City Creek Nature Notes – Salt Lake City

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.

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