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 13, 2017

June 4th

End of the Snowmelt

7:00 p.m. Temperatures reach 97 degrees today; one degree short of a record. As a consequence, the SNOTEL station at Louis Meadows records that all of the snowpack at near mile 7.0 of the canyon is gone. This is a seasonal milestone, and from now to next October 1st, the stream will flow only from rainfall and water stored underground. This afternoon, clouds stream in from the west, but it is too hot for the rain, which falls in curtains from a thousand feet overhead, to reach the ground.

Birds are quiet in this later evening, but still a single Blacked-head grosbeak is seen and heard near mile 0.2. A single House sparrow and a Chirping sparrow are also heard along the first mile road. Later, returning down canyon, I am for the first time able to see and hear the grosbeak performing a call with three low notes followed by a trill. This is a common call heard in the first canyon mile, but it does not appear in my reference recordings for this grosbeak. Other songs and calls for this grosbeak are in the reference recording. Butterflies are also subdued in the evening. There are single instances of a Mourning cloak, a Cabbage white and a Western tiger swallowtail. Gnats are rising in the heat.

* * * *

In Thoreau’s “Journal” on June 4th, 1852, he hears birds singing at dawn and he sees that dandelions have gone to seed. On June 4th, 1853, crickets are singing at noon. He examines oak and chokeberry leaves. On June 4th, 1855, white and red clover are blossoming, and mosquitoes are rising. On June 4th, 1857, he notes “earth-song,” or the combination of the sounds of insects and birds as a sign of summer. On June 4th, 1860, he notes elm trees are in full foliage, and that warblers have left for the season. Buttercups are in bloom. He sees a cat bird.

* * * *

How much water is stored in the east and west halves of the Salt Lake salient (may 14th) that drain into the stream? Using the difference between stream flow data taken at the canyon’s water treatment plant from 1950 to the present and precipitation records from the Louis Meadow SNOTEL station for 2000 to the present, I am able to make a rough estimate of the lower bound of stream flow that comes solely from underground reservoirs. For two months each year – June and July, average stream flow exceeds average precipitation. In June, the average stream flow exceeds rainfall by about 318 acre feet, and in July, the stream flow exceeds rain by about 242 acre feet, for a mean underground flow into the stream of 280 acre feet per month. This 280 acre feet per month is the lower bound. Summer rainfall will evaporate and never reach the stream or recharge underground aquifers. Depending on underground geologic structures, all of the water that falls within the 19.2 square miles of the canyon may not flow towards the stream. The oak and fir forests and grasses consume considerable quantities of rain water, and those withdrawals are not included in the sum of the difference between inflows and outflows. Thus, the true amount flowing into the stream from underground aquifers could be two or three times the lower bound of 280 acre feet per month. The 280 acre feet of water each month is enough to flood 28 of the city’s 10 acres blocks with a foot of water. The volume of that water is about 12.2 million cubic feet of water (0.000083 cubic miles), or a cube about 230 feet on a side. In contrast, the Mormon Temple that sits at the heart of City Creek Canyon’s delta (March 10th and March 12th) is 288 feet tall.

The lower bound of 280 acre feet of underground storage is a reasonable estimate. Treating the 12 miles of the Salt Lake Salient as two inward facing right-triangles that are 1.25 miles from the stream to ridgeline, the volume of the salient that drains towards the stream is about 32.5 cubic miles. The 0.000083 cubic miles of underground water flow is only 9 of 10,000,000ths of the salient’s volume. That water can easily fit in the pores space between the salient’s rocks.

* * * *

On June 4th, 1934, University of Utah Engineering Professor F. W. Muir reported that tree rings taken from City Creek Canyon and near Brighton show that in the last 300 years, there have been many drought cycles (Salt Lake Telegram). On June 4th, 1914, the City acquired 80 acres of private land in City Creek (Salt Lake Telegram). On June 4th, 1910, Land and Water Commissioner Frank Mathews reported that green caterpillars, possibly one million, are moving down City Creek Canyon defoliating (“stripping bare”) the trees (Salt Lake Telegram). On June 4th, 1906, streets in Salt Lake City principally from 300 West to 800 West, were severely flooded (Salt Lake Telegram).

May 19, 2017

May 19th

Sun Dappled Stream and Butterfly Hosts

5:15 p.m. The first mile is almost fully leafed-out and the understory is well-developed. The stream, which throughout the winter is fully visible, can now only be caught in partially obscured glimpses where the trees and underbrush break. Through those screens, the low, warm, yellow light of the falling Sun glides and lands on clear surface of the stream in round dapples. Today is an advance hint of the stream during the summer canyon summer which is now one month away. The key today difference is the stream runs high, but like the summer it has turned transparent. The stream has fallen about four inches overnight, but the water is pure. The spring period in which the stream runs, according to the City’s 1895 Mayor Baskin, as “very muddy, unwholesome and unpalatable water” (Feb. 6th) has passed. Rocks can clearly be seen through the rushing waters between its windowed surface.

It remains unseasonably cold – in the low fifties in the canyon and near freezing overnight – from the passage of the last storm. People in the city complain about it constantly having wearied of prior long winter season, and in the canyon, this has emptied the road. The cold has also suppressed the birds and the butterflies. A lesser total of 15 birds are heard along the road and the Pipeline Trail. Only a single Western tiger swallowtail and some gnats make an appearance.

A single Red-tailed hawk floats one hundred feet over the parking lot. At picnic site 1, my evening Lazuli Bunting is perched on the tallest tree. Along the Pipeline Trail using audio recordings and spectrograms, I am able to identify the songs of three of the some ten song birds, i.e. – a , a Warbling vireo, and a bleating evening “keah” from a Northern flicker. I have begun to make some progress into understanding the canyon birding soundscape (May 6th).

When the butterflies rally in next week’s rising heat, what will the adult butterflies and their caterpillars eat? I can find nothing specific for Utah, and therefore, using sources for other States, I compiled a list of possible hosts and food sources for some of the recently seen butterflies. It is a starting point, suggestive, and not authoritative. Although the butterfly spring peak has passed, I will have to take better notes on which butterflies are associated with which plants.

List of Possible Plant Hosts for Butterflies and Their Caterpillars in City City Creek Canyon
• Mourning cloak butterfly. Adult: Tree sap from Gambel’s oaks. Willows, elms, maple and ash trees. Caterpillar: The same plus aspen and river birch.

• White cabbage butterfly. Adult: Nectar from mustards, dandelion, asters, clovers and mints. Caterpillar: Same. There are various analogs to these plants in the canyon.

• Painted lady butterfly. Adult: Yarrows, thistles, sagebrush, sunflowers, milk-thistle, stinging nettle. Caterpillars: Same plus milkweed.

• American lady butterfly. Adult: Sagebrush, thistles, Wood’s rose and vetches. Caterpillar: Sunflowers, burdock, milkweed and aster.

• White-lined sphinx moth. Adult: Nectar from columbines, larkspurs, clovers, and thistles. I have seen Giant sphinx primary feed in the spring on dandelion. Caterpillar: apple and elm trees.

• Spring Azure. Adult: Dogwood, and berry plants.

• Common sulphur butterfly. Adult: Clovers and vetches and nectar from many plants. Caterpillar: Clovers and vetches.

• Sara Orange Tip butterfly. The Sara Orange tip is similar to the Julia Orangetip butterfly (Anthocharis julia browningi). For the Julia – Adult: Flower nectar from rock cresses, violets, and mustards. Caterpillar: Rock cresses.

Source: Dallas County Lepidopterists’ Society (2008). Host Plants by Butterfly (Web).

* * * *

University of Utah Meteorology Professor James Steenburgh recommends a new climate change application to examine whether local daily weather patterns are unusual. People tend to mid-interpret unusual cold and hot seasons as indications either for or against the existence of global warming, regardless of the separate issue of whether it is human-caused or not. The University of Maine and its Climate Change Institute has deployed an internet application that shows each day, a map of the globe and how surface temperatures at each point on the Earth differs from the average temperature at that point for that day over the last seventy years (University of Maine 2017a). A large dark blue spot on the map hovers over Utah, Colorado and Wyoming, indicating that the Intermountain West is 18 degrees Fahrenheit cooler that normal. The coldspot sits in the cradle of a “U” shaped dip in the jet stream. Overall, the globe is about 0.5 degrees warmer. The lesson to be learned from the map is even when their are local anomalies in weather, such as in the canyon today, the world average remains steady. The world average is the indicator of global warming and not local conditions.

* * * *

On May 19th, 2008, the City closes City Creek Canyon to spray herbicides on the invasive Starthistle plant (Salt Lake Tribune, May 20, 2008). On May 19th, 1906, the City tankman and former city councilman George D. Dean, was found dead at the Water tankman’s house in City Creek Canyon (Deseret Evening News, Salt Lake Tribune, May 20th, 1906). On May 19th, 1875, seminary students went picnicking in City Creek Canyon (May 19, 1875).

May 18th

Filed under: Lookout Peak, Stream, Weather — canopus56 @ 1:38 am

High Elevation Snowmelt

External Link to Image

Snotel Snow Pack at Lookout Peak. (Water Equivalent Inches). Source: Natural Resources Conservation Service. (May 18, 2017).

1:00 p.m. Cool weather remains, but the stream remains a raging serpent. The water runs cleaner than the last week and I fill a small bottle it. The life-giving water contains no obvious impurities. The SNOTEL station for the high canyon on Lookout Peak shows the snowpack reducing at a prodigious rate. Between May 1st and today, the inches of water in the snowpack has dropped from about 35 inches to 20 inches. Its graph over time shows a near vertical descent, and the rate indicates the high snow pack will be gone around June 3rd. Then the stream have to depend only meager rainfall and underground recharge from the surrounding hills.

* * * *

On May 18th, 1994, 190 people participated in a running race through lower City Creek Canyon to raise money for disabled children (Salt Lake Tribune). On May 18th, 1918, employees of the County Treasurer’s Office went for a picnic in City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake Tribune). On May 18th, 1908, Salt Lake Tribune reported that “thousands of people” spent the day strolling in City Creek Canyon. On May 18th, 1893, City Engineer reported that he had constructed two dams in the City Creek to arrest gravel coming down the stream (and into drinking water) during high stream flows (Salt Lake Herald).

May 18, 2017

May 16th

Filed under: Ants, Millipede, Pill bug, Snag tree, Stink Bug, Stream — canopus56 @ 9:30 pm

Insect Home

4:30 p.m. It is overcast again and temperatures have dropped into the high fifties due to a rare front moving in from the northwest. About twenty song birds continue to clump at the Guardhouse Gate, near picnic site 4, and in Pleasant Valley. Although the flood retention pond is down by two feet, the stream continues to flow near its maximum. At picnic site 8, I stop to take a comparative photograph of the stream. In the winter (December 20th), the surface of the stream froze to a milky white stone. Now at this same location, it is a rushing, undulating mass of force and chaos. But in its chaotic motion, there is regularity. The stream rises and falls in standing waves about eight feet apart. Where the stream is confined and flows greatest, these waves begin to break back upstream. More velocity results in a tumbling jumble of splashing white water.

Walking back to the road from the stream side, I notice a decayed, fallen log about eight inches in diameter. It’s pitted surface, marked by boring insects, is a kaleidoscope of colors: tan, dark brown, dark red, Frank Lloyd Wright’s favored Cherokee red-orange, blacks, greys and tints of blue-lichens. I kick the log to break it apart, and as it splits, insects scurry and run for cover deeper within its rotting depths. The log is inhabited by three insects that I regularly pass on the road. First are the Carpenter ants. Second are common pill bugs. Finally, there is a small, brown 1 millimeter diameter unidentified millipede. Underneath the log, there is two or three inches of fine sawdust. Further down canyon, I pull apart a larger 14 inch diameter rotted log. Inside a stink bug is startled and runs into a crevice. The few of these insects that I see on the road are migrants from parent colonies in fallen logs that line the road.

* * * *

In an article of first impression, Comiti and Lenzi of the University of Padova studied the physics of standing waves in mountain streams (Comiti and Lenzi 2016). Standing waves have long been known to form in larger rivers, such as the ten foot high waves of the “Silver Dragon” in Qiantang River, China, and those waves have been well studied. Standing waves do not occur because the stream bed is carved into similar undulations, and the surface water simply rises and falls in response to that lower, hidden surface. The dunes beneath the stream’s surface are an effect, and not the cause of the bed’s undulations. Standing waves form when part of the surface of the river moving upstream and not downstream. The interference of the two motions generates an oscillation that takes of the form of a stationary wave. Comiti and Lenzi built artificial mountain streams and studied how the standing waves scour the stream bed into slowly upstream moving anti-dunes.

* * * *

On May 16th, 2003, the Deseret News features photograph of joggers in City Creek Canyon. On May 16th, 1936, City Commissioner George D. Kesyer warned residents to keep their children away from City Creek Canyon stream during spring run-off (Salt Lake Telegram).

May 7, 2017

May 4th

Cultivars with Butterflies

3:00 p.m. The temperature switch has flipped and the canyon reaches into the seventies today. Several days of seventy and eighty degree weather is forecasted. This has an immediate effect on the canyon. The first one-third of a mile is almost fully leafed out, and along the road, there are about forty butterflies. They are usual cast of characters seen in the last two weeks, except more concentrated:

• Mourning cloak butterfly.

• White cabbage butterfly.

• Painted lady butterfly.

• American lady butterfly.

• White-lined sphinx moth.

• Zerene fritillary.

• Spring Azure.

• Common sulphur butterfly.

A new character, a Julia Orangetip butterfly (Anthocharis julia browningi), appears for the first time. Between mile 0.3 and mile 1.0, there are another twenty butterflies, but they are less densely distributed. There is a wall that holds them to the lower canyon; the temperature abruptly drops by ten to fifteen degrees at mile 0.3. Ants are active again, Stink Beetles are busy crossing the road, and the air refills with gnats. As this thermalcline rises up the canyon over the next few days, I am hopeful for these many changes will also move upcanyon and intensify with the warm air.

In the first one-third of a mile, I hear about twelve birds in the now leaf obscured forest with three different calls. In the lower one-third, the Gambel’s oaks are mostly filled out with small, still growing leaves, and between picnic sites 3 and 4, a flat area is now green with small red maple tree leaves. Across from picnic site 3, a bird loudly calls from a tree not twenty feet away, but still it is unseen. After some minutes, I discover it neatly hiding behind a natural cave of screening leaves. Through my monocular, one eye, with a grey eye streak bounded by white above and below, stares back at me across a slate back and white rump. It is an immature Black-throated gray warbler (Dendroica nigrescens). The density of these migratory birds also declines beyond the first one-third mile.

On a slope above the Pipeline Trail, I find several Death camas (Toxicoscordion venenosum) plants in bloom. It has a complex inflorescence with white flowers arranged in a conical shape. Chokeberries at mile 0.2 are in full white and yellow flowering bloom. Along the first-mile of road near the stream’s water, I look closely at the Solomon’s seal plants. I estimate that Solomon’s seals cover about one-fifth of the first mile on either side of the road, and for each foot of road, there are about twenty plants. This implies that there are about 20,000 Solomon’s seals in the first mile. Looking closely, I count exactly three plants that show their characteristic exploding-star blossoms.

Over the last few days, I have collected the location of flowering trees, mostly green crab apple and plum trees, along the first two miles of road. These are cultivars, planted for their fruit, between 1847 and about 1920. Their early, bright flowers, that risk freezing from Utah’s late season cold, distinguishes them from the native plants. Although I do not know the identity of each, I will use the list to revisit them later in the season to see which have fruited.

List of GPS Locations for Flowering Cultivar Trees for Miles 0.0 to 2.0 (N=17) (Apple and Plums) dated April 27 to May 2nd, 2017
• 40°47.463 N 111°52.730 W, Near flood retention pond, east side of road.

• 40°47.501 N 111°52.701 W, Below parking lot, east side.

• 40°47.501 N 111°52.701 W, Behind first line of trees, above parking lot, west side.

• 40°47.629 N 111°52.597 W, Near picnic site 1, east side.

• 40°47.666 N 111°52.573 W, Near picnic site 1, west side.

• 40°47.762 N 111°52.516 W, Near picnic site 1, west side.

• 40°47.777 N 111°52.511 W, East side.

• 40°47.811 N 111°52.440 W, East side.

• 40°47.826 N 111°52.434 W, West side.

• 40°47.863 N 111°52.424 W, East side.

• 40°47.899 N 111°52.401 W, East side, next to far stream bank.

• 40°48.071 N 111°52.329 W, East side.

• 40°48.123 N 111°52.324 W, East side.

• 40°48.283 N 111°51.949 W, West side.

• 40°48.387 N 111°51.356 W, East side, Pleasant Valley apple tree.

• 40°48.394 N 111°51.306 W, East side.

• 40°48.408 N 111°51.220 W, East side.

The parking lot is overflowing and there are about thirty people and bicyclists on the road. But they are spread out, and canyon still retains its quality of solitude. At the parking lot, there is bow hunter gearing up for theevening. I ask him what is in season, he enthusiastically responds “Wild turkeys!”. I have heard no turkeys in the canyon since last December, and this hunter may only find empty scrub oak thickets and the reward of exercise.

The stream still runs strong, and checking the SNOTEL station on Lookout Peak, I find that there is still thirty-five water equivalent inches of high-snow pack left, or more than ten inches more than average. By this time of year, the high-elevation pack begins a steep decline such that by June 1st, it is gone. This year, I feel it will last into the middle of June.

* * * *

On May 4th, 2011, National Weather Service Brian McInerney estimated using NWS computer models, a 50 percent probability that City Creek would flood (Salt Lake Tribune). On May 4th, 1920, a citizens committee met to urge the construction of a Brigham Young memorial bridge across City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake Telegram, Salt Lake Telegram). On May 4th, 1916, the City passed an ordinance, authored by Commissioner Heber M. Wells, to further protect the City Creek watershed (Salt Lake Tribune). Measured included prohibiting tethering a horse within 100 feet of the stream, building campfires, allowing stray animals, or speeding in an automobile (id). On May 4th, 1913, George M. Ottinger, former Water Superintendent and the first Fire Chief of Salt Lake City, reviewed his life. He constructed the reservoir at Pleasant Valley, and noted that it had a concrete lid because originally, the City planned to construct an electric power plant on top of the reservoir (Salt Lake Tribune). (Ottinger also was an amateur painter. His painting of Pleasant Valley and its reservoir is in the archives of the Utah Museum of Fine Art. He was also present at the last lynching in Salt Lake City in 1887.)

May 5, 2017

April 28th

Filed under: Pleasant Valley, Stream — canopus56 @ 12:58 pm

The Never Ending Task

Noon. It has been warm this morning, but as I begin today’s jog a front moves in uncharacteristically from the northeast. It is counter-clockwise spin of another winter-like low pressure system, and with its arrival temperatures drop twenty degrees and cold rain falls. I notice today that there is an inconsistent flow above and below Pleasant Valley. There is more flow coming out of Pleasant Valley at mile 1.1 than goes into it at mile 1.7. In 1881, a city officer first recognized that about one-third of City Creek’s flow was seeping through the creek bottom at Pleasant Valley (Salt Lake Herald, August 9th, 1888), and in 1896, the city first proposed and then subsequently rip-rapped the stream bottom up to Pleasant Valley in order to reduce the loss (Salt Lake Herald, July 27th, 1896, July 26th, 1913). Could this work in reverse during spring rains? Are the heavy rains on the surrounding hillsides of the last few days, which are approximately of uniform height through mile 3.4, percolating through the rock and recharging the stream?

* * * *

On April 6th, I noted that the dominate Mormon society will have more future choices to make regarding the preservation of their canyons, including City Creek Canyon. It seems this is a never-ending battle. In this month’s issue of a local newsletter, Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski and Councilperson Erin Mendenhall comment on current efforts of a Utah state legislative commission, the Utah Quality Growth Commission, to remove the state authority to pass ordinances to protect water quality in watersheds outside of the City’s boundaries (Utah Code Ann. 10-8-15 (2016)). Although that state authority has existed since first granted by the Territorial legislature and before statehood, implied supplemental authority was granted by the United States Congress in 1914 (March 13th, Public Law 63-199, see Public Law 73-259). The impetus for the Commission studying the proposal are real estate developers and a private inhold landowners in public Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons whose development opportunity is limited by the City’s refusal to grant them additional City-owned water permits. In response, Biskupski and Mendenhall noted that,

“For decades, critics of our protective approach have tried to chip away at Salt Lake City’s watershed management. But our hard line grew out of experience In the 1930s and into the 1940s, the City Creek Canyon watershed was contaminated through recreation overuse and grazing. This contamination led to a typhoid fever outbreak, making hundreds ill and causing several deaths. As a result, City Creek Canyon was closed to all public access and uses from 1950 through 1962. Fifty-five years later, the canyon is treasured by the public for recreation although certain restrictions are in place that successfully protect water quality.”

“Salt Lake City has heeded lessons on water quality disasters, and has prioritized the protection of our watersheds to avoid risk. This includes regulation, investment in land restoration, land preservation, stream restoration, sanitary facilities and watershed education. As a result, our drinking water is clean, and we have avoided public health disasters and economic impacts from water contamination that have so profoundly affected other communities.”

. . . .

“An ongoing and one-sided conversation about Salt Lake City’s watershed protection policies was initiated last summer by the Utah Quality Growth Commission. This effort is fueled by water speculators and land developers critical of Salt Lake City’s watershed regulation. The goal of some of the commission and the handful of developers is to change Utah Code 10-8-15 . . . Weakening this law will restrict our ability to protect our drinking water sources from pollution.” (Biskupski and Mendenhall, April 2017, Utah Code Ann. 10-8-15).

In a draft issue analysis paper, the Utah Quality Growth Commission outlined various objections to the one-hundred years of City’s protection of water quality along the Wasatch Front canyons,

“Authority granted by the state must protect the public health, welfare, safety, recreation and economic growth of the state and be science based. . . . . County and State Residents are disenfranchised by the extra-territorial jurisdiction. . . . . No scientific justification has been advanced for increasing the watershed jurisdiction beyond the standard municipal jurisdiction of 300 feet on either side of the creek for 15 miles or 1100 acres. . . . . [No scientific evidence] is ever offered by Salt Lake City for regulations like . . . prohibiting wading in streams. . . . Despite Surplus Water being available, Salt Lake City refuses to sell water to anyone in Big or Little Cottonwood Canyons. This prohibition on new water connections has been in place since 1991. . . . . Salt Lake City Water Empire. Salt Lake City’s used and unused water holdings are so massive that Salt Lake City has effective control of much of Utah’s water.” (Utah Quality Growth Comm. Sept. 9, 2016, pp. 2-8)

This continuing conflict of between the general public, who favors preserving the Wasatch Front Canyons in a less developed state for its watershed and recreation values, and wealthy real estate and business interests, who seek to turn the canyons into another version of Vail, Colorado, is fueled by small-lot private in-holdings. These can be turned into luxury ski cabins worth millions of dollars, as has occurred in the Park City, Utah drainage to the east (Salt Lake Tribune, Jan. 23, 2017). Local attorney Patrick Shea noted that, “When there is that kind of economic disparity of values, the vultures of development want to swoop in in search of profit regardless of the impact to watershed” (Salt Lake Tribune, Jan. 23, 2017).

This long-simmering controversy between real estate development interests, the City, and Wasatch Front residents seems to have no end. The City, directly and through the Metropolitan Water District created in the 1930s by popular elections along the entire Wasatch Front, has water-banked substantial reserves and does use its power, along with other cities along the Front, to restrict development in the watershed. In this they are supported by ordinary citizens. The present controversy is reminiscent of the 1870s between Brigham Young and Robert Baskin (March 21st and April 1st, above). In the current cycle, the City is being cast as Brigham Young and faceless real estate interests and few notable small lot holders having taken on the roll of Baskin. The arguments advanced on both sides focus on water pollution and water quality, but the discourse ignores the lessons learned from the storm floods of the 1920s and 1930s. Removal or small areas of coverage at the headwaters of Wasatch Front Range canyons leads to devastating downstream floods during cloudburst storm events (Bailey, Cottam 1945, Forsling, Utah Flood Commission, April 6th, above). Given the federal watershed grants of 1914 and 1934, if the City’s right to protect watershed is curtailed, all of the other Wasatch Front Canyons may be dramatically changed. But City Creek Canyon should remain the same, since the City has acquired almost all of the land above mile 0.3 of the road. City Creek, unlike the other canyons, is not plagued by numerous private in-holdings.

* * * *

On April 28th, 1920, the $3,300,000 special water issue bond was defeated (Salt Lake Herald). On April 28th, 1916, the City Commission decided to use only prison labor to finish the scenic boulevard around City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake Telegram). On April 28th, 1908, Mark Aaron, a prison laborer working on the City Creek Road was shot and killed while trying to escape (Deseret Evening News). He was serving a 90 day sentence for vagrancy. The officer claimed he was aiming a Aaron’s legs, but hit Aaron in the head instead.

April 26, 2017

April 26th

Filed under: Dandelion, Meadow Mile 1.3, Plants, red bridge, Stream, Weather — canopus56 @ 8:18 pm

Biophilia – Part V – Biophilia Expression

5:30 p.m. Another heavy rain storm dominates the day, and the canyon parking lot is nearly empty. In the heavy rain, there are still three or groups walking with umbrellas and eight or nine bicyclists careen down canyon during a break in the rain. On Chimney Rock above the red bridge, I notice that its vertical face is covered in a green cloak of various small plants and mosses. Usually, the rock is red and barren. Using the monocular, the sandstone cliffs between mile 0.7 and mile 1.2 and the small sandstone massive on the west side of the road near mile 1.1 are also covered with small plants. The coming heat of May will quickly bake them off, but for now they are a welcome sign of spring’s explosion. In addition to the winter ice and spring thaw and the raw force of rain, these plants are the other force that will tear down the cliffs over geologic time. Even the Zen Rock is ignominiously colonized by dandelions, and dandelions along the road are reaching their peak bloom. The stream remains swollen and loud, but it is still four inches below its maximum spring peak.

* * * *

Stephen Kellert at Yale classified the values by which people relate to nature as a predicate to analyzing evidence supporting the biophilia hypothesis (Kellert 1993, Kellert 1984, Kellert 1976). Those values are a useful topology for understanding the nature experience:

List of Biophilia Values

Source: Kellert 1993, p. 59, Kellert 1984.

* Utilitarian – material exploitation of nature.

* Naturalistic – satisfaction from direct experience of nature.

* Scientific – Systematic study of the structure, function in relationships in nature.

* Aesthetic – physical beauty of nature.

* Symbolic – use of nature for metaphorical expression.

* Humanistic – strong emotional attachment or love to nature.

* Moralistic – ethical concern for nature.

* Dominionistic – dominance of nature.

* Negativistic – fear, aversion, or alienation from nature, e.g. biophobia.

To these, I would add two other values that may be subsets of elements already in Kellert’s topology: grieving and spiritual. People come to the canyon to grieve (July 22nd), and it even contains Memory Grove, a place of contemplation on those lost to death. In the 1800s, the modern forest model for cemeteries became popular, and this reflects how people associate death with a return to nature. In contrast, the Romans built sub-surface necropolses that were separated from the natural environment. There is a long history in western Judea-Christian history of prophets who go from cities to nature for meditation and reflection.

At home, I review my own journal entries and the digests of historical Utah newspapers regarding the canyon. Kellert’s biophilic topology provides an insightful and encompassing list of how I and other city residents have related to the canyon since the arrival of the Euro-Americans.

* * * *

On April 26th, 1948, two young cyclists were injured while racing down City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake Telegram). On April 26th, 1909, the City was ready to let several contracts, including installing a pipeline between the Twentieth Ward and the main in City Creek Canyon (Intermountain Republican). On April 26th, 1909, the Salt Lake Tribune reported that the previous Sunday, residents flocked to parks and for strolls up City Creek Canyon.

April 21st

Biophilia – Part III – Nature Fearing Studies

External Link to Image

Collage of City Creek Wildflowers, April 2017. Source: Author. Plant names are in text.

6:00 a.m. Rain showers including sleet fell last night and through the morning. From the city floor on the westside of the valley, I have a sweeping view up City Creek Canyon and along the mouths of the six other Salt Lake County Wasatch Front canyons. The rain falls in periodic sheets and microbursts that, with the morning light, color the canyon with curtains of delicate and varied gray tones. The canyon and the front are a series of paintings that rival the old Renaissance masters and Rubens.

4:00 p.m. As the front passes, the afternoon has given way to bright sunlight, but the canyon is still empty and full of solitude. Painted lady butterflies play tag, and one follows me up the road for about fifty feet, stops and then resumes its trailing track. It repeats this behavior four times before flying off. Two mallards streak down canyon skimming just above the trees and flying directly above the road. The road is their marker. The sleet has wilted all the long new 4 inch leaves of the horsechestnut trees. The Box Elder leaves are barely effected, and the Gambel’s oaks do not notice because they remain largely in their winter slumber. The water marks on Zen Rock show the stream is six lower than maximum notwithstanding last night’s downpour.

All is green and fresh and more spring wildflowers bloom both along the road and along the Pipeline Trail: Starry solomon’s seal (Maianthemum stellatum); Golden currant (Ribes aureum); Purple milkvetch (astragalus agrestis); Arrowleaf balsamroot; (Balsamorhiza sagittata); and western pink and blue-purple Longleaf phlox (Phlox longifolia Nutt.)

* * * *

The biophillia hypothesis has a binary opposite: biophobia. And the existence of biophia also can be proof of the existence of a genetic compulsion to be in and to like nature. Biophobic responses are adverse reactions to threats from the environment like spiders or snakes. Biophobic human reactions provide more definitive results because the body’s automatic response to negative experiences is more pronounced and easier to measure. Human negative responses can also be more easily conditioned in controlled experiments. Biophopia studies involve viewing pictures of threatening predators or poisonous animals while being conditioned with mild electric shock treatments. Psychologists then measure how quickly the body forgets the conditioning. If a person takes a comparatively longer period of time to forget the electro-shock conditioning, this is taken as evidence of a genetic predisposition for enhanced awareness of threats in a natural setting, genetic biophobia, and the biophilia hypothesis. Ulrich summarized many of the biophic studies through 1984 (Ulrich 1993):

* Involuntary physical responses to adverse conditioning when viewing natural threats such as spiders and snakes are more persistent than the response to neutral geometric shapes (Ulrich, 78).

* People exhibit stronger defense reactions when observing others’ fear reaction to threatening scenes like spiders and snakes versus neutral scenes (Ulrich, 79).

* After mild electroshock conditioning, a person’s autonomic body responses to spiders subliminal images of spiders and snakes embedded in films still takes a longer time to unlearn as compared to embedded images of non-threatening settings (Ulrich, 80).

* After mild electric shock conditioning, the autonomic body responses of persons viewing open natural settings are more persistent than when viewing low depth heavily forested scenes. This is interpreted as a genetic remnant of human evolution on the African savannas (Ulrich, 82-83).

There is an irony to these experiments, or its seems as I continue jogging down canyon. Showing a genetic basis of liking nature by shocking people with electric prods as they view photographs of nature in a controlled laboratory experiment seems far removed from the clean spring air and blooming flowers of today’s canyon. But these biophobic studies do lend more weight to the proof of a genetic basis for biophillia than the indirect proof of liking studies.

* * * *

On April 21st, 2006, snowpack in upper City Creek is 200 percent of normal (Salt Lake Tribune).

April 20, 2017

April 19th

Filed under: Butterfly, Cooper's Hawk, gnats, People, Sounds, Stream, White cabbage butterfly — canopus56 @ 3:06 pm

Biophilia – Part I – Water Meditation

2:00 p.m. Stream water is at its highest under a bright sun with cold air. The loud white noise of the snow-melt engorged stream has remained a constant companion that has dominated the canyon since March 12th. Combined with today’s bright sunlight, these two forces of nature, light and water sound, drive me into a restful sleepy state. Over the last month, I have developed an involuntary reaction to seventy decibel sound of mountain water. Stegner noted that next to the loud sound of mountain water, “it is impossible to believe that one will ever be old or tired” (Stegner, 41), in part, because such water is embodies a continuing renewal of force (id). In its grasp, I must sit in the sun at one of the many benches in the canyon, close my eyes, and slowly drift and meld with its noise. It is a restorative experience. I feel the energy of the stream and sunlight flow through me while at the same time my sense of body and self dissipates. This is how the earth heals both a person’s body and soul. It is in this way in which the life-giving sun and the canyon draws one towards life and away from human activities of city life. I rise filled with love towards nature, and I am not the only one. Two others are sitting on benches near the stream with half-closed eyes.

I have always had an innate drive to be at one with nature, and some of my earliest childhood memories are related to that experience. But where does that inherited drive in me and in others who visit the canyon come from?

Yesterday’s cold rain has set the insects back, and only a few are seen this afternoon. White cabbage butterflies feed on the wild carrots heads that line the road. Two new small butterflies appear, along with some gnats and a small bee that moves to fast to identify. There is new one and one-half inch orange butterfly with subtle black marks and distinct ends to its antennae, possibly a type of fritillary. The second unidentified butterfly is a small black butterfly with jet black wing and a subtle blue-black tinge to its abdomen.

I stop at picnic site 1 and again stare transfixed staring into the water as it speeds by. Suddenly, two Cooper’s hawks land in a tree next to stream. These are the two fast fleeting shapes that I saw skimming over the road a few days ago (April 15th). They are maybe fifty feet away; this is the closest that I have ever been to these raptors; and they have also come to sun themselves. The sit motionless in the high branches lazily opening and closing their eyes. The Cooper’s hawks have a grey backs, molted-brown breast and body feathers, bright white rump feathers and a banded tail. One of this pair has piercing red eyes. It’s companion teases the other, and in response the first plumps up its white rump feathers in agitation. I stand their motionless and have a good ten minutes sharing the sun with these residents.

A group of three mothers are pushing baby carriages down the road. Between the motion and deafening white noise of the stream, the babies are all quiet and content. What impression does the sound make on their unformed, young minds? It has become the fashion to purchase technology enhanced bassinets for infants. At night, sensors detect the infant’s motion automatically rocks the bassinet and floods it with stream-like white noise. Like me, the simulated stream sound sends the infants back to sleep.

* * * *

In 1964, psychoanalyst, humanist and cultural commentator Eric Fromm termed biophilia as one of two competing forces within each of us:

“There is no more fundamental distinction between men, psychologically and morally, than the one between those who love death and those who love life, between the necrophilous and the biophilous. . . . . The full unfolding of biophilia is to be found in the productive orientation. The person who fully loves life is attracted by the process of life and growth in all spheres. . . . . Good is all that serves life; evil is all that serves death. Good is reverence for life, all that enhances, life, growth, unfolding” (Fromm, 37, 47. emphasis in original).

Fromm warned that modern bureaucratic-technological society by separating humanity from nature was driving humanity towards a necrophilous or death orientation. Homo sapiens has become what Fromm called homo consumens (Fromm, 57). Fromm’s notion of homo consumens is analogous to what modern economists call homo economicus, a idealized human who makes decisions based only on rational economic basis concerned only with the experience of life as the act of consumption. Symptomatic of homo consumens is homo mechanicus or gadget man (Fromm, 58), a person obsessed with a life-view defined by manipulation of dead machines rather interacting and participating with life (id).

Fromm viewed humans not as an essence, but as a process flowing from two contradictory facts (Fromm, Chap. 6). First, humans are animals that are part of nature. Second, humans are self-aware beings with reason. The rightful use of reason to satisfy our material needs and psychological motivations in a contradiction draws us away from nature, and this creates biophilous and necrophilous tensions within psyches. Since many of our motivations are unconscious, we can never be fully sure whether reason in service of unconscious desires are destruction or healthy. The best free choice that a man, a woman or a society can exercise is to be aware when making decisions is whether they foster the tendency toward development and life or toward of anal-narcissism and death (id).

Fromm reviews how these two forces have a long history in religion, philosophy and psychoanalysis (id). The Judeaic Genesis narrative is of separation from nature by the exercise of free choice. Adam and Eve did not sin by choosing knowledge, they where given both knowledge and free choice by a creator, and as a consequence there were sent to a life of choices that drive either towards or away from life and development as a full human being (Fromm, 19-20). The Genesis narrative has its parallel in the Greek myths. Recalling that the Greeks viewed the universe as Earth-centered, Gaia was the creator not of the Earth, but of the entire universe, including their cosmology of heavenly Gods that we retain as markers of the constellations. Humans were separated from Gaia by the first female human’s (Pandora’s) exercise of free will in choosing to open the pithos, thus separating humanity from nature.

What draws me back to reunite with nature? Enjoyment of nature is a reminder, in those several decisions that we all must make on a daily basis, to try to choose as much as is practicable that which fosters all life.

* * * *

On April 19th, 1982, Salt Lake City officials declined to act on a Davis County proposal to create a commuter connector road around Ensign Peak and City Creek Canyon (Davis County Clipper). On April 21, 1914, work on widening and improving City Creek Canyon Road was completed to Pleasant Valley (Salt Lake Telegram), but Mayor Heber M. Wells restricted the use of automobiles only up to Eleventh Avenue (id). On April 19th, 1911, City Councilperson J. W. McKinney introduced a resolution to end gravel pit operations in City Creek Canyon in order to improve water quality (Salt Lake Telegram). On April 19, 1907, the City adopted an ordinance establishing a dedicated patrolman for City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake Tribune). The patrolman would be provided a horse and a salary of $2.75 per day. Duties included clearing rubbish from the canyon. Patrolman positions were also established for Parleys and Big Cottonwood and a ranchman was hired for Mountain Dell. On April 19, 1898, the City Engineer, Waterworks Superintendent, the Mayor and four citizen council members toured City Creek and recommended improvements, including repairing caved in seep tunnels and clearing and rip-raping the stream bed (Salt Lake Tribune). In 1898, there was a drought and the city officers were seeking to increase the water supply. On April 19, 1897, Mayor Glendinning toured City Creek Canyon due to flooding of Central City Neighborhoods (Salt Lake Herald).

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