion page if they use a local login for their desktop and not Microsoft Account login. You must have your Microsoft Account login account identification and password to install the Kobo account and Kobo Reader.

    Kobo Rakutan™ is an international competitor to Amazon Kindle™. Kobo has about 20 percent of the international e-publishing market and 3 percent of the domestic U.S. market; Amazon Kindle has about 55 percent of international market and 74 percent of the U.S. market.

    Use a two step process to assure that your Kobo account becomes affiliated with your local independent bookseller:

    • Through your local bookseller’s link, use an internet browser to go to the Kobo website.
    • Setup your Kobo reader account through the internet browser.
    • Then install the applicable Kobo reader application on your smart phone, digital readers, or your laptop or desktop computer. Do not install the Kobo reader application directly, as this will bypass affiliation and revenue sharing with your local bookseller.
  • This book has four themes. First, it is a snapshot in time of changes in an undeveloped canyon close to an urban center each day over the course of year, written in a journal format. Second, as common temperate zone natural events are seen, like the annual growth of leaves and their falling in autumn, recent scientific literature about that event is reviewed. Third, the history of the development of the adjacent city and the natural area is reviewed from an ecological perspective. Fourth, the limitations of the scientific method in guiding social and personal decision making are examined. That discussion emphasizes how citizens should use critical thinking skills to approach interpreting the many scientific study results in our daily news.

    Finally, the book is a reference compendium about the history, geology and natural science of City Creek Canyon and northern Utah. Over 400 journal articles, books, reports, guides, and maps are cited. About 800 newspaper articles that refer or reference City Creek Canyon and its relationship to Salt Lake City, Utah going back to 1855 are cited.

January 11, 2018

Seventh Status Report on E-Pub Version

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New materials have been added on air pollution in the Salt Lake Valley and City Creek Canyon and on the probability of a major earthquake in the next 100 years. Proofing of the beta reading continues with version 2.0. A final publishable version is anticipated before January 31st, 2018.

December 28, 2017

Sixth Status Report on E-Pub Version

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Proofing of the beta reading is completed with version 1.9. I will be giving the final publishable version one last read through between now and January 10th, 2018. Then the book will be published. Happy Holidays.

December 20, 2017

Fifth Status Report on E-Pub Version

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Beta reading version 1.9 is completed. Proofing to a near zero-error version has proven more difficult than anticipated. Final proofing continues with the objective of self-publishing by December 31st, 2017 through Koho and Amazon Kindle Direct. – Kurt

December 1, 2017

Pre-Release Chapters Added

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Sample chapters have been added to the Discussion, Review and Contact page.

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