City Creek Nature Notes – Salt Lake City

December 19, 2016

December 18th

Filed under: Black Mountain, Geology, Grandview Peak, Light, Places — canopus56 @ 2:16 am

Salmon Sunset

5:45 p.m. I am in Taylorsville about ten miles to the west of the canyon, and not in the canyon itself, as the sun sets. From this vantage point, I can watch the salmon colored sunset line rise through clear skies and up City Creek Canyon’s walls. Normally, I only witness the rising line from below and, usually have a more limited view. From the west side of the valley, Grandview Peak at the head waters of City Creek and the open bowl beneath it are fully visible.

Down canyon of Grandview Peak, the trees both on the unnamed peak at 8283 feet and Black Mountain are are frosted with blown snow. The unnamed peak at 8283 feet was probably called Scott’s Hill in historical records (Salt Lake Tribune January 19th, 1875). Scott’s Hill was probably named by miners after General Winfred F. Scott, a popular national figure in 1850 after his successful campaign in the Mexican-American War that resulted in Utah and City Creek being ceded by Spain to the United States. What we now call Black Mountain was historically called “Little Black Mountain” (Utah Daily Chronicle, January 18, 1929), and this would mean that Grandview Peak behind it was “Big Black Mountain”. Grandview Peak is the hidden treasure of City Creek Canyon. It dominates the canyon, but from both downtown Salt Lake City, from within the lower canyon, it is hidden behind “Scott’s Hill”. From the trail through the upper canyon, Grandview Peak is also hidden from the hiker have a cliff and thick trees.

But Grandview Peak’s bowl, which falls for over one-thousand feet beneath the peak, is treeless, and unlike Black Mountain, which is covered on its north side with a dark forest of lodge pole pines, Grandview cannot be described as “black” anything. The absence of trees may be natural or it may be the result of extensive logging in City Creek’s early colonization history. Mormon pioneer Fredrick Kesler built three saw mills in the canyon for Brigham Young in order to provide the lumber to build the first generation of the homes of early Euro-American Salt Lake City (Day 1988), and in the 1870s, miners added their own temporary mills to obtain shoring lumber for their shafts. (According the U.S. Board of Geographic Names, Fredrick Kesler is the Kesler of “Kesler’s Peak” in Big Cottonwood Canyon.) At Grandview’s base is the Treasure Box mine; a mine that was active during the 1910s and 1920s (Salt Lake Herald, January 5, 1918), and further up the canyon from Grandview Peak was the Red Bird Mine which had a 1,300 foot tunnel (Salt Lake Tribune January 23rd, 1901) shored with timber harvested from City Creek Canyon. Although the canyon was partially reforested in the 1918 (Salt Lake Telegram January 9th, 1918, Salt Lake Tribune May 10th, 1918), the extent of this reforestation is unknown. All of the available historical drawings and lithographs post-date this early era of resource exploitation. Thus, Grandview Peak’s open upper bowl may be the result of deforestation, but whether this is so is lost to history.

This view from the western valley of a salmon sunset line rising up the grand front of the Wasatch Front Mountain Range, shows Creek Creek Canyon and Grandview Peak in their larger geologic context. With today’s good visibility, I can see the straight line of the Front from Ben Lomond Peak in the north to Mt. Nebo in the south, and the Front’s flat, rising face is only broken by the Traverse Mountain salient. From this vantage point, City Creek Canyon is seen in its geologic place as one of many canyons created by the 200 mile long Wasatch Fault. The Fault creates the Wasatch Front Range, and the mountain range made Salt Lake City possible. Whatever the canyon’s economic history or macro-geology, this view of the reddish winter sunset line rising uniformly up one-hundred or more miles of the Wasatch Front Range, with City Creek at my visual center, is something that I always cherish seeing.

In Thoreau’s “Journal” on December 18th, 1859, after a rain, he notes that the lichens have again turned green.

On December 18th, 1951, the State Health Officer reported that occasionally City Creek water was unsafe to drink, and he urged that the City construct a water filtration plant in the canyon as recommended by city Department of Public Utilities’s consulting engineers (Salt Lake Telegram). On December 18th, 1908, G. Geiger urged Salt Lake City to adopt a new park plan that would create a large park from all of the then city-owned land around Ensign Peak (including the current site of the State Capitol) and continuing up into City Creek Canyon. This park would be connected to a Fort Douglas park via a showcase tourist road now, Bonneville Drive and 11th Avenue (Salt Lake Telegram). On December 18th, 1907, the Forest Supervisor of City Creek Canyon denied application to cut hundreds of small evergreens from City Creek in order to provide Christmas trees to poor children on the grounds that it would endanger the watershed. The trees were instead taken from Big Cottonwood Canyon (Salt Lake Telegram). On December 18th, 1907, Deputy Water Commissioner Matthews impounded seven cows found illegally grazing in City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake Telegram). The City had an impound lot specifically for stray animals. On December 18th, 1900, the City Council, after resolving a jurisdictional dispute between City Engineer Kesley and the city Board of Public Works, opened a bid to replace the high-line pipe from a City Creek head gate to the water distribution tanks in the high Avenues (Salt Lake Herald).


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