City Creek Nature Notes – Salt Lake City

May 5, 2017

April 29th

Filed under: Arrowleaf baslamroot, Bonneville Drive — canopus56 @ 1:06 pm

The Temperature Switch

3:45 p.m. The several days of cold, near freezing, weather have ended, but the insects are almost entirely absent. I see only a one moth and hear three or four birds. Just above the intersection of Bonneville Drive and Canyon Road (below Guardhouse Gate parking lot), a flowering apple tree has just begun to drop its blooms, but at mile 1.1, an apple tree hidden to the west of picnic site 8 is just beginning to open this year’s blooms. As I drive out the upper canyon along Bonneville Drive, Arrowleaf balsamroot is at it peak. Each blasamroot is fire bowl that is reminiscent of Van Gogh’s “Vase with Fifteen Sunflowers”. I stop and count on the east side of the lower canyon, approximately four-hundred Arrowleaf balsamroot plants spilling down a hillside below five hundred feet of Bonneville Drive. This above where historical photographs document the site of an old mill, but no trace of it remains.

It is this time of year that, what I call the “temperature switch” announcing summer will turn. I usually mark my calendar around May 2nd, and this corresponds to the start of the vernal ecological season, the time in which plants regrow (February 16th). The National Weather Service forecast predicts seven days of increasing warmth, and this should restart the insects again.

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On April 29th, 1910, a fire destroyed an adobe building north of the gravel pit near what is now Memory Grove (Salt Lake Tribune). On April 29th, 1907, Catholic Bishop Scanlon led sixty children on a walk up City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake Tribune).


April 3, 2017

April 2nd

Filed under: Bonneville Drive, Greasewood — canopus56 @ 12:02 pm

This is Not the Natural Place. – Part XIV – Present Era – Insect and Bird Invaders

2:00 p.m. Heavy rain has been falling all day and through this afternoon, and therefore, today’s jog is done under a rain poncho. Winter’s black stick bushes of Greasewood (sarcobatus vermiculatus) line Bonneville Boulevard as it winds into the canyon entrance. Today, they have unfurled with green plumage in their upper branches. The green understory of the Gambel’s oak forest has filled in, and as I jog up-canyon, the road’s landscape is green from about two feet down to the ground. But the larger upperstory trees remain predominantly gray trunks. The surrounding rain-soaked first-mile’s hillsides are for the first time truly green and verdant. The heavy rains again have driven the earthworms onto the road, but this time their are only about one-hundred in the first mile. The 2,800 worms seen on March 23rd have not returned. The only unseen songbird sings joyously above Guardhouse Gate despite the downpour. It knows that life is returning, and unlike people who constantly complain about the alternating days of sun and overcast skies after winter’s long sleep, this bird is happy.

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On April 2nd, 1855, Thoreau notes that the etymological root of the word “green” is the Saxon “to grow.” In Thoreau’s “Journal” on April 2nd, 1853, he hears tree-sparrows and snow birds singing. On April 2nd, 1854, he sees black ducks, hears tree sparrows and notes new leaves forming at the base of skunk cabbage and Shepherd’s purse plants. On April 2nd, 1856, he notes the first date of blooming of a plant depends on the severity of the weather. He hears bees and flies and sees a large butterfly. On April 2nd, 1858, he sees two snakes intertwined. He observes a tree sparrow learning fly. On April 2nd, 1859, he hears a snipe.

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City Creek Canyon, having been exposed to grazing, timber harvesting, hard rock mining, military exercises, and recreational foot, horse carriage, bicycle and automobile travel contains many insects not present before the arrival of the Euro-American colonists. The insects traveled in the folds of their clothes, in the feed of their animals, in the hoofs of their burros, and in the wheels and undercarriages of their vehicles. Others were carried across in the feathers of migrating birds. Birds and butterflies flew under their own power. Reviewing my journal entries, I have recorded several insect and slug invasives: cabbage white butterflies (August 8th), Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (October 10th), and the Leopard slug or Great grey slug (November 21st). The pervasive European house sparrows are also frequent visitors to the canyon (December 29th and January 30th).

The speed with which these invasives have reached the canyon is astonishing. The European House Sparrow were introduced on the East Coast of North America in 1851. The Leopard slug was first recorded in 1867 in Pennsylvania. The Brown Marmorated Stink Bug was also introduced in Pennsylvania as recent as 1998, and yet I have found one crawling both in the canyon and inside of my home in February 2017.

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On April 2nd, 1935, Gold Star Mother E. O. Howard of the Salt Lake Gold Star Mothers Committee presented the Committee’s opposition to a Street Department Plan to build a bridge across City Creek Canyon above Memory Grove, supported a plan to build stone stairs on the east side of Memory Grove to the Avenues, and supported a plan to build a road from Lower Rotary Park to Mueller Park on the City Creek-Bountiful ridgeline (Salt Lake Telegram). On April 2nd, 1891, the Salt Lake Times supported a proposal to extend the City Creek Canyon Road as a highway over the ridge to Morgan County (Salt Lake Times). On April 2nd, 1892, City Commissioners and Mayor Baskin met in the run-down Silk Mill at the mouth of City Creek and resolved to tear the mill down, build a bridge, and consider establishing a park at the mouth of City Creek. A resident proposed to use the road as a scenic highway, where national train tourists could be shuttle through City Creek as if it were a national park (id). On April 2nd, 1918, City Commission C. Clarence Nelsen, Waterworks Superintendent Sylvester Q. Cannon, and Allan McQuarrie, Assistant Waterworks Superintendent, toured City Creek and determined that 1,000 pine trees proposed for reforestation would be planted up canyon of Pleasant Valley, e.g. approximately up canyon of mile 2.0 (Salt Lake Tribune). In 2017, the grove of planted trees can be seen to the south of the road between mile 2.5 and 3.0.

December 31, 2016

December 31st

Filed under: Bonneville Drive, Elk, Gambel's Oak, People, Pleasant Valley, Sounds — canopus56 @ 8:45 pm


3:00 p.m. New Year’s Eve by the Georgian Calendar. In the morning, although Internet cameras in the mountains show that it is a bright sunny day at higher elevations, the city is overcast all day due to the thick inversion layer. This lack of natural daylight is conducive to sleeping in, and if lack of sunlight persists to inducing seasonal affect disorder.

Along Bonneville Drive leading to the canyon, many trees are frosted with rime, and this is where the thick fog was seen yesterday near sunset. Overnight, small two and four millimeter ice crystals have sublimated on some trees, and this turns them along diffuse light into silvery-white apparitions. In the first mile jogging up canyon, I see little of these rime covered trees, but beginning at mile 1.0, more of the trees are frosted. This is probably due to the Bernoulli wind-tunnel effect (Aug. 18th) caused by the high canyon walls opening into Pleasant Valley. At the opening to Pleasant Valley, all of the trees are rime covered, but the Box Elders and their catkins are particularly thickly covered. The catkins provide a high-surface area ratio to which the rime frost can adhere. Going further up canyon, where side gullies have also accelerated the air, trees also are layered this heavier frost.

As I reach picnic site 6, a father, son, and daughter, are walking out and are outfitted with rifle hunting gear. From the lack of weight in their packs, I judge that they were unsuccessful. Rounding the bend to the red bridge at mile 0.9, an anterless elk is standing the middle of the road. She is in the no hunting zone that surrounds the road. She sees me first, freezes, and then slowly walks into the leafless forest. Examining her tracks, I can follow where she entered the road, went to drink at water seep on the west side, and then sauntered away. Water seeps from the cliffs on the west side provide water without wildlife having to trudge through deep snow to reach the stream. A walking couple stops me and tells me that they just say a herd of twenty elk crossing the south ridge line at Pleasant Valley. A few elk are also grazing on the west hills next to the road, they excitedly report. Rounding the bend into Pleasant Valley, there are four elk grazing on the hillside. Like the wild turkeys (Dec. 30th), they are pawing at the snow free ground underneath the Gambel’s oaks looking for acorns. Although unseen, I can hear the flock of wild turkeys in the oaks forest.

Near milepost 1.0, an overhung ledge shelters the partially and thinly ice covered stream. The cavity between the underside of the ice and the surface of the stream create a natural amplifier, and the stream resoundingly gurgles and thuds. Weather forecasters have promised another storm tomorrow afternoon, and this should clear out the inversion layer. If it does not arrive, I will have to go higher above the haze layer in order to enjoy a much needed dose of sunshine.

In Thoreau’s “Journal” on December 31st, 1850, he describes how blue jays warn each of other of approaching threats. On December 31st, 1851, he observes leopard [sic – probably a lynx] tracks. On December 31st, 1853, he again notes how snow reveals the tracks of many animals normally unseen. On December 31st, 1854, he notes how the shadows on snow are not grey or black, but blue.

On December 31st, 1995, the Salt Lake Tribune noted the historical event that the eagle statute on the top of Eagle Gate was modeled on an eagle actually killed in City Creek Canyon. On December 31, 1995, the Audubon Society scheduled a walk up City Creek Canyon for January 11th, 1996 (Salt Lake Tribune). On December 31, 1924, the City Waterworks Department denied a petition by the Utah Athletic Association to build a four mile long tobogganing run down City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake Telegram). A Salt Lake Telegram editorial supported the proposal on the grounds that it would relieve the winter boredom of local residents (id). 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 with 11th Avenue street and the City Creek road in order to create a scenic drive for the now popular automobile.

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