City Creek Nature Notes – Salt Lake City

March 30, 2017

March 30th

Filed under: Birds, Gambel's Oak, Horsechestnut, Plants — canopus56 @ 4:17 pm

This is Not the Natural Place. – Part XI – More Water Infrastructure

1:30 p.m. Another Coriolis effect storm is approaching, the sky is overcast, and as I drive along the lower canyon, two Gambel’s oaks have bloomed. The overcast skies reduces residents using the canyon, and it is a quiet day of solitude, except for a singing House sparrow perched at the top of the Horsechestnut tree below Guardhouse Gate. At picnic site 6, two large trees have bloomed at the uppermost branches one-hundred feet above the ground. They are only two in the first mile. During the last half-mile, the storm brings with a mild rain, and it is expected to turn to snow in the night.

* * * *

In Thoreau’s “Journal” on March 30th, 1853, he excavates a woodchuck burrow. March 30, 1856, he sees a purple lake grass, shunk cabbage, golden saxifrage, marigolds, and sedge grass. On March 30, 1858, he sees fifteen sheldrakes. On March 30, 1859, he sees a red squirrel and two sheldrakes.

* * * *

Increased recreation use in the canyon led to further water infrastructure improvements. In 1950, fecal coliform counts in the canyon waters had grown to high levels (Hooten, 30), and the Public Health Service threatened to prohibit use of Salt Lake’s drinking water at facilities involved in interstate transportation, i.e. – bus stations, train stations and the airport (Salt Lake Telegram, December 27, 1951).

As noted previously (January 5th), in 1952, the Salt Lake City Commission approved a plan to increase its drinking water quality as required by the U.S. Public Health Service (Salt Lake Telegram, Jan. 5, 1952). The plan included closing City Creek Creek above any water intake pipe, building a water filtration plant, moving all toilet facilities at least 50 feet away from the stream, and patrolling the canyon for watershed violations. The water filtration plant was built in 1952 and 1953. All public access to City Creek Canyon was closed until 1965 (Hooten). In 1965, the City reopened public access to the water plant at mile 3.4, but the canyon above the plant remained closed. In 1975, public access to the entire canyon was restored (Hooten).

* * * *

On March 30, 1994, three prison escapes were arrested at the mouth of City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake Tribune).


March 29th

Filed under: Glacier lily, Long-leaf phlox, Western bluebird, Wolf spider — canopus56 @ 4:11 pm

This is Not the Natural Place. – Part X – Road Development and Increased Recreation

1:00 p.m. Sun continues for another day, and insects make a tentative try at recovering. Only three butterflies are seen, and one is unidentified with large orange wings. A spider with a prominent light strip on its thorax, possibly an immature Wolf spider (Hogna carolinensis), scurries along the road. The Glacier Lily field up canyon from picnic site 6 is much larger than I had originally thought, and containing several hundred plants, it extends on the slope above the roadbank for 120 feet by 120 feet. Between picnic sites 4 and 5, a small one-hundred by two-hundred foot field on the south-east of the stream is covered with newly opened purple Long-leaf Phlox (Phlox longifola). Near milepost 1.0, Wild onion (Allium bisceptrum) stalks grow. These are another sign of spring: flowering bulbs are rising. At Guardhouse Gate, a Western bluebird (Turdidae sialia), lands on a nearby branch and sings. I estimate perhaps 20 song birds in the trees along the first mile, but the bluebird is the only one visible. The parking lot and road remain full of runners, walkers and bicyclists.

* * * *

In Thoreau’s “Journal” on March 29th, 1859, he sees crows and possibly an eagle.

* * * *

The fourth era of human utilization of the canyon was road development and increased recreation use. In the era before indoor air-conditioning and with the rise of the middle-class in Salt Lake City, escaping the city summer heat by going to City Creek in horse-drawn carriages became a popular activity. A 1901 Salt Lake Tribune article noted that, “It is estimated by a man that not less than five hundred equipages passed through Eagle Gate and the drivers of all these were bound for the canyon” (Salt Lake Tribune, Sept. 16, 1901). In 1903, the Tribune noted that on Sundays, “hundreds” of City workers would escape to City Creek for relaxation and camping. Camping in the canyon was a popular past-time (Salt Lake Tribune, May 24, 1903).

With the arrival of the automobile and expansion of Salt Lake City’s middle class, more demands came from the public for improved scenic roads. Utah law had long allowed for the municipal use of prison labor (Utah Code Ann. 10-8-85 (1953 amended), and predecessor statutes). The City extensively relied on city prison road gangs to improve City Creek road. As previously noted, on January 17th, 1909, City Water Commissioner Frank M. Matthews reported that City Creek the road was being widened road using prison labor (Intermountain Republican). On December 31, 1916, the Salt Lake Tribune noted that the City Creek road had been improved that year, and the paper endorsed park proposals by a better roads civic improvement group to link and upgrade the Wasatch Boulevard scenic drive, 11th Avenue and the City Creek road in order to create a scenic drive for the now popular automobile. On January 31st, 1917, City Commissioner Herman H. Green reported that jail prisoners were continuing work on grading the new scenic boulevard around City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake Telegram). Between 1919 and 1927, the Rotary Club built parks at Memory Grove and picnic grounds at Lower Rotary Park (mile 4.3) and Upper Rotary Park (mile 5.2) (Salt Lake City Corp. 1999b).

March 28th

Filed under: Geology, Glacier lily, Raptor — canopus56 @ 4:04 pm

This is Not the Natural Place. – Part IX – Water infrastructure

Noon. Yesterday’s storm passes and today the sun returns. Between mile 0.4 and 0.8, there are three Glacier lily (Eythronium grandiflorum) fields on the west side of the road. Two are on ledges above the road, but the third is on the road embankment above picnic site 6. These are delicate yellow lilies with drooping stamens, called Adder’s Tongue by Thoreau (Thoreau’s Journal, June 21st 1852 and June 22nd, 1855). Next to these is a small hollow with that ends in a pile of boulders, and a small spring seep falls over one of the rocks that is made of Van Horn’s “Tertiary Conglomerate No. 2” (December 24th). Over geologic time, two one foot cave-like cavities have been worn into one of the boulders by this small intermittent drip. This pattern is repeated on progressively larger scales in other nearby rock formations. Above the Red Bridge at mile 0.9, Chimney Rock, which is made of the same material, weeps water from the yesterday’s rain, and the formation itself is covered with small pockmarks of one to three feet in diameter. Turning around and looking at the high west wall of the canyon, the thick horizontal cliffs of Tertiary Conglomerate No. 2 are also broken by many small cave-like depressions. Water seeping from inside the wall freezes during the winter, and then in the spring large flakes cleave off that generate shallow caves over eons. High over these walls, two large, unidentified raptors soar. The parking lot and road are full again with people.

* * * *

In Thoreau’s “Journal” on March 28th, 1852, he hears a flock of geese. On March 28, 1853, he sees tree sparrows, eleven ducks, and a Hen Harrier. On March 28, 1857, he sees twelve butterflies. On March 28, 1858, he sees hazel tree blooming. He notes the differences between men who are in the outdoors and those that stay indoors. On March 28, 1859, he notes that greens of lichen and mosses contrast with brown earth.

* * * *

Water infrastructure is not always hard construction projects; it also can mean patrols of a watershed, like those adopted in City Creek in the nineteenth century, to exclude polluters. The impetus for the water system improvements beginning in the 1870s was public health concerns over water borne disease. From the 1870 through 1917 and even with the availability of pure water in the canyon, the City’s residents suffered repeated epidemics of water borne diseases like typhoid fever (Cater). In a 1918 study, it was estimated that 14,000 cases of typhoid fever occurred in Salt Lake City prior to 1904, and between 1904 and 1917, the City’s water borne communicable disease rate was among the worst in the country (Cater, 94 ftn 5). On January 31st, 1894, Water Superintendent D.S. Griffin reported to Mayor Baskin, apparently to reduce water borne disease, that in City Creek about 9,000 feet of rip-rapping had been repaired and about 15,000 feet of the creek bed had been cleared (Salt Lake Herald). As previously noted (Feb. 6th), on February 6th, 1895, Mayor Robert Baskin outlined various improvements to the City Creek water system, in part, to alleviate unsanitary water during spring runoff:

“Ever since the erection of the present waterworks system, for a few weeks each spring freshet [sic], and as often as there occurs a heavy rain or cloudburst, the inhabitants have been compelled to drink and use for culinary purposes very muddy, unwholesome and unpalatable water. This ought to not be allowed to continue. (Salt Lake Tribune, Feb. 6, 1895).”

He also reported on a seventy-five percent reduction of water borne illness, in part from prior water system improvements, including in City Creek:

“In 1893, the number of deaths from cholera infantum was 71; in 1894, 43; in 1893 from diphtheria, 24; in 1894, 7, in 1893, from scarlet fever, 25; in 1894, 6. (id).”

The pressure of water borne diseases enforced a social consensus that City Creek Canyon needed to be free of grazing or dead livestock and to be patrolled regularly to assure violations of water protection laws were remedied. Evidence of that consensus can be seen in a Dec. 2nd, 1883 editorial comment by the Salt Lake Herald:

“THE HERALD is of the opinion that City Creek canyon should be held sacred by the city for the benefit of its inhabitants, first as reservoir which furnishes their water supply, and second as a resort for their recreation and health. Any movement of the City Fathers in this direction is sure to receive the unqualified approbation of all good citizens. (id, emphasis in original).”

The earliest documented implementation of that consensus occurred one-hundred and twenty-five years ago. On December 28th, 1892, Salt Lake City Water Department Patrolman J.B. O’Reilly, who was “stationed in up City Creek canyon . . . [to] keep the stream clear of obstructions and to prevent the killing of game in the canyon” noted that “The canyon has become a regular haven for game since the ordinance went into effect . . .” The ordinance appears to refer to a ban against hunting in the canyon. (Salt Lake Herald). On January 19th, 1905, City Land and Water Commissioner Ben D. Luce reported that City Creek was regularly patrolled to prevent livestock from grazing in the canyon (Salt Lake Tribune). “City Creek is patrolled daily and no sheep or livestock of any kind allowed in the same.” On December 18th, 1907, Deputy Water Commissioner Matthews impounded seven cows found illegally grazing in City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake Telegram). Eventually, a permanent watershed patrol was established. On January 14, 1913, Superintendent of Waterworks C. F. Barrett proposed the formation of a canyon watershed patrol to police all watershed canyons, including City Creek, for water polluters (Salt Lake Tribune).

* * * *

On March 28th, 1915, weather bureau officer A. A. Justice and the City’s Canyon Patrolman Carl Hammond reported that City Creek due to a low snowpack will not provide much water during the runoff season. They took two-hundred and ninety-six snow depth measurements using a plunger-like snow drill (Salt Lake Tribune, Salt Lake Telegram on March 31). Later, on April 4th, 1915, they reported the details of their March 22nd to March 25th snow-camping survey (Salt Lake Herald). On March 28, 1900, the Princeton Mine in City Creek Canyon reported the discovery of good grade ore (Salt Lake Tribune). On March 28, 1898, Dr. M. H. Faust of the forestry association made the following recommendations: turn pioneer square into a park; to reforest City Creek Canyon and turn it into a park using trees from Liberty Park; and that City residents on Arbor Day gather in City Creek and plant trees (Salt Lake Herald).

March 27, 2017

March 27th

This is Not the Natural Place. – Part VIII – Water Infrastructure

9:30 a.m. Another great Coriolis effect band of clouds and rain that stretches from central Canada to New Mexico sweeps over the canyon. This is the second in three days, and it rains continuously overnight and into the morning. The canyon freezes overnight. Except for a single gnat, insects are absent. A lone robin and chickadee calls from the thicket far from the road. Some plants respond, but most canyon trees continue their wait for spring’s true warmth. A lone river birch below picnic site 3 blooms, but along the stream, many small birch shots have bloomed and extended small leaves. Service berry bushes are among those that thrive despite the early spring cold. They have bloomed and in the last few days have grown one to one-and-one-half inch leaves. The forest understory is greening first. Whether beneath Box Elder or Gambel’s oak trees, small sucker shoots are blooming with leaves. Their mature parents stay dormant. Near mile 0.1, buds on an unusual tree swell and prepare to open. When sap surged up its grey trunk and branches, the wood’s skin has turned a dull orange. The rain floods the canyon with a pleasing earthy smell.

The events of the last week reveal the pattern of early spring in the canyon. Plants respond primarily to the lengthening of daylight, but insects are waiting for overnight temperatures above fifty and daytime temperatures in the sixties. Days alternate between sun and cold nourishing rain with an overall pattern of increasing temperatures, but an early heat wave fools the insects into an early exit from winter’s hibernation. All wait for the dominate forest trees to swell their buds and to deploy this year’s leaves.

The last few days have also given me a new appreciation for the few water seeps and springs in the first mile of the canyon (January 20th). They are signs of the larger sub-surface migration of water from the surrounding canyon walls and beneath the Gambel’s oak forest. Refreshing rain falls on the high ridges and leeches through the high sandstone layers picking up minerals, and these nutrients then seep underneath the earth to the stream below. Along the way, forest roots dip below to sip the mineral rich broth to obtain the necessary building blocks of life.

* * * *

In Thoreau’s “Journal” on March 27th, 1842, he sees birches and pines reflecting light as they wave. He watches two fledgling hawks and an eagle. On March 27th, 1853, he notes flowering hazel. On March 27th, 1859, he notes alder trees are in bloom. On Thoreau’s “Journal” on March 28th, 1858, he sees a flock of shelldrakes, a flock of ducks, two dippers, and two herring gulls.

* * * *

The third era of utilization of City Creek Canyon was water infrastructure development. As previously noted (Dec. 27th), City initially developed infrastructure in the canyon between 1870 and the early 1900s. Construction began in 1872 with the installation of an enclosed piped water main up City Creek, dug by City prison labor (Cater, 94). Three enclosed take-off points were developed that went to the business district, Central City, the low Avenues below 6th Avenue, and the Ensign Peak 20th Ward. The “high-line” went from a head gate in City Creek at 5030 feet in elevation to a reservoir in the high Avenues and provided water to the high Avenues district. The “mid-line” went from a head gate at 4712 feet to the low Avenues and Central City districts. A second head gate at 4676 feet went to Capitol Hill and west-side districts. The “low-line” went from a head gate at 4579 feet to serve the business district (Hooten, 21-26; Salt Lake Tribune, Dec. 27, 1903). Two take-offs in City Creek from the main pipeline still serve Capitol Hill and the high Avenues. The take-offs are at westbound water line trail at picnic site 4, mile 0.5 at the site of the old Twentieth Ward aqueduct head gate, and a southeast bound line at the red bridge on the south side of the road at mile 0.9, the site of the old mid-line headgate. In 1915, the City completed construction of the 5,000,000 gallon reservoir at the up-canyon east end of Pleasant Valley (Salt Lake Tribune, Jan. 2, 1916).

* * * *

On March 27th, 1920, the snow depth at the High Line station in City Creek was 17 inches (Salt Lake Telegram). On March 27th, 1900 in order to increase the City’s water supply, the City Board of Public Works approved the bid of Moran Construction to install a 30 inch iron water main from City Creek Canyon for $61,854 (Salt Lake Herald).

March 26th

Filed under: Box Elder Tree, Chokecherry, Colors, Crabapple trees, Cultivars, Dogwood, Insects, Plants, Stream — canopus56 @ 1:04 pm

This is Not the Natural Place. – Part VII – Mining

2:00 p.m. Today, the Sun and spring returns, but temperatures are subdued in the low fifties. The result is that insects do not try to restart, and they are too stunned by the return of overnight freezing. This also stunts the growth of some plants. The small leaves emanating from the red-osier dogwood have stopped growing. Others are still responding to more light. I find the first full-sized river birch with swelling buds. Their leaves, like the crabapple trees, are covered with small hairs. In the first quarter-mile, another cultivar is opening small white flowers with five petals and a brace of fully formed stamens that hides its ovary underneath. The difference between trees in the city on the valley floor below and those higher in the canyon is marked, and it is not simply a matter of altitude and temperature. Plants in the valley have been selected for an early show. Cherry trees that radiate light purple line many streets. Other cultivars, like willows bloom, but these are mere visitors that cannot survive on their own in arid Utah. In the valley, even valley natives like cottonwoods show blooms at their tops absent in their sister trees in the canyon, but the native trees in the canyon are more subdued, and they still bide their time waiting for the true heat of spring. In the sunlight, some sections of stream reflect repeated steps of slack pool and turgid fall water, and falls make the stream a miniature white water ribbon.

* * * *

In Thoreau’s “Journal” on March 26th, 1853, he watches a red-tailed hawk at a distance of about 15 yards. On March 26th, 1855, he hears two larks. On March 26th, 1860, he summarizes the first season observations of plants, birds, reptiles and frogs. They vary between years by about one month.

* * * *

The second wave of resource exploitation in City Creek began in the 1870s with Utah’s mining boom. That boom included many mines in City Creek Canyon. The City Creek mining boom last only a few years (Thompson). Other, more profitable ore bodies were found in Little Cottonwood Canyon and in the Park City districts drew miners elsewhere. Amateur ghost town and mining enthusiast Donald A. Winegar has reconstructed the mining history of City Creek and other Utah mining districts from a review of numerous newspaper records such as the Salt Lake Herald to the Utah Mining Bulletin (Winegar) and since 1977, he has attempted to locate and visit each mine where the location is known. There were approximately 31 mines in City Creek with colorful names such as Red Bird, General Scott, and the Rob Roy. Most the mines were active between 1871 and 1875. There was a small football field-sized platted township called Modoc, Utah, at what is now the site of Upper Rotary Park picnic grounds at mile 5.75. In the 1870s, it was little more than a few wooden shacks (id). Another town, called “Hangtown,” was proposed further up the canyon from Modoc (id). Ores mined in City Creek typically were silver and lead. Lead ore was hauled by mule to a smelters located below the City Creek-Avenues ridge. The remains of the smelters still exist and are located to the west of a home at 1507 East Tomahawk Drive.

There were two significantly profitable mines in the Canyon and a third on the city side of Black Mountain. The first was the Red Bird Mine that had a shaft over 1,300 feet in length that was active from the 1870s to 1900 (Salt Lake Tribune, Jan. 23, 1896 and Dec. 30, 1900). The second was the Treasure Box Mine below Grandview Peak. The Treasure Box Mine was a lead mine with a shaft extending 10,000 feet into the mountain, and as a result of increased demand for lead generated by World War I, the mine was active from 1918 until the early 1920s (Winegar). Various mining machinery still can be found about 1.75 miles up-canyon from the end of the road (Winegar, Personal observation). The third was the Burro Mine on Black Mountain (Salt Lake Mining Review, Sept. 9, 1910). The Burro deposit was discovered in 1906, and the mine was still shipping 300 tons of ore a day i 1910 (id). The locations of the two major City Creek mining areas correspond to geologic faults (Sept. 1st) and northern Utah’s volcanic era (Jan. 7th). The faults promoted mineralization.

Other than the concrete Treasure Box Mine entrance and associated machinery, all of these mines have disappeared from the landscape (Winegar). When jogging along the stream between 0.5 and 1.5 miles beyond the end of road, there are sections of the stream bed where the rocks are still discolored from mine tailings (Personal observation). However, when running or hiking in the canyon, past mining activity does not reduce the present overall enjoyment of nature.

* * * *

On March 26th, 1912, City Engineer George D. Keyser proposed paying prisoners working on creating the new road up City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake Tribune). On March 26th, 1906, the YMCA scheduled hikes for the year including up City Creek Canyon (Intermountain Republican). On March 26th, 1903, the City Council deferred approving bonds for the construction of reservoirs in City Creek and Parley’s Canyons until the city engineer could be consulted (Salt Lake Telegram).

March 25, 2017

March 25th

Filed under: Geology, Plants, Weather — canopus56 @ 3:34 pm

This is Not the Natural Place. – Part VI – Timber Harvesting

Noon. Another great Coriolis effect band of clouds and rain that stretches from central Canada to New Mexico sweeps in from the north west and across the canyon. The canyon in plunged into a freezing but refreshing rain that runs through the surrounding rocks and delivers nutrients to the soil. The water feels soft on the skin, and it cleanses the canyon. At picnic site 5, a new broadleaf plant unfolds close to the ground. It has an arrowhead or deltoid shape, is light green, and is covered in small hairs.

* * * *

In Thoreau’s “Journal” on March 25th, 1858, he records many sparrows.

* * * *

In 2004, Root and colleagues at Carleton College, Minnesota, analyzed 51 rainwater samples for 48 sites across the United States, including Sandy, Utah (Root 2005). They found that rainwater in the central United States (east of Nevada and west of Pennsylvania) contains less chloride because they consist of less salt water evaporated from the oceans (id), but amounts are miniscule: 0.5 milligrams per liter of rainwater. An average range for the pH of rainwater is 5.7 to 5.9, an acidic level created by water forming carbonic acid with carbon in the air. This may explain why rainwater in the canyon feels soft. But once the water runs across and filters through the limestones in upper City Creek Canyon, the nature of water in the stream changes. Water quality data from 1963 to 1968 averages a basic pH of 7.9 and chloride content of 22.4 milligram per liter of stream water (U.S.G.S. 2017c).

* * * *

The amount of lumber taken from the canyon is not known, but is must have been substantial. Miller noted that he engaged in lumber harvesting in part for gathering personal firewood. Although coal was available, firewood cost a fraction of coal. Another significant demand above homebuilding may have been fencing. In 1853, the Territorial Legislature passed a law requiring all allotments given by Young or the State of Deseret to be fenced as a precondition to asserting a claim of land ownership (Hooten, 19; Larson, 313). Enclosure was intended to prevent claim jumping on property between landowners, given that much of the land was not surveyed. An 1861 Utah Territorial statute provided for obtaining title by enclosure of property. The statute may have also been anticipation of the Federal surveyors and a land office giving title to the colonists of the original Church allotments, and who had made beneficial improvements to the land. With the arrival of the transcontinental railroad in 1868, the Federal Land Office started to settle land claims (Larson). Miller fenced his lot, and this subsequently allowed him to obtain title to his property at no additional cost (Salt Lake Tribune, 1903, Apr 5). Miller reported that those who did not enclose their land ended up have to pay Young $200 for title. Two-hundred dollars in 1868 is worth about $3,200 today. Again, the need for fencing may have created more lumber demand that was satisfied from City Creek trees. Another demand for timber came from the City’s initial water infrastructure. One and one-half miles of the city’s original aqueduct the Brick Tank reservoir in City Creek to the downtown was made of wood (Salt Lake Herald, Dec. 13, 1893; Salt Lake Tribune, February 20th, 1909; not mentioned in Hooten). Construction of the homes and the 1863 commencement of construction of the wooden truss Mormon Tabernacle placed further demands on all of the canyons for lumber.

An 1869 newspaper article regarding Brigham Young’s assets estimated his annual income from City Creek,

“First – City Creek Canyon, a grant by the Legislative Assembly of Utah, a heavily wooded district, from which the Saints obtain their wood exclusively, every third load going to Brigham Young’s pile; fine water power, running four miles; income from this source $20,000 per annum.” (Record of the Times).

This would imply that about $60,000 in wood products were taken from City Creek from approximately the mid-1850s to the mid-1870s, or about $24,000,000 in wood products over twenty years in 2016 currency. Prices for wood products in Salt Lake City in the 1860s or 1870 were not found, and 10 cords of wood from each acre of old growth forest is a reasonable estimate. Assuming $20 in 1869 currency could be obtained from each cord, then harvesting 300 acres per year would generate $60,000 in 1869 gross revenues. Over 20 years and harvesting 300 acres per year, 6,000 acres would have been harvested, or about one-third the approximately 19,000 acres in the canyon. At 500 acres per year, about half the canyon’s lumber would have been harvested over 20 years. The true percentage is unknown.

Thus, the degree to which our current view of the canyon consists of a second growth forest is not clear. In 1918, City Water Commissioner Nelsen reported that City Creek was “well timbered” in his boyhood (Jan. 9th), but fewer trees existed in 1918.

* * * *

On March 25th, 1927, university students scheduled a hike over Big Black Mountain in City Creek and over to Bountiful (Utah Daily Chronicle). On March 25, 1920, a public meeting considered opening a new entrance to the mouth of City Creek from North Temple (Salt Lake Telegram). On March 25th, 1909, the geology class of University Prof. Fred J. Pack discovered new fossils in City Creek in what had been previously supposed to be igneous rock (Salt Lake Herald, Salt Lake Tribune on March 26th, Intermountain Republican on March 27th). On March 25th, 1896, the Salt Lake Herald reported on new mining claims in the Hot Springs District, including in City Creek Canyon – three new claims including the Washington Mine, in Dry Canyon (now behind the University of Utah) – the Blue Bird, Molly McGuire, Anarchist, and Agnes mines, below Ensign Peak – the Gold Leaf mine (by Parley P. Pratt), the Dunedin and First Chance mines, and in the Popperton district – the Express and Billy mines.

March 24, 2017

March 24th

This is Not the Natural Place. – Part V – Timber Harvesting

2:00 p.m. Spring returns with today’s bright warming sunshine and temperatures regain half yesterday’s the thirty degree drop. Last night’s rain has washed away the carcasses of yesterday’s earthworm explosion. The creek still runs high, and between the stream’s loud white noise, the sun’s warmth, and my own feelings of exhaustion, I am compelled to rest. I find a place next to the stream in the Sun, and fall in a meditative mood, and meld into the moment. Yesterday’s two inches of freezing rainfall, although small by eastern standards, sets a new Salt Lake City precipitation record. March has turned out like February’s unusual weather: record setting warm temperatures for the first few weeks, followed by catch-up rain and snow that regresses to a nearly average year. After the freezing rain, again, the return of insects resets. There are one or two tentative White cabbage and Painted Lady butterflies, and a few stoneflies and gnats reappear.

For plants, the snow, which has now melted except on Black Mountain, stunts the grow of the Wood’s roses for a day. But other trees bloom. A red-osier dogwoods higher up the canyon blooms, and below picnic site 6, the first Box Elder tree blooms at its highest top branches. Further down canyon cultivars bloom. A new tree’s buds open with leaves are covered with small hairs, and more searching finds one that has a desiccated apple attached. These are crabapple trees (Nov. 19th). Their distinctive leaves allows me to do a census: including one tree below Guardhouse gate an two at the up-canyon end of Pleasant Valley, there are five apple trees in the first 1.5 canyon miles. Another new blooming tree has a deep purple ovary at the bud’s center. High in the trees near picnic site 6, migrant song birds sing, but frustratingly, I am unable to see them with my monocular.

* * * *

In Thoreau’s “Journal” on March 24, 1855, he records a rock slide and describes how rivers erode hills. He summarizes the signs of spring: maple sap, willow and alder catkins, grass on south banks, cowslip, and maple buds. On March 24th, 1858, he hears song birds and sees a flock of twenty shore larks.

* * * *

Early immigrant John Miller described lumber harvesting in City Creek, an activity done during the winter, principally for the purpose of selling or using timber as firewood:

In the first place, Brigham Young laid claim to the entire canyon. There were two gates through which all must pass to enter the domain. One was the Eagle Gate and the other was at the mouth of the canyon . . . There was a gate-keeper at the inner gate and he took one-third of every load of wood that came down out of the canyon. This was Brigham Young’s toll. . . . .

Brigham Young had a great wood yard just inside the inner gate, with a circular saw run by the waters of City creek. There the toll wood was cut up into stove lengths and after that it was distributed among the president’s numerous wives . . . .

There [the logs] where taken by teamsters, and hauled to the city after paying Brigham Young toll at the gates. . . . .

After cutting down a tree, we would cut it into lengths of ten or twelve feet. Then we would point one end of it and start it down the hill on the snow. It would go down like a streak of lightening . . . There were forty of us working up in the mountains, and each one would put a private mark on his logs to enable him to settle with the teamsters below. (Salt Lake Tribune, 1903, Apr 5).

* * * *

In a March 24th, 2004 letter to the editors of the Salt Lake Tribune, Salt Lake City resident Jay S. Bachman argues in favor of banning cougar hunting in City Creek Canyon. On March 24, 1900, the City Council directed the Police Department to provide prisoners to work on creating a boulevard up City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake Tribune).

March 23, 2017

March 23rd

Filed under: earthworm, Leopard slug, Lichen, moss, Weather — canopus56 @ 6:56 pm

This is Not the Natural Place. – Part IV – Timber Harvesting

2:30 p.m. Winter has returned for a day. Temperatures have dropped 35 degrees Fahrenheit in two days, and a combination of rain and snow has fallen continuously since this morning. All is water in the canyon. Trees and soaked and below picnic site 6, lichens on the west side of some trees puff and glow with a light-green and orange radiance. The stream runs high from melting snow runoff Although there is no snow in the lower canyon, checking the automated SNOTEL data from City Creek’s Louis Meadow station in the upper canyon eight miles away (Feb. 1st), there is 10 inches of water equivalent snow on the ground. However, the station’s data also shows that one-half of the snow pack melted in the last two weeks. At its current melting rate, the snowpack will be gone by the beginning of April – almost one month early. This will impact next summer’s wildlife, and they may be facing a severe lack of water in a few months.

The recent warm weather has woken the earthworms from their over-wintering freeze and stimulated their cocoons. Leopard slugs also woke, two are seen on the road, but today’s heavy rain has driven both the earthworms and slugs from the ground. In the first mile of the road, I count in a swath of one-quarter of road, 712 earthworms, and they are evenly distributed across the entire road. This means there about 2,800 earthworms in the first road mile. Almost all will die by the morning. They so numerous that it is impossible for bicycles and runners to avoid them, and the remaining are drowning or will finished off by tonight’s cold. Hopefully, there are more worm cocoons hibernating between the soil who will continue their good work.

* * * *

In Thoreau’s “Journal” on March 23rd, 1853, he hears a robin and records maples blooming. On March 23rd, 1855, he returns the squirrel to the wild. On March 23, 1856, he lists animals that have been exterminated in the east including cougar, panther, wolverine, wolf, bear, moose, deer, beaver, and turkey. (Excepting panther, all these animals can be in modern Utah. All but the panther, wolverine, and wolf can be found in modern have been seen in modern City Creek Canyon. Beaver are removed by the City, if found. The wolf, which has returned to western Utah, might return to City Creek in the future.) He records that snow is one foot deep. He notes that on south facing hillsides, mice have eaten sedge; a squirrel is heard; and, partridges are seen. On March 23rd, 1859, he sees two red-tailed hawks. He notes the black and brown color of the land, and he notes how during sunset, ridgelines with red birch twigs contrast with the purple of a sunset sky. He sees two goosanders.

* * * *

Twenty-eight hundred worms along one mile may seem like the entire canyon worm population, but soil researchers have found depending on type of soil, its cover, and the amount of its disturbance, there can be between 10 and 1,300 earthworms per square yard (Natural Resources Conservation Service 2001). Taking some mid-range estimates of 280 and 475 worms and worm cocoons per square yard, there may be between 1,900,000 and 3,300,000 in the 2 yards along both sides of the first mile of road (5,280 divided by 3 x 4 x 280=1.9M). But those densities were based on studies in more fecund climates, and using the lowest study value, 12 worms per square yard and doubling it, still suggests a respectable population between 84,500 and 169,000 worms along the first road mile. Earthworms can consume and turnover between 6 percent to ten percent of the topsoil each year.

* * * *

Young’s control of City Creek and the entrance at its mouth marked the first phase of canyon use and development: timber harvesting. The Deseret Evening News claimed that the first trees felled in Utah by a saw, where cut by the pioneers in City Creek Canyon using a whip saw a few days after they entered the valley on July 24th, 1847 (Deseret News, September 10, 1895). Various water-powered mills were quickly established: an adobe mill, an early wheat mill (Salt Lake Herald, Jan 1908, Bancroft, 275), the Empire Flour Mill owned by Young (Day), a threshing mill (Bancraft, 279), a grist mill for barley (Watson), a cording mill (Watson), a turning mill (Watson), an experimental silk farming and spinning building (Arrington), two Church owned Public Works factories for nail and paper production (Day), a blacksmith shop (Day), and five lumber mills in City Creek including a toll saw mill at the canyon mouth owned by Young (Day; Watson). Young constructed the Lion House and by 1853 had a wall built across from the Lion House to First Avenue that prevented access to the canyon. A photograph from the 1800s shows how Young then constructed a gate in the wall topped by a great arch (J. Willard Marriott Library, ID207887). On the apex of the arch was a large wooden eagle statute frozen in a downward gliding pose. (In the 1960s, the historical Eagle Gate Monument was installed over State Street with an iron replica of the wooden original.) The wall provided Young with monopolistic control access to canyon timber (Salt Lake Tribune, 1903, Apr 5), and in coordination with the Church Public Works Office, he used newly arrived immigrants, such as newly arrived Scotland immigrant James Livingston, to construct a road up the canyon (Watt, 65). Then, as was the custom since major road construction in the nineteenth century was privately financed, Young charged a toll for entering the canyon equal to one-third of all lumber removed (Salt Lake Tribune, April 5, 1903; Watson).

Through 1855, Young also employed persons to clear the first eight or nine miles of City Creek’s bed of dead trees and other blockages in order to increase stream flow. And on September 21, 1855, the Territorial Legislature appropriated $500 in compensation for that work. (Hooten, 12-13). That amount is worth approximately $14,500 in 2016.

* * * *

On March 23rd, 2006, the Utah Rivers Council plans a stream clean-up in City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake Tribune). On March 23rd, 1907, runners from L.D.S. University practiced in City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake Tribune). On March 23rd, 1898, the Utah Forestry Association urged the City Council to take some trees scheduled for planting in Liberty Park and to use them to reforest City Creek Canyon with hardwoods of all kinds (Deseret Evening News, Salt Lake Herald, March 23 and 25).

March 22, 2017

March 22nd

Filed under: Cottonwood tree, Dogwood, Light, Woods Rose — canopus56 @ 6:43 pm

This is Not the Natural Place. – Part III – City Land Acquisition

3:00 p.m. A spring storm brings rain to the canyon while I jog, and it stains the River birch trunks half soaked dark, half dry light. In the spring afternoons through May, low lying clouds back up against the Wasatch Front Mountain range, and slowly a thick bank of clouds builds over the valley and City Creek Canyon. As occurred today, then there is about twenty minutes of loud thunder and a cool, heavy rain. The clouds reduce their weight, this allows them to rise, and then they cross the high peaks. This is followed today by a special light. The remaining thin clouds and moisture filled air, backed by the sun, makes a diffuse light that is augmented by the Sun’s direct rays, and in this light details in the surrounding rocks and trees come alive. A single chickadee calls hidden in a thicket. At mile 0.4, I find first red-osier dogwood buds blooming and opening. Since I have found this tree as it is first opening, the buds are in various stages of development. One or two are in their closed winter state. Two small inner casing leaves surround a small circular mass, and two large outer casing leaves enclose the inner mass. The bud swells from within, and the outer casing starts to transform into green leaves. The inner leaves unfurl as miniature formed leaves. Many are fully opened, a light green central mass sits surrounded four points. The Wood’s rose open buds have developed further. Extending from the end of a twig, they are bilateral and each half has expanded into a five miniature leaves. Another bush uses and elevator technique to grow. The initial leafed bud rises on a stalk, and at its base, another set of leaves develop.

The first trees respond to the light. At Guardhouse Gate, a lavender blossomed plum tree stills on a hillside, out of place in the midst of grove of cottonwoods. A the low branches of a willow tree below picnic site 6 have turned a light green, and this indicates that sap is being pumped into the ends. The buds along the twigs at the ends of the branches have begun to open. Above picnic site 6, the first mountain cottonwood leaves appear. The older trees have not opened their buds, but the young suckers at their base have. The buds on one maple tree have opened. On the ground, parsley-like stalks rise everywhere, and on test tasting the smallest tip of one aromatic leaf, the plant is bitter and clearly toxic.

* * * *

In Thoreau’s “Journal” on March 22nd, 1853, he hears a woodpecker. On March 22nd, 1855, he captures a flying squirrel in its snag-tree nest, closely examines it, and then takes it home. On March 22nd 1860, he notes that in March, temperatures rise, snow melts, and frost appears on the ground. On March 22nd, 1861, he records a driving snow storm.

* * * *

After the creation of the Territory, the Territorial Legislature sought to clear title granted by the State of Deseret by requiring land claims to be submitted by 1854. Otherwise lands would revert to being open public domain (Hooten, 19). On June 12, 1872, Congress cleared title to land within Salt Lake City limits by Land Patent 710, and that patent included a grant of all “accrued” water rights. The City interpreted this as giving title to water flowing from the canyon to the City and not Young. Title to the land above Brigham Young’s Lion House farm remained unclear, and the matter was further complicated by railroad land grants. Section 3 of the Pacific Railroad Act of 1862 and subsequent expansions to the Act granted 10 square miles of land around each mile of track laid except in existing towns or cities. Thus, when the railroad came to Salt Lake City, City Creek was nominally open public land and title to much of the City Creek in the upper canyon vested in the Union Pacific Railroad. In 1883, the City negotiated the purchase of two square miles of City Creek from the railroad (Hooten, 29; Salt Lake Herald Dec. 12, 1883). On January 23rd, 1901, the Salt Lake Tribune reported that the City had received a proposal to purchase 240 acres of land in City Creek owned by an eastern bank. After a series of land purchases between 1907 through 1947 (Hooten, 29), the City presently holds title to 56% of the land in City Creek; the U.S. Forest Service owns 29%; and remainder is private lands principally down-canyon of approximately 0.7 miles above Bonneville Drive (Salt Lake City, 1999a at 51). On 2006, the City acquired 57 acres at the base of the west slope of the City Creek ridgeline, in part, to create a winter wildlife refuge that is contiguous with the canyon (Salt Lake City, 2010b). In 2016, the City acquired another 305 acres in and near City Creek, including 144 acres above Ensign Peak and another 160 acres on the ridgeline (Salt Lake Tribune, July 29, 2016). There are small unused mining inholdings at and around the abandoned Treasure Box Mine below Grandview Peak. (id).

* * * *

On March 22nd, 1898, the City Council refused to confirm John T. Caine as Waterworks Superintendent on the grounds that as the City’s former recorder, he is a political appointee of the Mayor with no expertise in engineering (Salt Lake Herald).

March 21st

Filed under: Plants — canopus56 @ 6:38 pm

This is Not the Natural Place. – Part II – Control of the Canyon

2:00 p.m. The growth of green continues, and it is fed by muggy, moist air. Usually, I am preoccupied with the working world, and this annual transformation of the trees occurs subjectively in an instant. Already in the city and across from my home, three trees are gray one day, and then appear with leaves the next. I am determined to watch this more closely this year, and in the canyon, I tie three small white ribbons to three bushes and trees so I can measure the growth of the same leaves.

* * * *

In Thoreau’s “Journal” on March 21st, 1853, he records chickweed as a naturalized early blooming plant. On March 21st, 1854, he see thirty ducks sleeping on a hill. On March 21st, 1856, he harvests sap running from maple trees. On March 21st, 1858, he hears a chickadee.

* * * *

The quick response to this tipping point signal of equinox light is driven by plants’ strong genetic programming that encourages them to race to gather the rapidly increasing sunlight. Even in my kitchen, a bag of store bought onions responds to the more light than dark signal, and they grew long green shoots in one day. How much will the new resource of life giving light increase? Not only do days grow longer, but the altitude of the Sun increases. A higher altitude means that sunlight must traverse significantly less atmosphere to reach the leaves below. Thus, longer hours of daylight compound on an increasingly more powerful, higher Sun. How much does the total energy available to plants change from the winter solstice to the vernal equinox and then to the following summer solstice? In general, when the Sun is perpendicular to Earth’s surface, the sun energy reaching the ground is at maximum 1,000 Watts per square meter. Although astronomical equations can be used to adjust this ideal value for the latitude of a given site and the length of the day, an easier resource provides information of the relative total power of the Sun. In the 1990s, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory published a study of measured solar energy based on physical readings at major cities for thirty years between from 1961 to 1990. For Salt Lake City, the mean solar energy falling on horizontal ground for December, March, June, and September were, 1.7, 4.1, 7.4, and 5.2, respectively, in kilowatt hours per day (NREL). As ratios of the lowest level in December, the total available mean daily energy is: December – 1.0, March – 2.4, June – 4.3, and September – 3.1. Although photosynthesis continues through the coldest month of December in grasses, cinquefoil (January 17th), horsetails (February 13th), mosses and evergreen trees (January 10th), to support growth, deciduous plants wait and ride the four-fold increase in energy between December and June and the doubling in energy between March and June.

* * * *

Brigham Young also gained ownership of the rest of City Creek above his original Lion House allotment. On arriving in the valley, Young told Mormon immigrants that “There shall be no private ownership of the streams that come out of the canyons nor the timber that grows on the hills” (Flores 1985, quoted at 185). Mormon pioneer Hosea Stout briefly reported on Dec. 3, 1850 that “City Creek K was granted to Pres B. Young for 500 dollars” (Brooks, 384), or about $30,000 in current money. Unaware of the creation of the new Utah Territory by the United States Congress, the legislature of the State of Deseret passed the Ordinance of December 9, 1850, and it transferred “ownership” of all of City Creek Canyon to Brigham Young:

Be it ordained by the General Assembly of the State of Deseret, that the petition of Brigham Young, praying for the privilege and control of City Creek, and Canyon: be granted as set forth in said petition. And, that he pay into the Public Treasury the sum of five hundred dollars therefor . . . . (quoted Hooten, 12).

Although recognized by the local community, these ordinances were without legal effect, since the State of Deseret had not been recognized by the United States Congress. But once reconstituted as the Territorial Legislature in 1852, that body retroactively ratified all of laws passed by the legislature of the State of Deseret (Baskin, 165).

The transfer of City Creek to Young was one of series of transfers of all of the Wasatch Front canyons, the Oqurrih Mountains, Stansbury and Antelope Islands, and all of Tooele County to key officials in the L.D.S. Church. Larson’s opinion, in his research on early land contests in Utah, was the transfers were intended to minimize conflict and contests between immigrants to the valley for important natural resources by consolidating ownership in a few community leaders (Larson, 309). Former Salt Lake Dept. of Public Works Director Hooten also was of the view that the title of City Creek transferred to Young was beneficial ownership for general good of the community. It was a “guardianship”, consistent with the Mormon ideal that public resources should be protected for the whole (Hooten, 4, 12). As the head of the theodemocracy, that is as the head of both the L.D.S. Church and the State of Deseret, Young held the canyon as a public trust.

A competing view is that City Creek Canyon, particularly after the passage of the Territorial Organic Act in 1850 with Section 6, was open public domain land, from which any person could remove timber or other resources. Robert N. Baskin, the Salt Lake City attorney and later prosecutor who led a grand jury to indict Brigham Young for murder, had a different version of Young’s control over the entrance to and the length of City Creek:

[Young] exacted tribute from the inhabitants for the privilege of utilizing the natural, useful and extensive resources of that canyon. By the grant, Brigham obtained a rich bonanza . . . which extracted tribute from the masses for the privilege of enjoying that portion of the natural resources of the public domain within the limits of City Creek Canyon. (Baskin, 165, Deseret News, October 14th, 1870).

On October 14, 1870, Territorial Judge James B. McKean put charges to a territorial grand jury in The People vs. Brigham Young, a case against Young for multiple alleged crimes, including misappropriation of public lands, conspiracy in the Mountain Meadows massacre, and polygamy. Judge McKean was noted for his personal anti-Mormon sentiment. With respect to misappropriation of public lands, he stated that,

Congress also provided that “no law shall be passed interfering with the primary disposal of soil.” But very soon thereafter the Legislative Assembly assumed to dispose of vast tracts of the public lands, of many streams of water, though artificial irrigation is essential to nearly all agricultural lands, and of vast forests of timber, though such forests are far from numerous. I will quote a few of these grants in the language of these Territorial legislators: . . . .

Be it ordained, etc., that Brigham Young have the sole control of City Creek Canyon and that he pay into the public treasury the sum of five hundred dollars therefore . . . ” (Desert News, Oct. 10th, 1871).

The criminal case against Young was later dismissed due to a procedural defect in the selection of the jury, and it was not refiled (Baskin, 57).

Whether his acquisition was for personal, public good, or both purposes or whether his title was technically legal or illegal, Young’s initial control of City Creek Canyon and its mouth set the stage for first wave of canyon use by Euro-Americans.

* * * *

On March 21st, 2016, Jeremy Pugh’s guide to “100 Things To Do In Salt Lake City Before You Die” recommends a trip up City Creek Canyon (Deseret News). On March 21st, 2015, Pat Shea, former head of the BLM under President Clinton, in a letter to the editors of the Salt Lake Tribune, when arguing against the Mountain Accord, again appealed to Brigham Young’s historical precedent of sustainable use in City Creek Canyon. On March 21st, 2007, the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce proposed as part of its “Downtown Rising” initiative, creating an interconnected system of trails, including City Creek Canyon, between the mountains and local city parks (Deseret News). On March 21st, 1931, the date of the annual high school City Creek Marathon is set for April 3rd (Salt Lake Herald). On March 21st, 1915, the Deseret Evening News, due to a drought winter, proposed several solutions to the City’s lack of water. The News urged that “The water rights of the city must be protected and maintained at all costs” (Deseret Evening News).

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