City Creek Nature Notes – Salt Lake City

April 13, 2017

April 13th

Insect Revival

1:00 p.m. The jet stream has diverted storms to the north of the canyon, and thus, there will several days of sunshine and temperatures in the seventies like today. The insects sense this change, and in addition to the usual reprisal of Mourning Cloaks and White Cabbage butterflies, new insects gone since the fall reappear. There is a White cabbage like butterfly but with bright orange triangular wing tips: a Sara Orange Tip (Anthocharis sara). Two yellow Anise swallowtails fly up the road, but one is now full grown (April 1st). There are two new bees, one black and one brown, that restlessly hover and zip by me at several points along the first mile road. Both are two fast to identify, but after some attempts to follow them, two examples land and briefly rest. The black bee may be a Western leafcutting bee (Megachile perihirta). The brown-haired one remains unidentified. A Brown Daddy-long-legs (Phalangium opilio) scurries across the road. Ants are again active, and the first flies appear. Below Guardhouse Gate, some broad leaf plants have been reduce to pock-holed skeletons. After examining several plants, at the base of one are black caterpillars barely one and one-half millimeters long by one-quarter millimeters in diameter.

By afternoon, the heating of the valley-floor cold morning air to the seventies contrasts with the air in the high mountains that is still a degrees above freezing creates up strong canyon high winds. More broken twigs litter the road, and for the second time, I jog up canyon, only find when returning down canyon, a 4 inch diameter and 12 foot long broken branch laying across the road.

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On April 13th, 2007, City Creek Canyon was closed while solid waste was removed from the water treatment plant (Deseret News). On April 13th, 2006, the Salt Lake Tribune does an article on how dog interactions during canyon walks are important to a dog’s socialization (Salt Lake Tribune). On April 13th, 1915, City Commissioners inspected the proposed Pleasant Valley reservoir site in City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake Tribune). On April 13, 1915, the Wasatch Hiking Club reported for its initial hike, club members traveling up City Creek to the Forks (Utah Daily Chronicle). On April 13th, 1910, the Commercial Club proposed that the City hire an expert to plan a system of parks for the city (Salt Lake Telegram). With respect to City Creek, the Telegram editorialized that:

“City Creek can be made a wonderland, or it can be spoiled. City Creek Canyon and the heights just above can be made a place of enchantment through all the summer and more especially in the long autumn. In the hands of a chump, it can be spoiled. . . .” (id).

April 3, 2017

April 1st

This is Not the Natural Place. – Part XIII – Present Era

2:00 p.m. Last night high winds reaching sixty miles per hour scraped the city and the canyon, but there are no additional felled branches along the road. High winds from February have already tested all the trees. At Guardhouse Gate, several broadleaf plants with green ovoid leaves have grown to almost a foot tall within the last five days. Already, a small 2 millimeter black iridescent beetle has come to take advantage of the bounty, and the leaves are pock-marked by small holes. The light green understory plants with deltoid leaves, Arrowleaf balsamroot (Balsamorhiza sagittata) have grown small one and one-half inch bowl shaped heads that are filled with white hair and many black stamens. They will develop into the bright yellow sunflower heads of the mature plant. Fair weather and warmth brings out a few tentative butterflies. A Mourning cloak and a Painted Lady butterfly chase one another in an upward spiral circle. A single White cabbage and a small lavender butterfly fleet along the Pipeline trail. Back on the road at mile 0.2, a four-inch butterfly with an intricate black framework that is laced with brilliant yellow panels suns itself. At the base of its wings, there are luminous small purple camouflage circles that mimic predator eyes. It is an Anise swallowtail (Papilio zelicaon), and viewed upside down, this swallowtail is reminiscent of the delicate window panes of a Gothic cathedral.

Along the high cliffs of the canyon’s first-mile west wall, two raptors soar through a clear blue sky. They rest on the east wall and return to soaring along the west escarpment as I jog down the Pipeline trail. This better, but still distant view, suggests that they are Red-tailed hawks (Buteo jamaicensis). As in February in March, I have seen few birds, but my spring 2015 observing lists records immature Bald eagles, Cooper’s hawks, Dark-Eyed Juncos, Black-billed magpies, Mallards, Mountain chickadees, Stellar’s jays, Western scrub jays, and Wild turkeys. The first day of spring also marks the return of professional and serious amateurs who make weekly visits to the canyon. Their observations are recorded at Cornell University Ornithology Laboratory’s “E-bird” list (Cornell 2016). On March 26th, local observer Brian Olsen saw or heard a extensive list of native and spring migratory visitors including Chukar, Northern flicker, Scrub jay, Black-billed magpie, Robin, Spotted towhee, Western meadowlark, House finch, House sparrow, Fox sparrow, Song sparrow, Black-capped chickadee, Turkey vulture, Golden eagle, Northern goshawk, Red-tailed hawk, and Peregrine falcon.

Along sections of the stream, mid-afternoon sunlight reflects off the boiling stream water and creates a white ribbon.

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In Thoreau’s “Journal” on April 1st, 1852, he hears chickadees, robins, and song sparrows. On April 1st, 1852, he sees dropped leaves from mullein plants. On April 1st, 1854, he hears tree-sparrows, bluebirds, song-sparrows, and blackbirds. White maple stamens appear and alders are about to bloom. On April 1st, 1855, grasses become greener. On April 1st, 1858, he finds a squirrel’s nest in a tree and climbs the tree to examine it.

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The fifth era of canyon utilization is present day recreation use. The floods of 1983 significantly damaged City Creek Canyon road. After making repairs, the City adopted a new master plan for the canyon that emphasized multiple recreation use and declared that:

“City Creek Canyon should serve as a valuable watershed and recreation/open space amenity of city-wide significance. These uses should take precedence over other land use alternates. . . . .”

“Preserve City Creek Canyon above Memory Grove for watershed, and limited public recreation;”

“Promote the “City Creek Park” concept for the entire canyon. Areas extending into the canyon from the formally maintained park [Memory Grove] should be maintained in their natural state, much as they are today, with only minimal improvements to enhance recreation opportunities . . .” (Salt Lake City Corp. 1986; Hooten, 31).

Although walkers, runners, and bicyclists are the present majority of users, they are separated in time from automobile use during the summers by a system of alternating use days. Hunting is permitted separated by space; rifle hunters are restricted to the upper canyon beyond picnic site 21. In 1989, the City adopted a watershed management plan that included a recommendation to add a small tax to all city water bills to fund canyon water protection (Salt Lake City Corp. 1999a). During the 2000’s, the reservoir at Pleasant Valley was decommissioned. With a steady revenue base, a system of septic tank toilets was installed and regular canyon watershed patrols were re-instituted (Personal recollection).

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On April 1st, 2009, Salt Lake City announced that over the summer it would be cutting a firebreak along the north and west ridges of City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake Tribune, April 2, 2009). On April 1st, 2008, local National Weather Service hydrologist Brian McInerney and Nobel Prize Peace co-winner Roger Pulwarty, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, exchanged views on the impact of climate change on Utah, after several inches fell on Wasatch Front Mountains, including City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake Tribune). Pulwarty described Utah as an “epicenter of global warming in the United States” (id). Pulwarty noted that the IPCC Report left out predictions on changes in annual water supply runoff due to climate change (id). On April 1st, 1994, twin sisters Susan Daynes and Linda Mulkey, two marathon runners, describe their daily runs in City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake Tribune). On April 1st, 1994, the Deseret News profiles three long-distance runners who regularly run in City Creek Canyon. April Fool’s Day fake news can sometimes get out of the author’s control and take on a life of its own. On April 1st, 1907 in a three column headline story, the Salt Lake Telegram published an incredulous story of the discovery of a lost gold mine in City Creek Canyon. Mr. George M. Gutch, an attorney, and E. V. Smith, a lumber dealer, described how while hiking near Little Twin Peaks on the City Creek-Avenues ridge that Gutch allegedly disappeared from view. He fell through an overgrown opening in the surface and into an abandoned mine. Lighting candles, he and Smith found tools left by miners from the 1800s, and after breaking into a hidden chamber, they found a rich vein of nearly pure gold ore valued at $20,000 per ton, or about $510,000 USD per ton in 2016 money. The deadpan news story ends with the line: “This is the first of April.” On April 5, 1907, the Millard County Progress reported an abbreviated version of the story as factual, and omitted the last sentence. On April 1st, 1907, daughter of prominent businessmen A. W. McCune and her chauffeur were arrested illegally driving a car in canyon water patrolmen Matthews (Salt Lake Telegram).

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