City Creek Nature Notes – Salt Lake City

June 24, 2017

June 23rd

Filed under: Cheat grass, Fire, Guardhouse gate, Jupiter, Stream, Western tent caterpillar moth — canopus56 @ 6:06 am

Canyon Habitat Overview

9:45 p.m. The heat wave has temporarily broken and temperatures fall in the eighties degrees Fahrenheit. I take only a short walk in the canyon’s summer late-evening twilight, and enjoy the coolness of night. The stream has gone down by two-thirds since the end of snowpack melt on June 4th. It must half again before the minimum flows of summer, at about 12 cubic feet per second, are reached. Now the stream runs only from underground water seeping from underneath both halves of Salt Lake salient. True darkness does not come until 10:15 p.m., and when it finally does arrive, bright Jupiter hangs over the road to the south like a guiding star. During the winter, Venus played that role (January 30th).

As I return to Guardhouse Gate, a large 4 inch moth is resting near the guardhouse lights. Its coloration is spectacular gradation of gray and ruddy brown, and it has large green frilled antennae the size of a woman’s pinky finger. It is a Western tent caterpillar moth (Malacosoma californicum). I have seen none of its characteristic tent colonies on trees in the canyon, but looking back through my photographs, I saw the caterpillar form of this moth on May 24th.

Reaching my car, city parking enforcement has left me a warning citation for parking at Guardhouse Gate after 10 p.m. Even five years ago, this would have been laughable, and throughout the winter this parking regulation was never a problem. But now the ridgelines are covered in early two feet tall dry cheat grass. A small spark could cause a brushfire that in the past have burned between 20 to 200 acres, or about one-third of a square mile. The city wants to deter summer nighttime revelers from entering the canyon in order to prevent them from starting campfires or lighting sparklers or other fireworks. Today, there are over 1,500 acres burning in Utah, about half of which I estimate are Cheat grass brush fires, and on arriving home tonight, the news reports a 100 acre grass fire in the Gambel oak chaparral above Farmington, Utah, about 20 miles north of the canyon.

* * * *

Per Thoreau’s “Journal” on June 23rd, 1840, he hears a young golden robin. On June 23rd, 1860, he notes that night hawks fly in a path similar to butterflies. He describes three types of cinquefoil. On June 23, 1852, he hears a bobolink and an owl. He sees mountain laurel and partridge berry (Mitchella repens) in bloom. He smells wild rose, sweet briar, blue geranium, and swamp pink. He notes that the undersides of leaves, particularly of the aspen, are lighter than the top side. On June 23rd, 1853, he sees leaf-heart and loose strife. On June 23rd, 1854, he sees three broods of partridges. On June 23rd, 1856, he sees baywings.

* * * *

City Creek Canyon is an undeveloped east-west trending canyon that extends 12 miles from Salt Lake City’s downtown business district. The canyon clefts the Salt Lake salient, an east-west trending spur of the north-south running Wasatch Front Mountain Range. The salient was created by an earthquake faults, principally the Pleasant Valley fault, deep below the canyon that is also perpendicular to the main north-south running Wasatch Fault. The canyon defines the northern end of the Salt Lake valley. A similar fault at the south end of the valley created the Traverse Mountains, another east-west salient that defines the boundary between Salt Lake County on the north and Utah County on the south. The difference between the Traverse salient and the Salt Lake salient is that limestone formations that are the bedrock of Salt Lake salient allowed water to flow down the middle of the ridge, and over geologic time, water flows carved out a canyon that clefts the salient in two. The canyon bottom begins at the city near 4,300 feet in elevation and rises to about 6,000 feet in elevation another 8 miles up canyon.

There are four principal habitats in the canyon. At the lowest elevations are grasslands mixed with sagebrush that covered the valley floor before pre-European colonization (Christensen 1963). These grasslands spread up both sides of the canyon walls and ridgelines through canyon mile 6.0 where water is insufficient to support the drought tolerant Gambel’s oak forest. It includes Bluebunch wheatgrass (Pseudoroegneria spicata a.k.a. Agropyron spicatum), Wild bunchgrass (Poa secunda), invasive Cheat grass (Bromus tectorum), and Big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata) (Christensen 1963, Rogers 1984).

The second habitat by elevation is Wasatch chaparral that is dominated by pure stands of Gambel’s oak trees (Quercus gambelii) (Hayward 1945; Christensen 1949). Such stands can be found around the base of and to the north of Ensign Peak. They continue below the western ridgeline of the Salt Lake salient to milepost 2.0.

The third habitat is Wasatch lower montane (Hayward 1945, p. 10; Hayward 1948; Rogers 1984). This habitat is a mid-elevation association between 4,500 feet and 8,000 feet above sea level that consists primarily of dwarf Gambel’s oak trees mixed with Norway maple trees (Acer platanoides), and Big Tooth maple trees (Acer grandidentatum) (Hayward 1948; Ream 1960). In City Creek Canyon, this habitat begins at the Guardhouse Gate and continues up to approximately milepost 4.0. On the shaded north facing slopes of the canyon, water-loving maple trees dominate. On the sun-exposed south facing slopes, Gambel’s oak trees that have deep water-seeking tap roots dominate. Between the two slopes and surrounding the canyon’s stream is a mixed community of oaks, maples, Box Elder trees (Acer negundo), Rocky Mountain narrowleaf cottonwood trees (Populus angustifolia), and Western water or River birch trees (Betula occidentalis). Bohs at the University of Utah has prepared an extensive list of plant species in City Creek Canyon near the Guardhouse Gate (Bohs 201).

The fourth habitat begins about 6 miles up canyon, or four miles above the Guardhouse Gate above Bonneville Drive, where the Wasatch oak community gives way to Wasatch upper montane habitat (Hayward, 1945). This habitat is includes Lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta Dougl.), Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesli) and Quaking aspen trees (Populus tremuloides) (Hayward 1945, Hayward 1948). On shaded north-facing slopes conifers dominate, and on sunny south-facing slopes Aspens dominate with some Utah juniper trees (Juniperus osteosperma.

The Gambel’s oak trees in the vicinity of City Creek Canyon are all dwarfs. Gambel’s oaks can grow to be mature trees thirty or forty feet in height, but where they are limited by water or other environmental stresses, then they reach only about ten feet in height (Christensen 1949). Christensen also noted that the seeds of these oaks while not germinate if they fall under the shade of an existing tree, but that does not limit the rate of their expansion. He observed many species distributing Gambel oak acorns, such as Western scrub jays, rock squirrel (Spermophilus variegatus), and Lewis woodpeckers (Melanerpes lewis) (Christensen 1949). In the canyon during the winter, I have also seen mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) and Wild turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) browsing for acorns. Thus, the oak’s acorns are widely distributed, and other constraints like lack of water must constraint its growth. Because the Gambel’s oak’s acorns are randomly distributed around the perimeter of copse, copses of these oaks have a characteristic inverted bowl shape. The oaks are found either in these bowl shaped groups on chaparrals or in uniformly covered broad sections of hillsides. The Gambel’s oaks around Salt Lake City are at the northern limit of that specie, and so, their development is under constant limiting pressure from northern Utah’s climate.

This journal primarily concerns the Wasatch lower montane habitat in the first two canyon miles above Guardhouse Gate within 500 feet on either side of the stream. Over the course of a year, all of the four habitats are visited.

* * * *

On June 23rd, 2012, Smith’s Food King, a dominant supermarket chain in the valley, decides to no longer sell fireworks because of the risk they pose to starting fires on valley benches and in valley canyons, including City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake Tribune). On June 23rd, 2010, the 31st Wasatch Steeplechase run over Black Mountain was run (Salt Lake Tribune). The Steeplechase was begun in 1979 by McKay Edwards as a summer solstice celebration (id). On June 23rd, 1918, the Salt Lake Tribune featured a photographic story-advertisement extolling the pleasures of automobile driving up City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake Tribune). On June 23rd, 1899, a City Committee will investigate the lack of water on the east side due to problems in the distribution system for City Creek water (Salt Lake Tribune).


June 23, 2017

June 19th

Filed under: Astronomy, Birds, Geology, Insects, Mammals, Microbes, Mollusks, Plants, Seasons — canopus56 @ 9:18 am

Last Day of Spring and a Walk Through Time

3:00 p.m. It is the last day of astronomical spring, and the canyon has completed its seasonal growth spurt, has become pregnant, and is readying itself for the coming stress of summer’s heat. Today, as I sometimes do, I see a walk through nature as a walk through geologic time and the history of life. The canyon contains living refugees from each major geologic period.

The seep below picnic site 6 contains slimes, molds, bacteria and protozoa from the Hadean Eon to the Precambrian period in the Neoproterozic, 530 million years ago. There are 2.2 x 10^30 prokaryotes in the 4 kilometers of Earth beneath my feet from that era (December 20th), and another 7.2 x 10^24 microbes in the 4 kilometers of air above my head (id). The orange lichens on the Gambel’s oak trees also come from this time. The mosses also that adorn the oaks and that live on rocks in the stream come represent life’s first steps onto the land in the Ordovician period 485 million years ago. The trout in the stream represent the arrival of fish in the Silurian period 443 million years ago. The horsetails by the side of the road represent the vascular plants that also migrated to the land during the Silurian periods.

Insects first appear during the Devonian about 400 million years ago. The canyon’s conifers represent the Carboniferous period beginning about 350 million years ago. The Permian period beginning about 290 million years ago when mollusks arrived is represented by the Common garden snails seen crossing the road. The Permian is also when insects like the Variegated Meadowhawk dragonflies arose.

The Mesozoic era, including the age of the dinosaurs during the Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous periods, began about 250 million years ago. Presently, the dinosaurs are represented by their descendants, the many birds of the canyon. The many flowering plants and trees in the canyon first appeared during the Cretaceous, 130 million years ago. The late Cretaceous is represented by the canyon’s Western rattlesnakes and Western ground snakes (Sonora semiannulata). Small mammals like the Rocky Mountain deer mice and Rock squirrels also first appeared during that period.

The Cenozoic era, including the Paleogene period that began forty million years ago, is represented by the canyon’s many butterflies. The Neogene period that began about 25 million years ago is represented by the grasses along the road. The early Quaternary period, the Pleistocene, that began about 2.5 million years ago, are represented the canyon’s coyotes, mountain lions and black bears. The late Quaternary, the Holocene, is represented by homo sapiens, myself and the other walkers and runners on the road.

In the last 500 million years, the Earth has rotated around the core of the Milky Way two times. Life remains persistent, infinite, incomprehensible, and irrepressible.

* * * *

Per Thoreau’s “Journal” on June 19th, 1852, he notes that clover, buttercups and geraniums are at their peak. Grapes and mullein are blooming. He hears robins and walks across a summer-dried swamp and collect orchids. On June 19, 1853, blue-eyed grass, a small iris, is blooming. He sees a blue jay, a tanager, and a cucokoo. He hears a night warbler and a bobolink. On June 19th, 1854, he admires a distant thunderstorm. On June 19th, 1859, he observes a squirrel nest and its young, and he sees a partridge. On June 19th, 1860, he follows a fox track back to its burrow.

* * * *

On June 19th, 1993, the 14th annual Wasatch Steeplechase was won by Tom Borschel with a time of 2:02:50 (Salt Lake Tribune, June 20, 1993). On June 19th, 1992, the City and the L.D.S. Church develop a master plan that proposed a five block parkway with City Creek raised to the surface (Salt Lake Tribune). The Tribune notes an enlarged underground conduit was installed after the 1983 floods along North Temple (id). On November 19th, 2006, a human skill was found by tree-trimming crews working in City Creek Canyon, and a subsequent search failed to find any other remains (Deseret News). On June 19th, 1925, the City condemned land at the mouth of City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake Telegram). On June 19th, 1917, the City reopened City Creek Canyon after initially closing the canyon out of concerns that terrorist saboteurs might harm the City’s water supply (Salt Lake Telegram). On June 13, 1913, in support of a national education convention held in the City, Parks Commissioner George D. Kesyer plans to open City Creek Canyon road to automobiles (Salt Lake Tribune). Prison labor will be used to improve the road (id). On June 19th, 1903 in a lengthy statement, City Engineer L. C. Kelsey described the risk to the City of flooding from a cloudburst after hundreds died in a cloudburst flood in Heppner, Oregon:

“A part of the city is located at the mouth of City Creek canyon in such a position that a heavy cloudburst in the canyon would send a wall of water into the city that would cause a heavy loss of probably both life and property.”

“I understand that cloudbursts in former years have done considerable damage, but nothing of that kind has ever happened while I have been here.”

“A cloudburst of any considerable magnitude would do almost incalculable damage, and I cannot see how it could be avoided.”

“There is no possible way to divert such a stream without an enormous expenditure of money. If unlimited means were at hand the question would have to be most carefully considered. I would not suggest any means of reaching this end without studying the situation. Means, however, could certainly be devised.”

“A war of water coming down the canyon, similar to that at Heppner, would sweep everything before it. Residences in the canyon’s mouth would fall like card houses and the wave would then sweep down North Temple and State streets. The greater volume would go down the former and the wall surrounding Temple square would melt before it.”

“The Temple itself, the basement at least would be inundated and havoc would be played there. The water going westward would soon spread, but incalculable damage and perhaps heavy loss of life would mark its path.”

“The lesser volume would go down State street, spreading ruin in its course, until it, too, had dissipated.”

“While such a thing is not probable, it is altogether possible, as the city in a climatic belt where cloudbursts could be well expected. Such things cannot, however, be foreseen” (id).

On June 19th, 1895, Watermaster Commissioner Heath reminds citizens that no fishing is allowed in City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake Tribune). On June 19, 1894, the Lady Rosalind Stearns bicycle race was held up City Creek (Salt Lake Tribune). Three racers went up the canyon at full speed, and the winner was forced by exhaustion to dismount at seven miles up the canyon (id).

June 18th

Filed under: Astronomy, Creek's Delta, Uncategorized — canopus56 @ 8:17 am

Meridian Monument and the Survey Land Boat of 1897

External Link to Image

Schematic of Eimbeck’s 1897 land sled for surveying the Salt Lake valley (Eimbeck 1897).

5:00 p.m. When Euro-American colonized new lands in the West, how did they establish their systems of real property ownership which required accurate land surveys? Today, I visit the southeast corner of the Mormon Temple grounds in the delta of City Creek Canyon. There a three-foot tall sandstone obelisk bearing the word “Meridian” stands along with a nearby bronze plaque placed by the Mutual Improvement Association of the Church of Latter Day Saints. This monument is central to the convoluted story of how the official land survey of the Salt Lake valley occurred. This monument on the canyon’s delta played a central role in Utah’s history and in Mormon mythology.

The historical plaque suggests that the obelisk is a replacement for an original marker put there by Mormon pioneer and church leader Orson Pratt in 1847. The 1932 plaque lists its position as Latitude 40°47.747′ N, Longitude 111°52.541′ W. But Pratt’s marker was at the northeast corner of the Temple grounds and it was used by the initial Mormon government of Utah to survey provisional city lots before the completion of an official United States Coastal Survey monument and the 1868 opening of a United States Land Office in Utah (see March 25th). In the 1930s and as is still sometimes heard today, the Mormon Relief Society claimed that the accuracy of Pratt’s determination of the location of the base and range meridian monument was divinely inspired. In 1855, United States Coastal Surveyor David H. Burr established the official sandstone marker at the southeast corner, and it was only a few hundred feet away from Pratt’s marker at the northeast corner. My modern GPS locator, which uses a modern but different coordinate geodetic system, puts Latitude 40°47.747′ N, Longitude 111°52.541′ W about one-half mile away from the sandstone monument. The myth goes that Pratt, a mathematician and astronomer, traveled with the 1847 advance party carrying a then state-of-art Dolland six inch refractor telescope, a mis-calibrated chronometer, and a self-made mileage meter attached to his wagon. Despite traveling over 1,000 miles over uneven prairie and mountains, Pratt was able to determine his position with high accuracy relative to Burr’s subsequent sandstone monument (Y.L.N.M.I. Assoc., 1900 at 343 “only a few feet short”; Giles Letter, Oct. 2nd, 1949, “misinformation in the minds of some of the guides on Temple Square”). This location of the sandstone monument is culturally tied to the adjacent Mormon Temple. The Temple has high significance in the Mormon religion as the physical Temple is viewed by members as the visible base of a celestial temple that extends upwards to heaven. Thus, Pratt’s high accuracy measurement of the temple’s location supports feelings that the Salt Lake Temple’s location is divinely ordained.

A loosefleaf folder in the archives of the University of Utah provides another interpretation (copy in possession of author). Bancroft’s “History of Utah” reports that Pratt originally measured the baseline and range meridian at 40°45’44” N, 111°26’34” W (Bancroft 1890). Pratt’s survey station was not at the existing monument at the southeast corner of the station, but rather his station was at the northeast corner of the Temple. An anonymous memorandum in the Pratt telescope file, reduces the position of Pratt’s station and the position of the 1855 United States survey marker, and concludes that Pratt’s position estimate was off by “0.26” [arcseconds] in latitude, equivalent to approximately 2630 feet, or 1/2 mile, and 27′ 26″ in longitude, equivalent to about 126,210 feet, or 23 9/10 miles” (id). The accuracy of Pratt’s latitude estimate was excellent given his high-quality Dolland refractor and that latitude is amenable determination from a telescope and star chart alone. The accuracy of his longitude measurement, although off by 23 miles, was also excellent for the 1800s. Highly accurate longitude measurement required the arrival of a telegraph wire to Utah through which the relative time of a star transiting directly over the Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C. and Utah could be determined electronically. The first transcontinental telegram transmission in Utah occurred on October 18, 1861. The United States Coast Survey did not begin to experiment with telegraphic determination of longitude until 1865 (Gould, 1865).

Burr’s 1855 sandstone monument would play a further key role in Utah’s Territorial history. The early Mormon settlers, having originally moved to unallocated lands of the United States in 1847, were understandably concerned that the United States Land Office that issued official federal deeds to homesteads on federal territorial lands would not recognize deeds issued by the Mormon’s unofficial State of Deseret prior to the Utah Territory Organic Act of 1850. The pioneers’ concerns were eventually borne out when the Federal Land Office opened with the arrival of the transcontinental railroad in 1868 (March 25th). The settlers were required to repurchase their lands a second time from the federal government (id). Thus, when United States surveyor Burr arrived in 1855, local government and its citizens were resistant to Burr’s efforts to survey the valley (White, 1983). In 1855, Brigham Young and the Utah Territorial Legislature had not obtained a commitment from the federal government to recognize the pre-1850 church deeds.

Although Burr attempted to execute his official duties, on August 30, 1856, he reported by letter that one of his survey contractors had been beaten by William Hickman, a member of the Mormon “Danite Angels”, and three other men (Burr Letter, August, 30th, 1856, in White at 316). The Danite Angels where known as a extra-judicial gang who worked at the direction of Brigham Young, and statements made by Hickman to Burr indicated that the beating occurred at the request of high church officials (Burr Letter). After further threats (White, 317-319) Burr fled Utah in 1857, and subsequently, this and other events lead President James Buchanan to proclaim Utah in open rebellion against the United States government on April 6, 1858 (Proclamation at White, 319-320). (White also reviews the many disputes regarding the veracity of Burr’s claims.) In part as a result of Burr’s allegations, in 1857, Johnston’s army was then sent by the United States from the east to occupy the territory and to quell with Utah Rebellion. Following resolution of the Utah Rebellion, the technological development of determining longitude with telegraphy and the arrival of the transcontinental railroad spurred further federal land surveys in Utah.

In 1869, George W. Dean and F. H. Agnew of the United States Coastal Survey were sent to establish the official latitude and longitude of the Salt Lake Base Meridian. Two stations used in making his official estimate of the location of the initial point were buried underneath the sidewalk about 117 feet northwest of the Burr sandstone marker under temple granite (White, 329). Those measuring stations were again moved after the 1893 completion of the Mormon Temple blocked necessary sight lines (White, 330). The present official location of the meridian and initial point for the purposes of surveying in Salt Lake City is Dean marker. To confuse matters further, Professor Orson Pratt continued to use his observatory to the northwest of the sandstone monument and inside the Temple grounds walls to make daily measurements of local noon. Those measurements set the official time for the state through 1897. Thus, over time some residents came to mistakenly believe that monuments setting the position of Pratt’s observatory were an earlier official initial point of the the Salt Lake Baseline and Meridian (Giles Letter). White also clarifies that the official meridian for land surveys covering larger regions of public lands in Utah is about 55 feet away and parallel to Dean’s meridian (White, 330). Conversely, the Salt Lake County Surveyor’s Office online information system shows the Dean marker as the corner point for Salt Lake County surveys (Salt Lake County Surveyor 2017). That marker was last relocated in May 2000 (id).

In 1871, the Hayden U.S.G.S. survey expedition came through Utah, and one of Hayden’s task was surveying lands granted to the transcontinental railroads. He was not concerned with surveying Utah. Local peaks such as O’Sullivan Peak on the Big and Little Cottonwood Canyon divide in Salt Lake County commemorate the early Utah photographic work of Timothy H. O’Sullivan, the expedition’s photographer. His early Utah pictures taken on glass plates under seemingly impossible conditions are legendary (see Utah Division of State History, 2017, Link). My favorite of his images is of the upper cirque below Lone Peak at the south end of Salt Lake Valley. Lone Peak, at 12,000 feet above sea level and 6,700 feet in altitude above the valley floor, can be seen from the canyon mouth, my home, and from all other locations in the valley. To the valley, the Peak presents a wall of granite columns, but these protect a glacial “U” shaped upper cirque the size of four football fields. In modern times, hiking Lone Peak involves an hour drive to the south end of the valley, and then an all day 12 hour hike through scrub forests and steep forty degree lower slopes with poor intermittent trails. In the 1870s, O’Sullivan would have taken a day to travel from the city to the south valley trail. Then he would have forced burros carrying several hundred pounds of photographic equipment with glass plates through the impenetrable, trail-less scrub oak. His photographic outing must have taken days to complete. Being a machine age modern, how he returned his exposed glass plates unbroken back to the valley floor seems superhuman. This is the stuff of real western legend and not some pale tale of provado and gun battles.

Kings and Hayden Peaks in the Unitas commemorates Clarence King and geologist Ferdinand V. Hayden, the other co-leaders of the expedition. Wheeler Peak in Nevada commemorates the expedition’s fourth leader, George Wheeler. In 1878, the office of the United States Coastal Survey was renamed the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey, and in 1896, Utah was admitted to the Union as a State. In 1897, William Eimbeck of the U.S.C. and G.S. completed his official land survey of north western Utah and laid official township and range markers for the Salt Lake Valley based on the Salt Lake Baseline and Meridian initial point (Eimbeck 1897).

With respect to his second task of surveying the Salt Lake valley in detail, Eimbeck was stymied by the many agricultural ditches that had been dug across the valley. Setting up and moving survey instruments by the usual method of horseback proved unworkable as horses could not cross the deep irrigation ditches. His innovative solution was to build a 56 foot long land boat or sled with catamarans and a central steel keel on which survey instruments could be mounted. Donkeys or horses then easily dragged the boat north an south along the valley and over any ditch obstacles (Eimbeck, Fig. 3, p. 768a). When a new measurement point was reached, metal stilts were ratcheted down, and the entire platform raised into the air and leveled. By this means, the corner monuments for each township and section in the Salt Lake valley were accurately laid.

* * * *

Per Thoreau’s “Journal” on June 18th, 1852, he examines the construction of a hornet’s nest. He observes loosestrife and St. John’s Wort are blooming. On June 18th, 1853, he lists morning song birds: robin, chip-bird, blackbird, and martin. He finds a large toadstool, and notes that eglantine and sweetbrier are blossoming. On a night walk with a near full Moon, he hears whippoorwills and notes that white flowers can be seen by moonlight. On June 18th, 1855, he notes that late season grasses are beginning to flower. On June 18th, 1859, he describes raindrops falling on the surface of the water before, during and after a storm. He sees swarms of gnats.

* * * *

On June 18th, 2003, the City announced its annual prohibition against fireworks north of 11th Avenue and in City Creek Canyon (Deseret News). On June 18th, 2011, Lowell Bodily, Salt Lake Valley Health Department, estimates that there are 3,000 homeless tent camps in Salt Lake Valley, and the Department finds about 15 to 20 camps in City Creek Canyon each year (Salt Lake Tribune). On June 18th, 1995, the City began work on converting the greenbelt at 2nd Avenue and Canyon Road into a park with faux City Creek (Salt Lake Tribune). On June 18th, 1992, Jack Quintana, a groundskeeper at the State Capitol notes that there an explosion of rock squirrels at the State Capitol, and he notes they their population varies on a nine-year cycle (Salt Lake Tribune). The adjacent City Creek Canyon is primary breeding habitat for the squirrels. On June 18th, 1930, William Monson, a smoker who started a fire near City Creek Canyon was fined $5 USD (Salt Lake Telegram). On June 18th, 1900, more than 12 cattle, bearing the Circle-9 brand, were impounded for illegally grazing in City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake Tribune).

May 15, 2017

May 13th

Filed under: Astronomy — canopus56 @ 3:32 pm

The Great Journey

Midnight. I return to the canyon under a bright near full Moon to see if moths have returned for this season. A white box lid and a flashlight should attract them. But it too early in the season and none arrive to be photographed. The sky is a blue-slate from the Moon’s rays, and this washes out the stars and their arrangement in constellations. This evening, the washed out sky reveals only a few of the brightest nearby skies, including the tail of the Big Dipper that points southeast to the bright star Arcturus, a mere 37 light years away. It is known as the “Guardian” whose rising in spring was a signal to farmers for thousands of years to being planting. Only bright Jupiter and the brightest star Spica can pierce through the moonlight. When I was in the canyon under a bright Moon in December (Dec. 14th), Orion dominated the sky. The Earth and the Milky Way hurdle towards an unknown fate in the distant future somewhere near Spica. This night sky underscores the fragility of the infinite variety of life, including the Giant crane flies and the Western tanagers, that surrounds me in the canyon. In the silver light, the fragility of all its beauty fills my heart.

* * * *

Throughout much of the last 10 million years of our present Tertiary period, including when mammals came to dominate the Earth, the Earth has been traversing relatively evacuated regions in the Milky Way’s disk. The first of these, which extends over a kiloparsec anti-spinward down the galactic Orion’s Arm for 3,000 kiloparsec (9,800 light-years) is the “Great Dent”. Next, is Gould’s Belt, which the Earth and Sun are currently crossing. Gould’s Belt is a defined by a ring of loose groups of the brightest stars, called OB associations (Grenier 2004). The winter Orion constellation and its star factory, the bright nebulae M42, sits at the out-galaxy end of this 300 by 650 elliptical disk of clouds, nebular star-forming factories, bright open clusters, and older OB star associations (Frisch 2000, Henbest and Couper 1994). The nebular clouds condense into star factories like Orion’s M42 and M8. Newly born bright stars exit the factories in dense gravitationally bound open clusters. With the passage of time they disperse into largely loosely bound OB associations. In a few months in the summer, the opposite inward-galaxy pole of Gould’s Belt, which contains the bright nebulae M8 in the constellation Sagittarius, will be on the southern horizon. In addition to OB star associations, the Gould’s belt disk includes about 40 remnants of novae that exploded during the Belt’s early condensation from an 200 million year old super gas cloud, now called Lindblad’s Ring (Olano 2016, Olano 2001). Those novae evacuated the relatively empty and safe area inside the ring called the Local Bubble. The Earth sits off-center of the Gould’s Belt ellipsis, and the Earth wandered here about ten million years ago, as novae exploded around it. Physicist Ellis and astronomer Schramm suggest that that nearby supernovae could have induced mass extinctions on the Earth that aided in the extinction of the dinosaurs (Ellis and Schramm 1995). The meteorite impact at the end of the Cretaceous is generally accepted as the ending the dinosaur era, but the theory is contradicted. Some dinosaur species survived the impact. Further stress from the supernovae and novae radiation could have provided extra stress that completed the extinction. In 2016 in separate papers based on studies of irradiated metals deposited on ocean bottoms, Breitschwerdt and colleagues, Melott and Wallner and colleagues suggest that the Earth has been bombarded every 2 for 4 million years by intense radiation from supernovae (Breitschwerdt et al 2016, Melott 2016, Wallner et al 2016). This raises the speculation that genetic changes that gave rise to modern humans may have been caused by radiation from Gould’s Belt novae or supernovae as our wandering planet crossed the Belt’s interior.

In addition to this local drama, the Earth, the Milky Way and the surrounding galaxies are all streaming towards the Virgo Supercluster. Almost directly above my head and about thirty degrees celestial north of Spica, the orientation of Earth’s tilted axis and its orbit presents the relatively star-empty skies of the galactic North Pole. Other than Arcturus, there are no bright stars in this direction, and although hidden by moonlight, I am looking up towards the “Realm of the Galaxies”, and this region of sky contains the Virgo super-cluster of galaxies, about 150 million light years away, whose great mass pulls all local galaxies, including the Earth and the canyon, towards it at about 250 kilometers per second (Lyndell-Bell et al 1988). The Virgo Supercluster was originally proposed by French astronomer and galaxy cataloguer Gerard Henri de Vancouleurs while working at Lowell Observatory in Arizona (de Vancouleurs 1953). De Vancouleurs and his astronomer colleague and wife Antoinette spent their lives cataloguing the positions of 23,000 galaxies.

The Milky Way and the Virgo Supercluster themselves are all being drawn at about 570 kilometers per second towards an unseen mass about 500 million light-years away that the astronomers originally called “the Great Attractor”. The Great Attractor is at a point in the sky obscured by the Earth’s mass (as seen from the canyon) in the southern hemisphere in the constellation Norma, and we know of the Attractor’s existence only from its effects on surrounding galaxies. Those effects are found from the position and relative direction of travel of galaxies, and direction of travel is a galaxy’s Doppler redshift. Having survived its traverse into a hazardous, but now relative safe, resting place in the Milky Way within Gould’s Belt, the Earth and the canyon speed towards the Great Attractor. In 1987, Tully and Fisher at the University of Hawaii completed their graphic atlas of nearby galaxies out to 40 million parsecs (Tully and Fisher 1987). In 1988, Lynden-Bell at Cambridge, Faber at Lick Observatory and colleagues by analyzing the red shifts of galaxies identified a larger mass, supposed as located in region of the constellations Hydra and Centaurus, toward which both Milky and Virgo Supercluster are drawn (Lyndell-Bell et al 1988). Since 1988, surveys of the estimated 100 billion galaxies in the observable universe have continued, and in 2015, red shifts for about 1.2 million galaxies are known. With this increased knowledge in 2014, Tully, Courtois, Hoffman and Pomarede prepared an improved analysis of the direction flow of galaxies within one billion light-years and this better revealed the structure of what they now call the Laniakea supercluster some 500 million light-years distant. The Laniake supercluster is a filament of galaxies that stretches from the constellations Hercules through Virgo and down to the constellation Norma (Tully, Courtois, Hoffman and Pomarede 2014a, Tully, Courtois, Hoffman and Pomarede 2014b (Video)). The Virgo supercluster is a local spur that connects to that larger filament, the Laniakea supercluster. Laniake is a compound word from Hawaiian: lani for sky, heaven and kea for wide or broad.

Changes in the Earth’s fate and night sky will come sooner then our encounter with the Great Attractor. The Earth travels in a sinusoidal path, moving above and below the mean galactic plane about every 33 million years (Bash 1986). It is now pointed above and traveling away from the mean galactic plane and towards a point below the constellation Hercules. In the rotating frame of the Milky Way, the Earth travels galactic spinward about 1,000 parsecs every 10 million years (Bash 1986). In about 1,500,000 million years, the wandering Earth will exit the Local Bubble and re-enter a region of dense dark nebular clouds that separates the Gould’s Belt and the wall of Lindbald’s Ring from the next bubble evacuated by novae, called the Cygnus Loop, and then pass by the North American nebula, called NGC 7000 by astronomers, on its way in the direction of the bright star Deneb in the constellation Cygnus. In another 55 million years, the Earth will enter the next galactic arm out, the Perseus Arm (Bash 1986), but its path cannot be predicted with certainty, since how the Sun will gravitationally interact with large molecular clouds along its route is not known. On a clear summer night far from the city, the dark nebular clouds that separate Lindblad’s Ring from the Cygnus Loop’s interior can be seen obscuring constellation Cygnus and stretching between Deneb and the nearby bright double star Albireo.

* * * *

On May 13th, 2014, a man with mental health issues was convicted of attempting to set an arsonist fire in Memory Grove (Salt Lake Tribune). On May 13th, 2004, the 10th annual Memory Grove cleanup was set (Salt Lake Tribune). (In 2017, the annual cleanup remains a well-attended spring event). On May 13th, 2003, Wildlife Firefighter Trainee Dirk Huber recalls fighting fires in City Creek Canyon during the 2002 season (Salt Lake Tribune). On May 13th, 1914, the City Commission adopted an ordinance for the creation of a scenic boulevard to be called Wasatch Boulevard (Salt Lake Telegram). The boulevard was planned to run up City Creek Canyon, then to 11th Avenue, then to along 11th Avenue to Popperton, then south on Thirteenth East to 1200 South, then westward back to Main Street past farms along 1200 South, and finish by going back up Main to downtown. A budget of $5,000 was provided to widen the City Creek Canyon road using prison labor to support automobiles for the first seven and one-half miles. On May 13th, 1913, City Creek water was tested and found to have a high purity (Salt Lake Tribune). On May 13th, 1913, the City Commission rejected the Waterworks Superintendent Korn’s proposal to construct a highway up City Creek Canyon and into Morgan County (Salt Lake Tribune). On May 13, 1906, racing bicyclists were training in City Creek for an upcoming 18 miles event (Salt Lake Tribune).

March 22, 2017

March 20th. Spring.

Filed under: Astronomy, Dogwood, Seasons, Woods Rose — canopus56 @ 6:25 pm

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

A note on formatting in this and future entries: Each daily entry consists of at most four parts:

• Daily nature observations in the canyon;

• Nature observations by Henry David Thoreau on the corresponding days of the year;

• An essay on science or history of the canyon; or,

• Digest of newspaper articles related to City Creek Canyon.

Each part is separated by a divider:

* * * *

3:00 p.m. It is the first day of astronomical spring, and for the next six months, light predominates over darkness. In response to this signal, changes in the small bushes of the canyon are dramatic. The first Wood’s rose bud opened a few days ago, but now all of the buds on all of the rose bushes in the first mile have opened in union. Seemingly overnight, their buds have swelled, burst out of their winter shells, and small leaves between one quarter and three quarters of an inch have unfurled. During the winter, the bare branches of Wood’s rose blend in with red-osier dogwood. The two plants, both with red branches, have an affinity for each other, but the rose can be distinguished by the protective gray spikes near its base. But now, only the Wood’s roses have bloomed, and it easy to distinguish them from the tangle or red dogwood and rose branches. This makes it easy for me to take a quick informal census of this wild rose. There are about one-hundred and ten wild Wood’s rose bushes in first mile. Wood’s rose also grows intertwined with service berry which is the other major bush that has bloomed. Herbaceous annuals and perennials with broad leaves, which yesterday were limited to the canyon’s southwest facing slope, poke up through the soil on both sides of the road. A parsley-like plant grows at the base of a tree, and the waxy seeds of poison ivy radiate lime-green light. Grasses, depending on their location in soil and with respect to sunlight, are an inch to five inches tall. Other woody plants, the trees, still hold back.

Winter has served its purpose for these new small herbaceous plants. Snow melted in place, and digging my heel into ground reveals that two inches below the surface, the soil is saturated and wet. The surface layer is dry, but spring rains and what little snow there is to still come, will wet this. The young, shallow plants will reach down to the moisture below. All is primed for the green explosion to come.

* * * *

In Thoreau’s “Journal” on March 20th, 1853, he records life-everlasting plant, ribwort, and birch sprouts. He sees quail and redpolls. On March 20th,1858, he revels over the tree-sparrow’s song. He admires willow catkins. He notes that fish are migrating upstream. On March 20th, 1859, he observes song-sparrows sheltering from the wind.

* * * *

City Creek Canyon is a remarkable natural environment. It is even more remarkable given its extensive history and modification through human use and exploitation. The history modification of its natural environment begins with the arrival of the initial Euro-American colonists in 1847, and it came in several waves: First, timber harvesting and irrigation development. The first dam was built in City Creek for irrigation purposes on August 2, 1847 (Hooten; Bancroft 261). Second, mining. Third, water infrastructure development. Fourth, road development and recreation use from the 1880s to the 1950s. Fifth, the present modern era of recreation and watershed use. The first wave was intimately tied to the second Mormon prophet, Brigham Young and the L.D.S. church objective of establishing a theodemocracy – that is governmental power led by spiritual leaders – in the valley. As part of establishing initial government in the valley, Brigham Young asserted both personal and beneficial ownership over all of City Creek Canyon on January 15, 1950.

Shortly after arriving in the valley on August 7, 1847, by declaration certain preferential land allotments where made to each of the Twelve Apostles of the L.D.S. Church, including Young (Neff, 90). Young’s award included the current site of the Lion House and extended up along First Avenue and down into Memory Grove. By the allotment, Young obtained control of the entrance to City Creek Canyon. He also was granted all of the City Creek drainage.

At the time of the first party arrival in July 1847, the Salt Lake Valley was part of Mexico, not the United States (Hooten 19). The United States was at war with Mexico, a war that in 1847 most expected it would win. On February 2nd, 1848 the war with Mexico ended with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, and the legal status of the Salt Lake Valley changed to become part of the unorganized public lands of the United States. “Unorganized lands” means public lands of the United States that have not been organized into a formal territory by the United States Congress pursuant to an organic act. However, the initial Euro-American colonizers where here in 1847 and they moved out of practical necessity to self-organize a government based on a theodemocratic model. In October 1847, they formed a municipal government, called the High Council, with George Smith as president (Hooten, 8; Bancroft, 297). Young left the valley on August 26, 1847 to return east and organize for further immigration parties (Neff, 98). In October 1848, an elected county government replaced the High Council (Bancroft, 287), and municipal authority was transferred from the Council to the new government. On March 12, 1849, by general election a new “state”, the State of Deseret was formed. Brigham Young had a unique legal interpretation on the right of individuals residing in unorganized lands to form a new state:

[In Articles IX and X of the U.S. Constitution,] it is definitely stated that “The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people. The power not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or the people.” . . . . We have a right to settle in any unoccupied and unclaimed part of the public domain owned by our Government, where the machinery of the Government has not extended, and there govern and control ourselves according to republican principles; and the Congress of the United States is not authorized in the least, by the Constitution that governs it, to make laws for the new settlement, and appoint adjudicators and administrators of the law for it, any more than we have a right to make laws and appoint administrators of the law for California, Ohio, Illinois, or Missouri.

Remarks of L.D.S. Church President Brigham Young (March 9, 1862). In Journal of Discourses, X:39-40, Salt Lake City (Ashton, xii, reprinted).

The new entity had no actual legal status under United States law; Young was simply wrong in his view. Only Congress could authorize the creation of a new territory or state from unorganized lands. Nevertheless, the new Assembly of the State of Deseret began passing various laws and ordinances, again out of practical necessity. On Sept. 9, 1850, the United States Congress passed the Utah Territorial Organic Act (Hooten, p. 18), but initial organization and appointments where not made until the spring of 1851. That included the appointment of Brigham Young as governor by U.S. President Fillmore.

Among the provisions of the Utah Territory Organic Act was Section 6, which provided that the Territorial Legislature would pass no law “interfering with the primary disposal of the soil . . .”

* * * *

On March 20th, 1915, the Burroughs Nature Study Club of Utah scheduled a celebration of Bird Day at Liberty Park on April 3rd with Heber M. Wells, City parks commissioner. The following pledge was recited, “In God’s name, and by these exercises, we dedicate Liberty Park . . . City Creek Canyon . . . and the Fort Douglas Reservation as bird sanctuaries sacred to the life and growth of the birds of all species for all time” (Salt Lake Telegram). The ceremony was held on April 3rd, 1915 (Salt Lake Herald and Salt Lake Telegram, Salt Lake Herald, April 4th, 1915). On March 20th, 1910, a group of twelve children had an outing in City Creek (Salt Lake Tribune). On March 20th, 1881, the Salt Lake Herald reported that the Old Henry Mine in City Creek Canyon has been storing valuable ore over the winter and are ready to bring the ore to market once snows recede (Salt Lake Herald).

March 10, 2017

March 10th

Filed under: Bicyclist, Moon, Owl, People — canopus56 @ 11:15 pm

City Creek’s Delta – Part I

7:00 p.m. I reach the canyon between dusk and dark under an overcast sky that obscures a full Moon. It is a night of exuberant wheelmen motivated by the coming change in seasons. Going up canyon, three skateboarders race down the canyon. The first two are dressed in tights and menacing helmets with darkened faceplates, and the third follows holding a cell phone. They are making a video for posting on the internet. The canyon is full of bicyclists. Going up canyon, many racing bicyclists whiz down canyon. After dark, there are up to twenty mountain bikers; they are equipped with bright LED lights and can ride in the dark. Some streak past yelling “pedestrian!” to others further behind. Many are riding up the Pipeline Trail, and due to the lack of leaves and their bright lights I can follow their progress. The clump in groups or looking up canyon, I can see several climbing the high Bonneville Shoreline Trail that goes to the ridge line. Two have become disoriented and are hacking their way through the brush between the Pipeline Trail and the paved road, not knowing that 100 yards away there is a trail between the two. I understand their excitement. When I was younger, I enjoyed the exhilaration of these fast bike rides down the canyon under a full Moon (Nov. 2nd), and it feels good to see another generation. Wheelman have frequently the canyon since the 1890s and the introduction of the safety bike. At mile 1.2, I can hear but not see wild turkeys and another unidentified bird with a warbling call. Near mile 0.2, I hear an owl on the south-east side of the creek, I cannot see it in the darkness, but from the sound I know it is perhaps twenty feet away. I stop and peer into the night, and owl stops calling. Then it spreads its great wings as it silently lifts in the forest canopy, and I just see its outline. Two hundred yards down canyon, it is again calling and its mate replies from the west side of the canyon.

After leaving the canyon, I drive past the intersection of South Temple (formerly “Brigham’s Street”) and State Street (formerly “First East”). On the southwest corner is Brigham Young’s 1850s residence, the Lion House. One can see why Young put his residence there. Looking down either State Street, one gets a grand view down to the valley floor two or three miles away. At night, the streets lights leading off in a straight line for several miles is dramatic. On the next street to the west, Main Street (formerly called “East Temple Street”), there is an statute of Young to the north of the intersection in which Young stands in an archetypal roman orator’s pose (called the “Brigham Young Monument”). At his feet are statutes of a Native American, e.g. the Ute Wakara, on one side and on the other, a statute of an early mountain man, e.g. Jim Bridger. On the backside of the statute is a plaque with the names of the 147 members of the July 24th advance party, including three “colored servants”. The monument was relocated from the middle of the intersection to the north sidewalk in the mid-2000s. A Salt Lake City resident insider joke is that Young points towards to his left and the front door of Zions Bank, the Latter Day Saint church owned financial institution, and not to the Mormon Temple, located over his right shoulder. He perpetually beckons tourists to bring their money to the bank, and then visit the church’s temple.

Both State and Main Streets along South Temple Street are elevated above the valley floor. Although obscured by modern skyscrapers, there is a slight east-west parabolic curve in the land between State and Main that trails off three blocks away to either side. This is delta of City Creek Canyon, and the ground consists of the excavated remnants of the negative space in what is now Memory Grove and the canyon below Bonneville Drive. The land in that space was eroded away as Lake Bonneville receded from its highest elevation to its current level between 11,000 and 7,000 years ago, and the earth was deposited in the delta. From this vantage point, Young could politically, spiritually, and physically keep an eye on his flock, and today, the skyscraper Church Office Building to the north of Lion House fulfills a similar role in Salt Lake L.D.S. Church members’ zeitgeist.

On arriving in the valley in 1847, one of early Church’s and Young’s earliest tasks was to channel City Creek in a series of open ditches (Bancroft, 262) in order to support the plan for an agrarian city of 5,000 to 7,000 of the earliest Mormon immigrants to the Mexican territory. By the end of 1847, there were 2,393 immigrants in the valley (id), and by the time of the 1850 census just less than 5,000 persons. They needed water. The parabolic topography of City Creek’s delta naturally lent the colonists to extend a main gravity fed aqueduct ditches to the east and west along North Temple Street and thence along north-south running ditches to individual homesteads. The rectangular grid plan adopted by the colonists was already well-known in the mid-19th century. It had already been used by the Greeks and the Romans, and the grid plan was also used before 1847 as the design of both Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. The north-south gravity fed ditches were a natural fit to a grid plan and it also fit with prior spiritual city designs by the Mormon prophet Smith. Smith envisaged a theodemocratic city laid out on a grid, that is a city led by religious elites with lower officers selected by election.

With the availability of hindsight of the minimum volume of water coming out of City Creek Canyon, about 32 acre-ft per day (1300 acre-ft per month) at its lowest, it is reasonable that the initial City of 7,000 persons would be sustainable (see Feb. 6th). Even at its lowest December flow of 32 acre-ft per day, there would be sufficient water to flood 384 acres or 38 ten acre blocks with one inch of water every day. Each ten acre block had 10 lots on a side and at five persons per household, City Creek alone could provide, without considering water from Red Butte or Emigration Canyons, sufficient water for 38 ten acre blocks containing 7,600 persons. Thirty-two acre-ft is about 10,400,000 gallons of water per day, or 1370 gallons of water per capita per day, and this seems sufficient on a per capita basis to meet the personal and agricultural needs of the first 7,600 immigrants along with their associated farm and labor animals. The 32 acre-feet per day is only a minimum. In June, the pre-water treatment plant creek peaks at about 3100 acre-feet per month, or about 100 acre-feet per day (about 32,600,000 gallons per day or 4,600 gallons per day per capita for 7,000 persons), and in late-summer September, the pre-water treatment plant historical flow is about 1450 acre-feet per month, or about 45 acre-feet per day. Including other water sources from Red Butte, Emigration and Parley’s Canyons, it was reasonable in 1847 to believe that a much larger city could be accommodated. A city plan of 1849 envisaged 291 ten-acre plots and 460 five-acre plots, and 800 acres of church farms, for a total of about 600 ten acre plots (Bancroft 290, ftn. 8).

In Thoreau’s “Journal” on March 10th, 1852, he sees a flock of 12 bluebirds, a sparrow and a blooming mountain plantain. Mosses and lichen are growing. March 10, 1853, he describes as the first real day of spring. He describes numerous shoots and plants blooming with green leaves. He sees minnows in a brook. On March 10th, 1854, he experiences heavy rains and captures a skunk. On March 10th, 1855, he sees the first expansion of willow buds. He describes how the first animal signs of spring come and go.

On March 10th, 1914, the City plans to install two measuring weirs in City Creek so the stream flow can be accurately determined (Salt Lake Tribune). On March 14, 1910, construction of the concrete underground conduit to hold City Creek, which is proceeding from south to north, has reached within 700 feet of the North end. It will be ready for spring runoff (Salt Lake City Herald).

March 9, 2017

March 9th

Filed under: Eastern Boxelder Bug, mile 1.2, Moon, Moth, Mule deer, Mule Deer, picnic site 7 — canopus56 @ 10:14 pm

It is enough. This is the Right [Natural] Place – First Peoples – Part VII

5:30 p.m. It is again warm today, but I do not get to the canyon until late, and even so, the parking lot is overflowing and their are thirty people in the first mile. It is the warmth of pre-spring that draws people. The canyon looks dreary, but perhaps that is because I am in a poor mood. Everything is waiting for more light. Plants on the side of the road look dirty; the leaf litter is slowly transforming into a paste that will foster this spring’s growth. Although it is dusk, a few Box Elder bugs are out and a moth flutters by. Below picnic site 7 on the west side of the road and across from the overhanging rock (Jan. 3rd), there is an intermittent spring whose small rivulet runs down an earth bank and along the road. I start up the bank to trace the rivulet back to its source, but then hear a branch crack behind me. Turning around, on south-east side of the canyon and across the stream, two mule deer are picking their way through the undergrowth. They see me turn and freeze. One of the deer stands with one foot held above the ground in mid-step. I wait for a minute and rather than stress them further, I decide to continue up the road and leave their forest home to them alone. At mile 1.1, a nearly full Moon hangs over Black Mountain, and this contrasts the earlier earlier afternoon Moon also seen over Black Mountain on March 7th. Coming back down canyon, I remark about the deer to a canyon regular – a man who daily walks an abused dog that he rescued from a shelter. He patiently was been working with the animal for a year, trying to reduce its aggressiveness. He reports that at dusk yesterday, there was a herd of fifty or sixty deer on the western slope above mile 1.2. Although he is known to me to be a reliable reporter, not prone to exaggeration, this is the type of report that needs to be witnessed directly. Fifty or sixty deer in one herd is more than I have ever seen or heard reported in the canyon, but his description does indicate that the deer have begun their spring move.

Occasionally, humanity does aspire to greatness and it tries to fix its missteps and injustices. For example, the Northern Ute Tribe received $272 million under the 1992 Central Utah Project as compensation for the United States’ failure to complete the Unitah portion of the multi-basin water project. In 2010, the State of Utah agreed to pay $33 million to the Navajo Nation related to the mismanagement of trust royalties for the 6,000 Navajos living in the Utah portion of the Navajo Nation. Conversely, no monies were actually paid to Northern Utes when they succeeded their lands to the United States under an 1868 Treaty with the United States.

In modern economics study, much is made of the economic miracle of the United States since the initial North American colonization and the exceptional peoples who created that miracle. A typical undergraduate first economics course is Heilbroner and Singer’s “The Economic Transformation of the America: 1600 to the Present”. Heilbroner and Singer’s economic narrative parallels the history of Euro-American Utah: hard-working, creative, persistent immigrants following free market principles took a raw valueless land and turned it into an economic powerhouse unparalleled in human history. The subtext message of the authors is that Americans are exceptional, and, similarly, the Mormons by their religious beliefs also feel themselves to be exceptional even among exceptional Americans. A simpler explanation of the Utah and United States economic miracle is that Euro-Americans were better capitalized. In settlement of the 1848 water with Mexico, the United States paid Mexico about $19.65 per square mile, or 3 cents an acre, for western lands including present day Utah. In present day Utah of the 84,899 square miles, or 54,335,360 acres, about 31 percent is held privately or by the State of Utah. After 1851, Utahans could buy homestead land at $1.25 per acre in 1850 currency, and in 1805, United States undeveloped land was valued at about $2.00 per acre. Thus, in 1850, future private and state lands were conservatively worth about 33,687,922 USD in 1850 currency or 740,198,508 USD in 2016 currency. That is about 148,039 USD for each of the 5,000 colonists of 1847. Viewing Utah as a “business venture”, starting a business with about 150,000 USD capitalization per shareholder is likely to be a successful prospect. Unknown to both the First Peoples and the Euro-American colonists was the value of Utah’s mineral wealth, which extracted and still extracts billions of dollars per year from the earth. In 2016, the value of minerals extracted from Bingham Canyon and the Great Salt Lake were about $3 billion USD. Had the Euro-Americans of 1847 and western United States settlers kept to their fair market and contract law principles and paid the First Peoples the fair value for their lands, the Utah Euro-American colonists would have started out their business venture with a per capita debt of 150,000 USD in 2016 currency. If the Utah colonists had been true to their professed beliefs, then the economic history of Utah would have been much different. The same economic reasoning applies to much of the Manifest Destiny expansion of the United States westward of Appalachia’s in the 1800s. This reasoning should not and does not mean to denigrate the struggle, hard-work and sweat equity that the Euro-Americans, my ancestors, put into transforming the nation. But context is important to understanding the past and present, and certainty in one’s exceptionalism is the enemy of democracy because it prevents a person from seeing issues from another’s perspective and thus from reaching compromise.

Exceptional abilities implies choice within a given context. By 1847, the Euro-American colonists were well into the era of the Indian Removal Act of 1930, that established the precedent of removing First Peoples from lands west of the Mississippi. Removal of First Peoples was their cultural and political policy of first choice. But there were choices. The 5,000 colonists of 1847-1850 could have chosen to remain confined to Salt Lake Valley; they could have slowed the rate of their migration; they could have chosen to expand first to the north; they could have chosen to engage in a reparations program of providing supplemental cattle to First Peoples during the winter. The options are endless, but at the forefront of the colonists Indian policy was seizing the most fertile land in the region in Utah, not Salt Lake, valley. In this regard, the colonists of 1847 were not exceptional, and their behavior differed little from previous Euro-American contact with First Peoples up to that time.

City Creek Canyon also exists in a larger context. Sometimes that context is climate (Feb. 7th), and sometimes that context is the economic and political needs of the Euro-Americans as they developed the surrounding region (Feb. 24th). It is this relationship between nature and human resource and infrastructure needs that modified the pre-colonization condition of City Creek Canyon into what is seen today. Here, again context and ability implies choices. While the canyon has been modified since 1847, by historical accident and by political design, much of its 1847 pre-colonization state remains.

What choices did the Euro-Americans make, and how has nature in City Creek Canyon been changed from its 1847 condition by those choices as compared to the six other Salt Lake Valley canyons?

In Thoreau’s “Journal” on March 9th, 1852, he notes that bluebirds arrive with the first warm wind (see March 7th here). March 9th, 1853, he opines that the first bark of the red squirrel is a sign of spring. On March 9th, 1854, he see a large flock of ducks and reflections of the landscape in water. On March 9th, 1855, he scares a rabbit from the brush.

February 26, 2017

February 24th

Filed under: Venus, Weather — canopus56 @ 9:21 pm

Seeing Flood and Drought Years

External Link to Image

Source: Harris 1942 at p. 53.

5:30 p.m. The canyon recovers slowly from yesterday’s storm and the abrupt turn back into winter. No birds are heard or seen. All has returned to frozen sleep. People are gone because of this echo in low temperatures, and once again, I have the canyon to myself. With the breath of spring earlier this weak, my body rebels against the cold. Although temperatures are not as low as in early January, it feels colder, and this illustrates how cold is as much as matter of perception as fact. Brilliant Venus, which a month ago was centered on the road while jogging down-canyon at dusk, now shines in the southwest sky as it out-runs the Earth on another turn around the Sun.

Such daily large variations between drought and heavy precipitation and heat and cold repeat in Utah’s and the canyon’s annual weather patterns. For the nine years between 1869 and 1877, City Creek flooded the city four times. There is a tree stump in picnic site 3. The original tree was perhaps a cottonwood. Examining and photographing the stump, I notice a pattern in the rings. A wider set of rings is bracketed by two sets of smaller spaced rings. The Wasatch Front Mountains and its valleys are an arid, drought region that are punctuated by years of extreme precipitation, snowfall and spring flooding. Weather records show a series of peak snow years followed by City Creek flooding the city. Perhaps the wider rings correspond to those wet years near 1870.

With respect to these drought and flood cycles, An old report summarizing the first one-hundred years of the Metropolitan Water District of Salt Lake City contains a graph that records these widely varying annual fluctuations between drought and flood. (Harris at p. 53, “Relation between Water Development and Population and Precipitation”). The graph illustrates how the growth of population, droughts and floods relate to plans and improvements to increase utilization of the canyon’s water. A twelve year oscillation between drought and flood, coupled with increasing population, drove the City’s expansion of water infrastructure between 1874 and 1942. An initial Euro-American colonist population in 1850 of 5,000 caused the first utilization of City Creek as a stream fed water source that ran as two ditches on the either side of Main Street (id, p. 4). After a flood cycle and a drought cycle ending in 1880 and a population increase to 20,000, the City brought water from Utah Lake via the 20 mile long Jordan Canal and it built initial holding tanks in and improved the stream channel of the City Creek to increase its flows. In 1890, after years of extended drought and a population expansion to 40,000,the City to built a reservoir in Parley’s Canyon at Sentinel Rock and drilled tunnels in City Creek to increase the flow from springs. After the next flood and drought cycle ending around 1900 coupled with a population increase to 50,000, the City obtained more water rights from Big and Little Cottonwood Canyon. After floods ending in 1910, an extended drought through 1915 and a population increase to 110,000, the City built reservoirs in Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons and the 5,000,000 gallon reservoir at Pleasant Valley of City Creek Canyon. After a flood cycle in the 1920s and a severe drought in the 1930s, together with a population increase to 150,000, the City formed a regional water district and began construction of a massive water reservoir system on the eastern or backside of the Wasatch Front Mountain Range. Water was transported between hydrologic basins through a series of underground tunnels, some as long as 12 miles.

Other drought cycles in the 1960s and 1970s, along with legal water rights concerns, gave birth to the Utah Central Project – a billion dollar series of dams and underground diversion tunnels from the Unita Basin about one-hundred miles away and the expansion of the Deer Creek reservoir and construction of the Jordanelle Dam. The Utah Central Project started delivering about 120,000 more acre-feet of water to Salt Lake County in 2007. The delivery of more water resulted in a massive construction boom on less expensive land in Salt Lake County that continues until today, and from 2014 to 2017, that construction boom has penetrated Salt Lake City limits in the form of box-like, high-density apartments. The increased population resulted in higher use of the canyon for hiking, running and bicycling that I have seen this season.

In Thoreau’s “Journal” on February 24th, 1854, he observes nuthatches, chickadees, and partridges. The partridges are feeding on lambkill shoots and blueberry bushes. On February 24th, 1857 he sees bluebirds and skunk tracks. On February 24th, 1858, he examines colors in the bark of the barberry bush.

February 21, 2017

February 21st

Filed under: Astronomy, Geology — canopus56 @ 10:20 am

Star Dust

8:30 a.m. It is another clear, sunny, warm day, and the morning sun climbs down the east facing canyon walls. Dust can be seen in the air of the canyon and now as an orange brown tinge on the last remnants of snow banks at the side of the road. A few dust molecules in the canyon have fallen on the road from outer space or as I jog, I have inhaled some of them into my lungs. In 2014, Gardner at the University of Illinois and colleagues, using a laser to measure the upper atmosphere, made an improved estimate of the number of tonnes of space dust that falls on the Earth each day: about 60 tonnes (Gardner). The dust consists of particles emitted by the Sun, contained in the interplanetary dust ring in the plane of our solar system, grains from the collisions of asteroids, the remnants of comet tails, and to a lesser extent, interstellar dust particles from other solar systems (Gardner; Westphal). Doing some rough, simple estimating, there are 907,185 grams in a ton and 510.1 trillion square meters on the surface of the Earth, including the oceans. Thus, there are 1.76 x 10^-8 grams of space dust falling on each square meter of the Earth everyday. There are 19.2 square miles in the canyon and the canyon first began to form 11 million years ago (Hintze). Thus, between its formation and the present, about a 1.76 square meter of star dust has fallen on the canyon; a cube whose one side is about the height of a man. That dust is spread on the canyon’s surface, is embedded in its rocks, or has washed away and or eroded out to the Great Salt Lake. Every day, I jog about 4 miles or 6,500 meters. During that jog, I estimate that the 6,500 square meters that I run over contain a total of approximately 0.0001 grams of star dust. In a sense, as Joni Mitchell reminded us, I am also star dust because the Earth and everything on it was formed from the dust left over by an Archean nova. That I am running each day through a few molecules of new space and interstellar star dust gives me a sense of a connection to wider universe outside of my daily life.

February 16, 2017

February 16th

Filed under: Astronomy, Common stonefly, Rock wren, Seasons — canopus56 @ 4:59 pm


2:00 p.m. A new front approaches from the southwest, and during this pre-spring, this means high winds and warm temperatures. February is unseasonably warm near sixty degrees, and at picnic site 11, where two weeks snow banks drifted to two or three feet deep, the snow is gone. The air smells more like late spring than the end of winter. Wildlife is slow to respond, but plants keep their own time. I hear a robin singing at Guardhouse Gate; the first since winter started. Three miniature stoneflies brave the road. Groups of lunchtime lawyers who run in the canyon usually beginning in late March are on the road. The buds on trees are not responding. They know snow may return again.

Because of the exceptionally warm February, I am feeling the disconnect between the astronomical seasons and natural rhythms. In the modern era, we define the seasons using astronomical waypoints (Sept. 20th), and in writing about the Wasatch Front Range in the 1950s, Barnes in his “The Natural History of the a Mountain Year” used astronomical seasons. But there are other definitions of the seasons. In writing about Concord in the 1850s in his “Journal”, Thoreau used traditional definitions of the seasons common the 1800s: spring began on February 1st and summer on May Day, or May 1st, and “Midsummer”, June 22nd, is our modern astronomical first day of summer. June 22nd was the “midsummer” referenced in Shakespeare’s play. These traditional definitions were more aligned with seasonal ecological changes, and there are six ecological seasons in temperate northern latitudes:

• Prevernal, March 1st to May 1st – in which temperatures have risen sufficiently to allow microorganisms to function and to resume their work of reducing the autumnal leaf litter. During this ecological season, early bulb plants sprout, often still surrounded by snow.

• Vernal, May 1st to June 15th – when the majority of plants regrow. Sometimes with is subdivided into the preestival, or “before summer”.

• Estival, June 15th to August 15th – summer, the time of greatest heat.

• Serotinal, August 15th to September 15th – when seeds are released in response to environmental triggers such as summer warming or summer fire.

• Autumnal, September 15th to November 1st – when leaf death and autumnal colors occur.

• Hibernal, November 1st to March 1st – winter, the time of greatest cold with freezing rain and snow.

These six ecological seasons feel more connected with commonplace perceptions of the seasons.

In Thoreau’s “Journal” on February 16th, 1852, he notes that the air is no longer crisp and clear as in early winter.

On February 16, 1900, an ex-Salt Lake councilperson made the case for increasing the City’s water supply by tunneling into the canyons, including City Creek, would be the lowest-cost method of developing new water supplies for the City. (Salt Lake Tribune).

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