City Creek Nature Notes – Salt Lake City

June 13, 2017

June 5th

Hopping Horsetail Pollen

4:15 p.m. It is the third day of an unusual early heat wave where daytime maximum temperatures reach 95 degrees Fahrenheit, while the average maximum for early June is about 80 degrees. In the heat, fewer birds sing. There is one Warbling vireo near picnic site 1 and a single Black-headed grosbeak and a few Song sparrows below milepost 0.5. On this Monday, people follow suit: the heat deters them and there are only a few runners and walkers along the road. Despite the heat and yesterday’s end of canyon snowmelt, the stream still runs high. But at mile 0.6, there is a distinct thermocline: a breeze picks up and temperatures are ten or fifteen degrees lower than in the city. The birds respond accordingly.

The season’s first unambiguous Weidemeyer’s Admiral butterfly (Limenitis weidemeyeri latifascia), a black butterfly with white wing bars, floats by at milepost 1.0, and this followed by a Blue dasher dragonfly. A new white butterfly is seen, but it is too fast and appears too briefly to identify. Two dead brown moths are found at different places along the road that have delicate yellow-orange underwings. They are invasive Large yellow underwing moths (Noctua pronuba).

The heat has also begun to force Wood roses along the road. As they reach maturity, their color starts to lighten, and a day or two later, their blossoms shrivel. More are gone at the lower canyon, the wave of mature roses is slowly moving up canyon. The blossoms of the Solomon’s seal field in the cattail seep at mile 0.7 have shriveled and passed. Across the road, the beginnings of Milk weed plants rise to a foot tall. New crops of horsetails have matured between mile 0.4 and mile 0.8, and they can be distinguished from the still reawakening horsetails that overwintered. These new horsetails are larger in diameter, have a lighter green color, and have larger cone shaped heads. Older horsetails are a darker green, and for the most part, their heads from not yet swelled with pollen for this new spring. On close inspection, the newer horsetail heads release a puff of pollen when disturbed.

Turning down canyon from Pleasant Valley, below the Red Bridge near mile 0.9, an orb weaver spider has woven a large four-foot circular web suspended between boulders and surrounding tree branches. Some of the web’s silken, supporting suspension cables reach six feet over the stream. The web whips wildly in each breeze, but it is effective. The spider has bundled up several insects along its web’s radial branches.

* * * *

In Thoreau’s “Journal” on June 5th, 1850, he smells that the air is full of spicy odors. He sees lady’s slippers and wild pink plants. On June 5th, 1852, he records cinquefoils, and he notes that lupines are in full bloom. On June 3rd, 1853, he again notes that the air is full of fragrance and that meadows are full of sorrel and green grasses. On June 5th, 1853, he sees a pair of nighthawks and their nest, and a blackbird. On June 5th, 1855, he notes sedge grass growing in rock cracks. On June 5th, 1856, he records lady slippers and he examines a cuckoo’s nest.

* * * *

In 2013, Marmottant, Ponomarenko and Bienaimé at the University of Grenoble reported that the 50 micrometer pollen of horsetails have the ability to “walk” (Marmottant, Ponomarenko and Bienaimé 2013). These tiny pollen are shaped like harlequin starfish, except they have four arms instead of a starfish’s five. When wet, the arms of the pollen curl around its central body. As the pollen dries, the arms suddenly unfold and propel the pollen into the air, and once aloft, it can be deposited in a more favorable, moist habitat (id).

* * * *

On or about June 5, 1975, Utah’s first gay pride festival, then called “Gay Freedom Day” was held in Memory Grove at City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake Tribune, June 5, 2008). A small crowd of 300 gathered over beer, burgers and hotdogs. Then they moved to the Sun Tavern. One of the participants of the first festival recalled that people were afraid to attend because they were concerned that bosses, co-workers or neighbors might see them attending. “We knew we were being discriminated against, and it was at least up to us to stop discriminating against ourselves,” the first pride day participant noted.

June 1, 2017

May 30th

Filed under: Woods Rose — canopus56 @ 5:12 pm

Evolution of Birds

7:30 p.m. Only a few birds in the first mile call in the late evening. Wood roses have opened from Guardhouse Gate to mile 0.2, but then stop blooming. More will open as late spring heat moves up canyon.

* * * *

Phylogenetic studies, based on advanced abstract algebra mathematics of shared genes, allowed Hackett and colleagues to reconstruct the evolutionary tree of major bird orders (Hackett et al 2008). Pacheco and colleagues added an estimated time dimension to that phylogenetic reconstruction of bird evolution based on assumed rates of changes in mitochondrial DNA (Pacheco et al 2011, Fig. 2 at 1973). They concluded that all of the current major orders of birds evolved beginning about 90 million years ago. While the first birds were first evolving, Utah and the canyon rode up the leading face of the Fallaron plate wave while a vast north-south mountain range rose in Nevada and western Utah (January 7th). Between 80 and 65 million years ago, those mountains eroded away as the crest of the Farallon Plate continued to migrate under Utah (id). These orders of birds existed before the meteorite KT boundary impact 65 million years ago. In this view, birds are essentially small dinosaurs that should have been killed by the KT extinction event. But those pre-impact orders survived the KT extinction event and diversified into the many species found today in the canyon (Pacheco et al).

The significance of the Pacheco finding is it contradicts the popular notion that the KT extinction event killed off the dinosaurs, including birds. Under the earlier explosive radiation theory, after the extinction event, only one or two Cretaceous bird orders survived, and during the Tertiary era, they radiated into the major groups seen today. Penny of Massey University, New Zealand, and Phillips at Oxford University discuss the contradictory evidence regarding whether dinosaurs where rendered extinct by the KT event as an example of faulty scientific thinking (Penny and Phillips, 2017). There were several possible models for evolution after the KT impact: only one order survived the impact and then explosively radiated; only a few orders survived and then radiated, or many orders survived and then diversified into new ecological niches post-impact. Penny and Phillips note that the originator of the KT impact hypothesis, Alvarez et al, provided substantial physical evidence that the impact occurred but no evidence supporting their claim that this resulted in the abrupt end of all dinosaurs. Nonetheless, the idea that the KT impact abruptly ended the dinosaurs took root. Penny and Phillips also note that some evidence exists that small dinosaurs less than 2 meters in length were well on their way to extinction prior to the KT impact. Conversely, small mammals are found in increasing frequency during the small period. This suggests that small mammals simply out competed small dinosaurs and over time because mammals do not lay vulnerable eggs and are more adaptable to a large array of habitats. In the face that competition, small dinosaurs became smaller, took the air, and evolved into birds. Preliminarily, Penny and Phillips suggest that slow Darwinian evolution is an equally plausible explanation for the evolution of birds as compared to explosive radiation after the KT extinction event, and they recommend a robust research program to better test the impact’s effect on the co-evolution of mammals, small dinosaurs and birds.

* * * *

On May 30th, 2013, the Salt Lake Tribune profiles Bowman Brown, a chef who specializes in creating dishes using only plants gathered from Utah’s lands, including City Creek Canyon. In City Creek, Bowman pointed out Indian parsley, wild onions, and mountain pepper grass as wild plant foods (id). On May 30th, 1993, Memorial Day, Jack Goodman of the Salt Lake Tribune, describes the 1926 construction of Memory Grove Park in City Creek Canyon. The Greek style temple in the park is a mediation chapel erected in memory of Ross Beason Jr. by his family, after Beason’s death in World War II. On May 30th, 1927, Governor George Dern dedicated a monument to the Mormon Battalion at the southeast corner of the Utah State Capitol grounds that overlooks lower City Creek Canyon and Memory Grove (Monument plaque visited May 2017). The sculpture was rendered by Chicago artist Gilbert Riswold.

May 28, 2017

May 27th

Will the Great Salt Lake Disappear? – Part II

5:00 p.m. Since city residents have driven to dispersed recreation parks far from the valley, the valley has emptied and there are few cars in the parking lot. In the pre-automobile era, they would come to the canyon during May holidays. In 1908, a newspaper reported that “thousands of people” spent the day strolling in City Creek (Salt Lake Herald, May 8, 1908). As car culture developed from the 1920s through end of the century, the canyon became less of a focus for city resident’s holiday outdoor recreation. An old postcard in my grandmother’s family album records how in 1927, my great-grandparents drove the new Lincoln Highway from Ohio to Salt Lake City in their new Ford Model-T, and then drove up the then open road to Sun Dial Peak and Lake Blanche at 9,500 feet. I like to nostalgically imagine that they also took a moment to drive up the canyon that I jog today.

But today, the canyon is almost empty. There are even fewer evening birds and along the first mile, I primarily hear the string of Warbling vireos interspersed with a few Song sparrows and American robins. The raptors are gone; butterflies are absent except for three. Woods rose that opened just a few days ago has begun to drop its leaves, but given the 100 rose plants along the first mile road, I believe more will open as the season progresses. Blossoms on the Solomon’s stars near mile 0.6 have grown from having only one or two blooms to having grown complex conical inflorescences. Arrowleaf balsamroot in the lower canyon has lost its blooms.

* * * *

Continuing population growth and their need for future water keeps the scenario that the Great Salt Lake might disappear completely in the next thirty years within the scope of reasonable probability. Salt Lake County grew from about 900,000 to 1.1 million from 2000 to 2014, or about twenty percent, and Utah County to the south grew from 370,000 to 575,000, or about fifty percent between 2000 and 2015. From this growth, Salt Lake valley and Utah County to the south are quickly exhausting the 250,000 new acre feet of water received in 2007 from the eastern transbasin Central Utah Project, and plans have been made to develop and transport another 250,000 acre feet of water per year from the Bear River basin to the north (Wurtsbaugh et al 2016; Utah Division of Water Resources 2004). Utah’s population is projected to reach 5.5 million by 2050. The lake is a substantial source of economic activity in northern Utah, 1.2 billion USD in 2010 (Bioeconomics 2010), and that also puts pressure on state managers to accommodate both industry, recreation and wildlife both to maintain and to decrease the lake’s level.

The changes in the Great Salt Lake and projections for increasing population and decreasing lake levels did not go unnoticed by government, and the competing interests of preserving the lake’s current level for wildlife and accommodating economic growth were expressed in conflicts between and within state agencies as proxies for public stakeholder interests. In 2008, former Governor John Huntsman formed the Great Salt Lake Advisory Council to study issues relating to the lake. The Council made recommendations for preserving the level of the lake (Great Salt Lake Advisory Council, 2012 and 2017). State wildlife managers conducted studies of bird populations dependent on the Great Salt Lake marshes and started to form a Great Salt Lake bird conservation strategy (Don 2002 and 2012). The Utah Department of Natural Resources developed a lake management plan, but the plan, which contains a detailed, well-thought out assessment, generally only specifies that further studies will be conducted if the lake falls below specified future set points (Utah Department of Natural Resources 2015). As these events that favored preserving the lake for bird wildlife unfolded, the Utah Board of Water Resources moved forward with its plans to spend 2 billion to develop and withdraw 220,000 acre-feet of water from the Bear River that flows into the Great Salt Lake. In February 2016, Wurtsbaugh and colleagues issued their white paper warning that the area of the Great Salt Lake would decline by another 3 percent, or 30 square miles, and co-authors of the white paper included staff of the Utah Division of Water Resources, an agency supervised by the Utah Water Resources Board, and the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. Utah Governor Gary Herbert formed a State Water Strategy Advisory Team that developed draft recommendations in September 2016 (Utah Water Strategy Advisory Team and Envision Utah, 2016). In January 2017, the Water Resources Board tabled its proposal to develop and withdraw water from the Bear River Basin after the private Utah Rivers Council demonstrated that the same amount of water could be developed from conservation at a much lower cost (Roth, January 23, 2017).

Much like the ongoing controversy between Salt Lake City and development interests over the Salt Lake valley watershed canyons (April 28th), the issue of whether the Great Salt Lake will remain as a viable stopping point for migratory birds traveling the eastern arm of the Pacific Flyway is one that will be revisited and re-fought periodically. The result may change in future, and then neotropical migrating birds seen in the canyon might decline dramatically and unexpectedly.

* * * *

On May 27th, 2012, the City has installed many speed limit and travel warning signs in City Creek Canyon to enforce an even-auto and odd-bicycle day policy (Salt Lake Tribune). One resident describes the number of regulatory signs as “overkill”, and another notes that the signs advising walkers to keep on the stream side of the road as “ineffectual” (id). (In 2017, infrequent walkers in the canyon, including many families pushing baby strollers, regularly ignore or are unaware of the policy of walkers keeping to the up-canyon right, or streamside of the road, and automobiles and bikers should keep the up-canyon left side of the road.) On May 27th, 1888, the Salt Lake Herald proposed that in addition to a proposed road up City Creek Canyon, that a boulevard be created from the Capitol to the creek and then along to 11th Avenue.

May 24th

Birds of Concern

5:00 p.m. At dawn today, from the west half of the valley, I could see the upper slopes of Grandview Peak that feeds the stream, and they are still covered at some depth. Significantly, overnight temperatures have returned the sixites. This early evening, a summer storm front moves through from the southwest bringing warm rain and micrcobursts of fifty mile an hour winds. Under their pressure, individual trees in the canyon wave back and forth violently under momentarily black skies. The first Woods rosa blooms have opened for the season, and in the lower canyon, some Gambel’s oak leaves have reached a mature length of 5 inches. Since it is early in the evening, most birds are quiet. At Guardhouse Gate, five Warbling vireos weakly call and at picnic site 5, another is joined by a Song sparrow.

Near mile 0.6, I stop along the road to tie a shoelace. Looking up, a male mallard is swimming on the stream’s surface about seven feet below the roadside. The mallard is grazing on streamers of underwater grass that waves under the swiftly moving current.

Stink bugs line the roadside today, all uniformly standing with their abdomens pointed upward at above the centerline of the road. Given the presence of the spring birds, this is a wise resting posture. A two-inch unidentified, hair covered caterpillar crawls along the road. In a possible example of mimicry, each of its segments has a white, black and brown pattern that is nearly identical to the Variegated Meadowhawk dragonfly. Further up canyon, a one-inch beetle has two bright perpendicular orange bars on its back, and the orange tone is the same found on a Lady Bug. It is a carrion eater – the Burying beetle (Nicrophorus tomentosus). Unlike other Nicrophorus species, this beetle does not bury its carrion, but only drags it to a shallow depression and covers the carcass with leaf litter. A colony of tiny brown ants erupts from a crack in the pavement. A four inch circle contains an estimated 500 individuals that all crawl on top and over each other. About eight unidentified small brown butterflies are seen along the first mile. Their wings have a bright light-brown metallic upper side.

* * * *

Under the United States dual-sovereignty scheme, protection of endangered and other birds is divided between federal and state authorities. The federal government through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has primary authority to protect both endangered and threatened bird species through the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (16 U.S.C. Sec. 1531), and with respect to non-endangered migratory birds, such as those seen in the canyon, through the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 (16 U.S.C. Secs. 703-712). The federal government is authorized to enter into cooperative agreements with States to share protective efforts for the migratory songbirds seen in the canyon through the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act of 2000 (16. U.S.C. Secs. 6101-6109). While no federally endangered species are currently known to frequent the canyon, historically, the Yellow-billed cuckoo, a federally listed threatened species, may have used the canyon (Rawley).

The State of Utah, under its sovereign authority, also designates sensitive species that are given special monitoring attention (Utah Code Ann. Sec. 23-14-1 et seq.; Utah Administrative Rule 657-48; Utah Department of Natural Resources 2015), and the State exercises that authority under a policy to “seek to balance the habitat requirements of wildlife with the social and economic activities of man” (Utah Code Ann. 23-14-3(2)(iii) (2017)). Federal threatened species and Utah state sensitive species share the common quality that a birds’ declining populations raise issues as to its continued viability. State sensitive species found in the canyon are Bald eagles and Northern Goshawks. Other State sensitive species historically, but not currently, found in the canyon include Bobolinks (Dolichonyx oryzivorus) and Ferruginous hawks (Buteo regalis) (Utah Department of Natural Resources 2015). In designating a sensitive bird species, the state circumscribes its authority to those species for which “there is credible scientific evidence to substantiate a viable threat to continued population viability” (Utah Administrative Rule 657-48; Utah Department of Natural Resources 2015). The state relies principally on the Breeding Bird survey data (May 21st, May 22nd and May 23rd) (Utah Department of Natural Resources 2015, Appendices; Sauer et al 2017).

Bird designation on the state list occurs primarily either because of global population size combined with local population trends. The State designates the Bald Eagle as a sensitive species primarily because of the size of the eagle’s continental breeding population. In 2006, there were about 10,000 breeding pairs of bald eagles left in the United States (out of a population of 70,000), and the 10 bald eagles that over-winter in Utah represent about thirty percent of all Bald Eagles west of the Rocky Mountains (Utah Department of Natural Resources 2015, Appendix A, Sec. 5.1). In using the Partner’s-in-Flight rating system, the eagle would be given a population concern index of 5 for having less than 10,000 breeding pairs. Conversely, the Bobolink have about 10,000,000 global breeding pairs, but the decline in the global and local populations is 1.6 percent per year (id, Appendix A, Sec. 5.8). The Ferruginous hawk (id, Appendix A), like the Peregrine falcon, is a recovering raptor with an estimated global breeding population of 80,000, or a population concern index of 4. But, due to recovery management efforts, its population is increasing. That both the Bobolink and Ferruginous hawk are believed to have been widely present in Utah historically, but now are largely absent from the state also supports their Utah sensitive species status (id, Appendix A).

In contrast, other birds that receive a private Conservation Concern Index of 13 like the Virginia’s Warbler and the Plumbeous vireo and that are found in the canyon are not designated by the State. Although they have locally declining population trends, the Virginia’s Warbler has a global breeding population of about 400,000 pairs and although the Breeding Bird Survey found only 192 pairs of Plumbeous vireos in the Intermountain West (Sauer et al 2017), the Plumbeous vireo has a global population of about 2,700,000. The Peregrine falcon is another bird not designated on the state’s list (Utah Department of Natural Resources 2015). The Peregrine was delisted by the federal U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 1999, and the global breeding population of Peregrines is about 93,300. But there only about 90 breeding pairs of this still recovering raptor, or a sufficiently small population that it could wiped out by a set of determined illegal hunters in a few weeks. Although I feel some of these Utah state sensitive bird specie designations to be inconsistent, e.g. – the Boblink but not the Plumbeous vireo is designated, they evidence a process in place, albeit an imperfect process that operates under considerable uncertainty, to monitor and assess potential crashes in bird populations.

Uncertainty in the state-of-knowledge about bird populations and in the process of designating them for more intensive monitoring is also unsettling. Conversely, the signs that these researchers and their models provide allow us to act more thoughtfully than simply relying on political beliefs and folk-tales about nature’s ability to cope with change. That a considerable multi-state monitoring effort coupled with recovery planning exists is cause for celebration and not cynicism. That process has led to the ongoing recoveries of Peregrine falcons and Ferrigunous hawks. But even with all this effort, I find it hard to let go of the sense that we are pulling at the strings of nature’s web, and like Plato’s prisoners in his allegorical cave described in the Republic, our scientific efforts and mathematical models of specie risk give only a limited indirect view of a truer complexity that we do not understand.

* * * *

On May 24, 2007, 200 persons attend the annual Memory Grove clean-up (Salt Lake Tribune). On May 24th, 1996, veterans groups plan to gather at Memory Grove for Memorial Day. On May 24th, 1920, the North Bench Improvement Association Chairman G. A. Iverson published an artist conceptual drawing for a park in lower City Creek including a viaduct across the canyon at 5th Avenue (Salt Lake Telegram). On May 24th, 1913, members of the Rotary Club and City Commissioner Korn plan to tour the proposed route of a scenic highway up City Creek Canyon and into Morgan County (Salt Lake Tribune). May 24th, 1907, the Salt Lake Tribune urged the creation of reservoir dams in City Creek and Parley’s Canyons. On May 24, 1903, the Salt Lake Tribune overviewed many canyon drives around Salt Lake City, including in City Creek Canyon. One photograph includes Shippler’s image of a carriage going up a heavily wooded City Creek track (id). The article also relates a parable and legend about a young man who located a lost gold mine, and contrary to his Mormon bishop’s advice, spent his life in a vain attempt to relocate it. His futile search was described as his “punishment for his disobedience to the mandate of the prophet revealed by God” (id). The Tribune noted that hundreds of City residents go into the canyon on the weekends.

May 6, 2017

May 2nd

First Dragonfly

4:00 p.m. For the first half-mile, cottonwood trees all have inflorescences, but at picnic site 1, there is one with one inch leaves. Box Elders are leafing out and providing the beginnings of shade. Red ozier dogwoods have two inch leaves and now look like a true bush. The same occurs for Woods rosa. The first quarter-mile of the road begins to look like a green tube. The stream runs three inches over the top of the rocks that makes the pond at picnic site 5, but it is also three inches below its highest mark on the Zen Rock.

I see the first dragonfly of the season: a reddish-brown about three inches long; it is an immature Variegated Meadowhawk. In the canyon today, there are two examples of the White-lined sphinx moth. A Western tiger swallowtail (Papilio rutulus) swims by with its bright yellow wings flashing under the sunlight.

Bicyclists dominate the road. There are over forty in groups numbering between two to eight riders. They speed down the road, and although I am on the right-side of the road, one misses me with an emergency skid and tack maneuver.

* * * *

On May 2nd, 2008, the Utah Rivers Council plans to hold a clean-up of City Creek Canyon’s stream bed (Deseret News). On May 2nd, 2007, the Utah Rivers Council plans a stream clean-up in City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake Tribune). On May 2nd, 1910, A. B. Sawyer, owner of the Little Giant Mine in City Creek, sought a lease from the city to construct a boarding house for miners 12 miles up the canyon in order to work a mining claim (Salt Lake Herald, Salt Lake Telegram). On May 2nd, 1899, the City Creek Canyon water patrolman put out a fire caused by an abandoned camp fire (Salt Lake Tribune). On May 2nd, 1897, the Salt Lake Herald suggested City Creek Canyon as a site for May day picnics.

March 22, 2017

March 22nd

Filed under: Cottonwood tree, Dogwood, Light, Woods Rose — canopus56 @ 6:43 pm

This is Not the Natural Place. – Part III – City Land Acquisition

3:00 p.m. A spring storm brings rain to the canyon while I jog, and it stains the River birch trunks half soaked dark, half dry light. In the spring afternoons through May, low lying clouds back up against the Wasatch Front Mountain range, and slowly a thick bank of clouds builds over the valley and City Creek Canyon. As occurred today, then there is about twenty minutes of loud thunder and a cool, heavy rain. The clouds reduce their weight, this allows them to rise, and then they cross the high peaks. This is followed today by a special light. The remaining thin clouds and moisture filled air, backed by the sun, makes a diffuse light that is augmented by the Sun’s direct rays, and in this light details in the surrounding rocks and trees come alive. A single chickadee calls hidden in a thicket. At mile 0.4, I find first red-osier dogwood buds blooming and opening. Since I have found this tree as it is first opening, the buds are in various stages of development. One or two are in their closed winter state. Two small inner casing leaves surround a small circular mass, and two large outer casing leaves enclose the inner mass. The bud swells from within, and the outer casing starts to transform into green leaves. The inner leaves unfurl as miniature formed leaves. Many are fully opened, a light green central mass sits surrounded four points. The Wood’s rose open buds have developed further. Extending from the end of a twig, they are bilateral and each half has expanded into a five miniature leaves. Another bush uses and elevator technique to grow. The initial leafed bud rises on a stalk, and at its base, another set of leaves develop.

The first trees respond to the light. At Guardhouse Gate, a lavender blossomed plum tree stills on a hillside, out of place in the midst of grove of cottonwoods. A the low branches of a willow tree below picnic site 6 have turned a light green, and this indicates that sap is being pumped into the ends. The buds along the twigs at the ends of the branches have begun to open. Above picnic site 6, the first mountain cottonwood leaves appear. The older trees have not opened their buds, but the young suckers at their base have. The buds on one maple tree have opened. On the ground, parsley-like stalks rise everywhere, and on test tasting the smallest tip of one aromatic leaf, the plant is bitter and clearly toxic.

* * * *

In Thoreau’s “Journal” on March 22nd, 1853, he hears a woodpecker. On March 22nd, 1855, he captures a flying squirrel in its snag-tree nest, closely examines it, and then takes it home. On March 22nd 1860, he notes that in March, temperatures rise, snow melts, and frost appears on the ground. On March 22nd, 1861, he records a driving snow storm.

* * * *

After the creation of the Territory, the Territorial Legislature sought to clear title granted by the State of Deseret by requiring land claims to be submitted by 1854. Otherwise lands would revert to being open public domain (Hooten, 19). On June 12, 1872, Congress cleared title to land within Salt Lake City limits by Land Patent 710, and that patent included a grant of all “accrued” water rights. The City interpreted this as giving title to water flowing from the canyon to the City and not Young. Title to the land above Brigham Young’s Lion House farm remained unclear, and the matter was further complicated by railroad land grants. Section 3 of the Pacific Railroad Act of 1862 and subsequent expansions to the Act granted 10 square miles of land around each mile of track laid except in existing towns or cities. Thus, when the railroad came to Salt Lake City, City Creek was nominally open public land and title to much of the City Creek in the upper canyon vested in the Union Pacific Railroad. In 1883, the City negotiated the purchase of two square miles of City Creek from the railroad (Hooten, 29; Salt Lake Herald Dec. 12, 1883). On January 23rd, 1901, the Salt Lake Tribune reported that the City had received a proposal to purchase 240 acres of land in City Creek owned by an eastern bank. After a series of land purchases between 1907 through 1947 (Hooten, 29), the City presently holds title to 56% of the land in City Creek; the U.S. Forest Service owns 29%; and remainder is private lands principally down-canyon of approximately 0.7 miles above Bonneville Drive (Salt Lake City, 1999a at 51). On 2006, the City acquired 57 acres at the base of the west slope of the City Creek ridgeline, in part, to create a winter wildlife refuge that is contiguous with the canyon (Salt Lake City, 2010b). In 2016, the City acquired another 305 acres in and near City Creek, including 144 acres above Ensign Peak and another 160 acres on the ridgeline (Salt Lake Tribune, July 29, 2016). There are small unused mining inholdings at and around the abandoned Treasure Box Mine below Grandview Peak. (id).

* * * *

On March 22nd, 1898, the City Council refused to confirm John T. Caine as Waterworks Superintendent on the grounds that as the City’s former recorder, he is a political appointee of the Mayor with no expertise in engineering (Salt Lake Herald).

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 18, 2017

March 18th

Filed under: Arrowleaf balsamroot, red bridge, Seasons, Sounds, Stream, Woods Rose — canopus56 @ 7:24 pm

Modern Distractions

3:00 p.m. Only a few reminders remain of this morning’s 300 person St. Patrick’s Day scenic fun run from the Capitol and down City Creek Canyon below Bonneville Drive. Running and bicycling events are common in the modern canyon, and I estimate that there are about twenty held each year. Today’s eighty degree temperature is another record breaking high, and the canyon and its wildlife is in new uncharted terrain. The stream remains well below flood stage, but runs high and loud. All I can hear is the stream. The sounds of the few birds in the canyon are muffled under the stream’s white noise. On a whim, I decide to hike along part of the route of the 1880s water pipeline that runs along the south east wall of the canyon from the red bridge to the Morris Reservoir in the Avenues. There is no trail. There is just a path made by re-burying the water main, and at points along its route, the two-foot diameter iron pipe is exposed. Confusingly, this gravity feed water pipeline runs uphill to Morris Reservoir, although its intake pipe at the water treatment plant is higher than its low point at the red bridge. If gravity fed, pipeline must act as a four mile long siphon.

While hiking along the pipeline, I notice several Wood’s rose plants who, like the one I saw a few days ago near mile 0.2, have opened their buds and extended small leaves. Along this south-west facing sunny hillside, there are many broad leaf ground plants, including Arrowleaf balsamroot (Balsamorhiza sagittata Nutt.), have begun to poke up through the earth. Returning down-canyon, I examine dirt areas more closely, but only a stretch near mile 0.1 on the west side of the road shows similar growth by new ground cover plants. These are signs of the coming spring.

In Thoreau’s “Journal” on March 18th, 1853, he sees a blackbird and a song-sparrow, and on March 18th, 1855, a gull. March 18th, 1858, he records many song-sparrows. On March 18th, 1860, he notes skunk cabbage is in bloom.

I have almost reached my third full year of daily jogging in the canyon. During the first nine months, I ran with headphones and listening to music, and today, I estimate for runners more than half run with digital devices playing music, and for bicyclists, about one-third ride listening to music. After the first nine months, I came to feel that the music was a distraction from experiencing the canyon. In a 2014 study, University of Utah psychologist David Strayer, who regularly walks in City Creek Canyon, and his colleagues Ruth Ann and Paul Acthley of University of Kansas, published a study comparing the pre- and post-creativity scores of two small groups of women before and after four day nature hikes where digital devices were banned (Salt Lake Tribune, Dec. 14, 2012; Strayer 2012). Test scores in this small study supported new effects of the Attention Restoration Theory (ART) hypothesis. The ART hypothesis is that immersion in nature has a restorative effect on the brain’s depleted pre-frontal executive attention mechanisms. In obvious non-research terms, going outwards restores the soul and replenishes the body. No news there since Lord Byron invented the Grand European Tour to the Alps. But Strayer and colleagues’ small size study also found a new additional effect: immersion in nature is not just restful. Several days without technological devices increases creativity and problem-solving scores measured by a generally accepted psychological test by fifty percent. However, the study size is small and has not been replicated. Medical proof usually requires larger studies or many smaller studies that reproduce the original effect. Usually, I regard the results of one-off small-sample-size studies and their conclusions as provisional, and the results of such studies are are frequently found to be incorrect in follow-up research using larger sample sizes. But while jogging today, I happy to accept Strayer and the Acthleys’ findings, even if it may just be my ego’s confirmation bias seeking self-approval of my decision to ditch my music player. After two-years of running without music and, as today, listening to the sound of the stream, I see runners with cell phones strapped to their arms as disconnected from the canyon experience. But I am being haughty and judgmental.

On March 18th, 1996, Salt Lake City hydrologist Dan Schenck reported 64 inches of snow in upper City Creek Canyon, more than 130 percent of normal (Salt Lake Tribune).

October 26, 2016

October 26th

Filed under: Dogwood, Gambel's Oak, Horsetail, Light, People, Sea gull, Watercress, Woods Rose — canopus56 @ 4:04 pm

A Horse’s Tale

1:00 p.m. In the spring and summer, foliage obscures the stream and its banks, but now, with the leaves stripped away, the stream is visible. Low-angle shafts of late afternoon light strike into its depths and illuminate individual pools and rocks. The scouring rush horsetail dominates these dappled stream banks for the first five miles of the canyon. It shares the banks with western poison ivy, occasionally with wild watercress (Nasturtium officinale) and, further from the bank, with Wood’s Rose (Rosa woodsii) and the red-osier dogwood bush. These are surrounded and overshadowed by a variety of trees, some of which like the cottonwood reach 100 feet in height.

Horsetails are the sole survivor of Paleozoic forests that covered the Earth until the rise of flowering plants 250 million years ago. But how did the eighteen inch horsetail evolve into a 100 foot tall cottonwood tree? Here again, another “just-so” evolutionary story will have to suffice. In the canyon, the horsetails occupy the banks at the stream’s spring water line. In the spring, they are flooded, which is consistent with their evolutionary roots as a marsh plant. Thus, they do not need and do not issue deep roots. In the summer, their roots are just sufficient to reach the stream’s water table, but in years of drought, they must grow deeper. Drought fosters evolutionary selection that makes them grow larger and deeper. The larger they grow, the further their seed can spread away from water, and then their descendants must grow even larger to reach down to water. In years of extreme drought, the smaller predecessors may die off all together, leaving only their taller progeny. Over a hundred million years, one can see how this self re-enforcing loop can transform the horsetail into a giant narrowleaf Mountain cottonwood next to the stream or into a Gambel’s oak that drives deep roots and that survives on little water far from the stream.

It is an unusually warm day in the seventies. The leaves of the Wood’s Rose bushes near picnic site 1 have turned a brilliant red. Four sea gulls soar 800 feet above the canyon floor, and they are followed by a distant raptor. There are about twenty walkers and runners, some of who have taken their shirts off, and a group of about 40 first or second graders. To prevent the prisoners (I mean students) from escaping (I mean wandering off), each child is dressed in a bright red T-shirt. Their voices are loud and boisterous until I out-run and leave them behind on the road. But there is only one hunter car on this Wednesday, which is expected. Insects are present, and an array of six types spanning about 30 individuals is found in the first mile. Four blue dragonflies, probably Blue-eyed Darners, fly by at mile 0.6. Several injured grasshoppers are on the road, and they provide a meal for a flock of six Mexican scrub jays.

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