City Creek Nature Notes – Salt Lake City

May 13, 2017

May 12th

Filed under: Bicyclist, Butterfly, Mallard, People — canopus56 @ 6:39 pm

Missed Butterfly Explosion

6:00 p.m. I have missed this year’s butterfly explosion. Each year, there is a day in which the first mile of the road is flooded with emerging butterflies. In the spring of 2015, I estimated 1,500 on one afternoon; in the spring of 2015, I estimated 500 on one day. This year, I have not seen their peak. It may be a matter of timing: this R-reproductive explosion occurs only on one or two days, and sometimes for only a few hours. During the explosion, it is possible to run through a cloud of four or five types of butterflies that hang in the air like snowflakes, and I count those days among the most significant in my life. It may also be a matter of population fluctuations. Butterfly populations can fluctuate widely, although no researcher or group publishes reports local counts.

Today, the canyon is filled with all kinds of human-powered transportation. There are unicycles, skateboarders, men pushing running trams filled with children, single bicycles, in-line skaters, rollerskiers and tandem bicycles. In recent weeks, I have also seen electric powered bicycles, one electric powered unicycle, and electric-powered rollerboards. Human-powered bicyclists dominate the road, and, in part, this is because of the hot weather and, in part, because they know that in three weeks, automobiles will return to the canyon (on May 31st). Then bicyclists will be restricted to alternate days, and the solitude that the canyon provides to joggers such as myself will be diminished. The canyon has been closed to automobiles, except for a few water plant employees and the canyon patrol, since September 30th of last fall.

Winds are high this evening, and the stream is a roaring mass of white. As I round a bend, a mallard is parachuting into the raging stream. He holds his wings in cup shape similar to that of a human para-glider as he descends facing into the wind, and with minute adjustments of his wingtip feathers, he expertly glides onto the one visible spot of calm water. His streamlined shape allows him to station-keep on the stream, but he quickly disappears onto land and into the rising brush at the stream’s bank.

* * * *

On May 12th, 2007, a mother whose son committed suicide took a memorial walk up City Creek Canyon (Deseret News). On May 12th, 2005 following a heavy snowstorm in the mountains with a high snowpack, Salt Lake City Dept. of Public Utilities Director LeRoy Hooten, Jr. assured residents that the floods of 1983 would not repeat due to infrastructure improvements built after 1983 (Salt Lake Tribune). In 1983, flooding occurred after a heavy snowpack lingered until May and on the benches, 10 inches of snow remained. That heavy snowfall was followed by a rapid warming. The Tribune noted that in 2005, the mid- and low- elevation snow had already melted (id). National Weather Service Brian McInerney cautioned that “there remains a lot of debris” in the higher streams and notes that the “the city utilities have been working overtime to clear this stuff . . .” (id). On May 12th, 2002, artist Tony Smith displayed a painting of City Creek at dusk at the Phillips Gallery (Salt Lake Tribune). On May 12th, 1993, a 37-year old man was critically injured after he fell from a steep trail in lower-City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake Tribune). On May 12th, 1904, the City Council Committee on Streets directed the street supervisor to improve the City Creek Canyon road from the mouth to the brick water tanks (Salt Lake Telegram).

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