City Creek Nature Notes – Salt Lake City

January 20, 2017

January 20th

Filed under: Eagle, Stream — canopus56 @ 8:01 pm

Springs, Seeps, and Forgotten Tunnels

5:00 p.m. It warmed to the forties today, the air has almost completely cleared of pollution, although it is still overcast. The road is full of many runners. High on the south west ridge, I see the silhouette of a raptor, and even through the monocular, it is too distant to see its markings. But the outline and flight are unmistakable: it is an eagle. A flock of twenty small birds also skirts the ridgeline, but they are too far to identify. Hidden jays call from small side-canyons.

On the west side of the road between Guardhouse gate and mile 1.2 where the canyon wall narrow and is flanked by thick layers of Tertiary sandstone (Dec. 24th, Jan. 3rd, Jan. 7th), there are three perennial seeps or springs and one intermittent seep. These are most visible during the winter because as the water stored in the canyon walls works its way through and around the sandstone layers, it is warmed, and this melts the snow as the water exits the earth. Each is associated with various insect, wildlife or plants previously seen at various times of the year:

List of Permanent and Intermittent Springs and Seeps Found in the First Mile of City Creek Canyon on January 20th, 2017:

• Intermittent Seep, 100 feet down canyon of picnic site 3 on west side of canyon, approx. mile 0.4. 40°47.747′ N, 111°52.541′ W. This is located on a raised slope above the road, creating a boggy area. In the summer, this boggy area is an ideal breeding place of insects, and this seep was the site of the dragonfly feast seen on August 11th.

• Permanent Seep, 400 feet down canyon from picnic site 6 on west side of canyon, approx. mile 0.6. 40°48.022′ N, 111°52.70′ W. This is the small cattail marsh described on October 25th.

• Permanent Spring, 100 feet down canyon from picnic site 6 on west side of canyon, approx. mile 0.7. 40°48.026′ N, 111°52.328′ W. This is where a family harvested watercress, as described on October 19th.

• Permanent Spring, 50 feet down canyon from the Red Bridge on west side of canyon, approx. mile 0.9. 40°48.189′ N, 111°52.280′ W. This is where a mule deer came to drink on December 31st.

Whether any of these are the remnants of early spring water tunnels drilled in the canyon in the 1800s is not known. Hooten’s history, “City Creek: Salt Lake City’s First Water Supply,” makes no mention of spring development or tunneling for water in the canyon. A February 16, 1900 Salt Lake Tribune article refers to several tunnels being drilled in City Creek during its early history in order to enhance the water supply “and fairly good results followed.” Tunnel drilling was then a common method to increase the flow of water from a spring. The most significant of these was a January 14, 1913, Waterworks Superintendent C.F. Barrett proposal, as described above (Jan. 14th), to again tunnel for spring water in City Creek instead of building a dam in the canyon. At that time, the City had developed 2,000,000 gallons per day of spring water from tunneling in Emigration Canyon. Later in 1913, City Water Superintendent Allan McQuarrie described the state of early spring water tunnels as having “caved in and filled up with debris . . . [such that] little or no water is fed into the stream from them . . .” (Salt Lake Herald, July 26, 1913). Fortunately, the City instead choose to only build dams in the larger Cottonwood canyons and to not dam City Creek, thus, preserving these springs and the canyon as we see them today.

In Thoreau’s “Journal” on January 20th, 1853, he sees emerald green and amber colors in the sky. On January 20th, 1855, he describes the beauty of snow-blasted trees.

On January 20th, 1909, the City’s parks keeper, H.F. Heath, proposed that city property in lower City Creek Canyon be sold for residential lots, and the proceeds be used to create a public park at the mouth of the canyon. On January 20th, 1891, the Salt Lake Tribune responded to accusations by the Mormon controlled Salt Lake Herald that members of the Liberal Party, an anti-Mormon party that first gained control of City offices in 1888, had mismanaged City affairs including the water supply (Salt Lake Tribune). The Tribune noted that the newly elected Liberal Party had taken more steps to assure an adequate water supply from City Creek Canyon than the prior administration (id).

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