City Creek Nature Notes – Salt Lake City

October 7, 2017

Status of E-book Version

Filed under: Ebook, Uncategorized — canopus56 @ 5:22 pm

Several people asked for a version of this journal in e-book format. I am continuing editing and indexing of an e-book version. In book printed form, the journal would be between 300 and 350 pages. This has made proofing longer to accomplish than I had originally envisaged. I am on the fourth proof-reading pass. Then there are another 40 years of newspaper articles to review and add and two months of Thoreau daily digests to create. I will provide future updates as work progresses. I anticipate that it will take another three months before I am finished. Today’s featured images are a sample of the line art to be included in the e-book version.

Four Common Winter Birds
Common small winter birds: Upper Left – Mountain chickadee (Poecile gambeli) (Eye band). Upper right – Black-capped chickadee (Poecile atricapillus) (No eye band). Dark eyed junco (Junco hyemalis)(Black-hooded variant). Dark eyed junco (Junco hyemalis) (Gray-slate variant).

Utah Sweet Milkvetch
Utah sweet milkvetch (Hedysarum boreale)


August 21, 2017

Table of Lists

Filed under: Uncategorized — canopus56 @ 10:58 am

The table of lists is ordered date beginning with the estival season on June 15th. The referenced dates are in parentheses.

• Exemplar Trees at the University of Utah, Westminister College Emigration Creek Natural Area and Miscellaneous that Correspond to Trees in City City Creek Canyon (2017) (July 19th)

• Lichens (July 21st)

• Bird and Insect Nests Found in the First Two Miles of City Creek Canyon on December 1st-7th, 2016, supplemented December 23rd, 2016 (December 10th)

• Permanent and Intermittent Springs and Seeps Found in the First Mile of City Creek Canyon on January 20th, 2017. (January 20th)

• Common Native Plants by Habitat (March 5th)

• Non-Native Plants found in the Biologist Surveys (April 3rd)

• Biophilia Values (April 26th)

• 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 (May 4th)

• Common Spring Butterflies (May 10th)

• Possible Plant Hosts for Butterflies and Their Caterpillars in City City Creek Canyon (May 19th)

• Spring Birds in City Creek Canyon March through May, 2017 by Order and-or Family (N=54) (May 20th)

August 9, 2017

Table of Essays

Filed under: Other, Uncategorized — canopus56 @ 9:00 pm

About ninety daily entries contain mini-essays on historical events and scientific research related to City Creek Canyon generally or to the topic of the daily narrative, but the existence of these essays is not always apparent from the title of the daily narrative. This separate Table of Essays provides a supplemental table of contents for those materials grouped by subject.


• June 15th: What are the different definitions of the seasons in popular culture, astronomy and ecology?

• November 13th: Cross-quarter holidays occur when the speed of change in the length of the day is minimal.

• March 20th: What is the relative light energy that falls on the canyon on the winter solstice as compared to the other seasons of the year?

• May 13th: How did nearby supernovas and novae influence the evolution of life on Earth?

• May 13th: What is the orbital path of the Solar System through the Milky Way and through the local supercluster of galaxies over the next billion years?

Biology, generally

• November 12th: Trout have nearly 180 degree vision.

• December 10th: What bird and wasp nests are in the canyon?

• December 20th: How many cells are there in one meter rectangular parallelepiped between 4 kilometers below the surface of the Earth, including a human standing on the surface, and to 10 kilometers above the surface?

• December 21st: How do the number of cells in the human brain, the number of neural connections in the human brain, and the number of stars in the visible universe compare?

• March 23rd: How many earthworms live along the first mile of canyon road?


• July 1st: How do plants talk with each other and to insects in order to coordinate plants’ defenses against parasites and herbivores?

• July 2nd: Why do plants emit strong fragrances in the early spring but not in the summer?

• July 3rd: Part I – The Gambel’s oak forest in the canyon and surrounding the Salt Lake Valley are hybrids and are not pure oak stands. They are second generation crosses of Gambel’s oak ad Arizona shrub oak.

• July 4th: In the Salt Lake valley, there are rare hybrid first generation crosses between Gambel’s oak trees and Arizona shrub oak.

• July 5th: The Gambel’s oak forest consist of second generation hybrids of Gambel’s oak trees and Arizona shrub oak.

• July 17th: How do plants transport seeds uphill?

• July 19th: Cottonwood trees in the canyon are, like the Gambel’s oaks, also principally crossed hybrids.

• July 19th: What are the common trees in the canyon and where can example of those trees be found in the city?

• July 21st: What lichens can be found in the canyon?

• October 11th: When do deciduous trees, including Gambel’s oaks loose their leaves?

• October 19th: What edible plants exist in the canyon?

• November 3rd: What are the aerodynamics of helicoptering maple seeds?

• December 6th: Utah lichens cannot be used as an indicator for Salt Lake air pollution.

• February 10th and February 11th: What are characteristics and distribution of a Gambel’s oak tree?

• February 11th and February 12th: In the canyon, what are the hybrid crosses between the Gambel’s oak and Arizona scrub oak?

• February 13th, February 14th and May 9th: Since Gambel’s oaks reproduce asexually, are they essentially immortal like aspen trees?

• March 17th: What kills old, large-diameter Narrowleaf cottonwood trees in the canyon? How are large diameter trees important to the canyon’s ecology?

• May 5th and June 1st: When do various temperate forest tree species leaf-out in the spring during the spring?

• June 5th: Horsetail pollen has the ability to walk.

• June 8th: What percentage of animal species engage in metamorphosis during development?

• June 10th: When did invasive Cheat grass arrive in the Salt Lake foothills? Can the foothills be restored with native grasses?

• June 10th: Does the Fibonacci series appear in whirls of thistles and other plants in the canyon?


• June 23rd: What are the various habitats in the canyon by increasing altitude?

• June 24th: Since 1870, has the Gambel’s oak forest been increasing downslope along the canyon’s foothills?

• July 7th: During 1850 to the 1930, early Utah ranchers in the pursuit of eighty percent profit margins in cattle grazing, transformed Utah’s and the canyon’s native grasslands from native grasses to invasive Cheat grass. How that environmental disaster may have contributed to the passage of the 1964 Wilderness Act.

• December 22nd: What are the trophic ecological levels of the canyon?

• March 3rd to March 6th: What was the natural state of the canyon and Salt Lake valley prior to arrival of the Euro-American colonists in 1848?

• May 10th: How much animal dung do flies remove from the canyon? What is the mass of flies along the first mile of canyon road?


• June 19th: In a modern temperate forest, when did various plants and animals first appear in the geologic record?

• June 30th: Are plants defenseless or are they winning a 300 million year evolutionary war?

• November 5th: One-hundred and forty-five million years ago, how did flying insects and web spinning spiders co-evolve?

• May 30th: Did modern bird groups evolve before or after the KT extinction?

• May 31st: When did butterflies evolve?

• June 2nd: When did flowering plants and trees evolve?


• September 1st: What geologic faults exist in the canyon

• September 8th: What is the Grandview Peak landslide?

• December 24th: What is the geology of natural rock bridge at mile 0.9 and the Red Bridge?

• January 3rd: What is the geology of the canyon between Guardhouse Gate and the natural rock bridge at mile 0.9?

• January 5th: What caused one mile long landslide in the canyon at mile 1.5?

• January 6th: Where are the shorelines of ancient Lake Bonneville in the canyon?

• January 7th: How did the subduction of the Fallaron continental plate under the North American plate between 110 and 35 million years ago create the present day geography of the Great Basin, of Utah, and of the canyon? Where in the canyon are the volcanic breccia deposits from Utah’s volcanic era about 35 million years ago?

• January 9th: What are the geologic strata seen a cross-section of the Wasatch Front Mountain Range between City Creek Canyon on the north and Big Cottonwood Twin Peaks on the south?

• February 15th: What did the canyon look like 12,000 years ago in the Pleistocene and where humans present?

• February 21st: How much of the canyon’s surface consists of dust that fell from outer space? When jogging four miles, how many grams of space dust do you breath?

• March 2nd: What is the Anthropocene?

• March 19th: How City Creek stream transported about 1.5 billion tonnes of sediment (0.008 cubic miles) to the City’s delta over the last 11,000 years.

• May 14th: How did earthquake faults make City Creek Canyon in the north Salt Lake valley salient different from the south Salt Lake valley salient at Traverse Mountain?


• June 18th: How accurate was the first location of the Salt Lake Base Meridian marker? In 1879, How were the modern survey township and range section markers located?

• June 28th: How has the civil and social advancement of women reflected in changes in clothing of female bicyclists?

• July 24th: In 1871, how General Philippe Régis Denis de Keredern de Trobriand averted a massacre in the streets of Salt Lake City.

• July 12th: Do the Mormons have special religious or cultural values that are disposed to preserving nature?

• November 30th: How the Utes and Goshutes taught the Mormon colonists to survive by eating Sego lily roots and thistles.

• January 21st: How Salt Lake City tried and then missed the opportunity to have an Emerald Ring park found around many eastern United States cities.

• March 6th: In December 1848, the colonists form a committee of extermination that kills 3,374 mammals, birds and other wildlife in the valley.

• March 7th: What First Peoples where in the canyon and valley on the arrival of the Euro-American colonists in 1848? What major cultural factors determined the relationship between the Mormons and the valley’s Ute tribal members?

• March 8th: In January 1850, the colonists form a committee of extermination to kill the remaining 150 Ute Tumpanawach band First Peoples in the Salt Lake and Utah valleys. On February 13th, 1850, the colonists massacre those First Peoples at the Battle of Table Mountain, Utah in, what in modern terms, amounted to a war crime.

• March 9th: The economic miracle of the United States and of Utah between 1800 and the 1960s can be explained simply in terms of equity capitalization and not in terms of exceptional abilities.

• March 10th: Did City Creek have enough water to support the initial 5,000 Euro-American colonists of 1847?

• March 11th: When designing Salt Lake City, the Euro-American colonists of 1847 underestimated the flood cycles of City Creek Canyon.

• March 20th: What was the legal basis for Brigham Young’s control of the canyon from 1847 to the 1870s?

• March 21st to March 30th: How was City Creek Canyon exploited for its natural resources?

• March 28th: How did 14,000 deaths from typhoid fever in Salt Lake City during the late nineteenth century drive residents to protect City Creek Canyon as a natural area?

• April 1st: In the 1980s, the City adopts a master plan and zones City Creek Canyon as a protected natural and recreational area.

• April 4th: How did public and business interests fight for City Creek Canyon during the nineteenth and early twentieth century>?

• April 5th to April 7th: Will and how will the canyon be protected from development in the future?

• May 28th: How will Utah’s population change in the future?

• May 29th: When and how was Memory Grove Park constructed in the lower canyon as a memorial to Utah’s war dead?


• July 6th: There may as many as 310 million crickets in the canyon and in the city foothills.

• July 16th: From the 1850s to the early 1900s, the Intermountain West, Utah, and the canyon were subject to Rocky Mountain locust plagues of up to 3.5 trillion insects. Then the locusts mysteriously went extinct.

• May 7th: Butterflies also see in the ultra-violet spectrum.

• May 10th: What are common spring butterflies in the canyon?

• May 19th: What plants host which butterflies in the canyon?


• September 7th: Does Utah’s coyote bounty program increase automobile deaths by reducing coyote predation of deer?

• November 2nd: How do Western porcupine populations fluctuate?

• April 10th: The life-span of mammals is limited by a constant number of heart beats, about one billion for most mammals, but humans uniquely are allocated about 3 billion heartbeats.

• June 3rd: Why do Salt Lake County officials remove all the beavers from the canyon? What is Utah’s population of beavers?

Meteorology, Hydrology, and Climate

• July 18th: Why in the afternoon, the wind in City Creek Canyon blows the wrong way – downhill instead of uphill.

• July 21st: What glaciers existed in the past in the Salt Lake valley canyons, when did they retreat, and what do they tell us about Utah’s future climate?

• February 1st and February 2nd: What SNOTEL weather stations exist in the canyon and what is average annual snowfall in the canyon?

• February 6th: What is the stream flow of City Creek Canyon?

• February 7th: What is the Pacific Quasi-Decadal Oscillation and how does it affect the canyon’s and northern Utah’s weather?

• February 8th: When is the season of heaviest air pollution in the canyon and in Salt Lake City? How does Utah’s and United States’ air pollution levels relate to the de-industrialization of the United States and globalization of United States’ manufacturing capacity?

• February 9th: How has the canyon’s and northern Utah’s climate changed over the last 576 years based on tree ring studies?

• February 24th: What flood and drought cycles have occurred in the canyon and in Salt Lake City since 1847? How do those relate to increases in Salt Lake City’s population growth since 1847?

• February 26th: During air pollution inversions, PM 2.5 air pollution decreases fifty percent from the valley floor to higher elevations along the ridgeline above the Avenues and in the canyon.

• February 27th: Does living at higher altitude Intermountain cities increase the rate of depression as compared to sea level due to decreased air pressure?

• February 28th: Is global warming detectable in local weather station data?

• March 1st: Is the Pacific Quasi-Decadal Oscillation and its sister oscillation, the Atlantic Muti-Decadal Oscillation masking the effects of global climate warming on North American continent?

• March 12th: The downtown has been repeatedly flooded by high-snowpack and cloudbursts since 1847.

• March 13th: Between 1900 and the 1930s, cloudburst storms coupled with overgrazing at the headwaters of the canyons, caused torrential floods in northern Utah’s cities, including Salt Lake City.

• March 14th: What is the Advanced Hydrographic Prediction Service? How will future flooding from City Creek Canyon affect the City’s downtown district?

• March 19th: How City Creek stream transported about 1.5 billion tonnes of sediment (0.008 cubic miles) to the City’s delta over the last 11,000 years.

• April 4th: How does the jet stream over the canyon change over the seasons?

• April 14th: What causes the April to June wind storms in the canyon and in Salt Lake valley?

• May 16th: What is the physics of standing waves in mountain streams?

• May 26th: Will the Great Salt Lake evaporate to become a dry bed and how does this relate to the future of Utah’s migratory bird populations?

• May 26th and May 27th: What studies have modeled the present level and future levels of the Great Salt Lake? What factors will change the lake’s future levels?

• June 1st: How will the United States’ withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement impact future bird populations?

• June 4th: What is the volume of underground water stored in the Salt Lake salient?


• July 16th: Do birds sing in regional dialects?

• January 14th: How birds sing at frequencies designed to best penetrate sound absorbing leaves.

• May 6th and May 20th: What are the spring birds in the canyon?

• May 6th: How do birds see their iridescent refraction of their feathers in the ultra-violet spectrum? The view that humans see of birds is not what they see of each other.

• May 15th: How many nesting Peregrine falcons are there in Utah?

• May 20th: How has the diversity of birds in the canyon changed since the nineteenth century?

• May 21st: Are populations of Utah migratory and resident birds increasing or decreasing?

• May 22nd: Are regional populations of migratory and resident birds increasing or decreasing?

• May 23rd: Are continental populations of migratory and resident birds increasing or decreasing?

• May 24th: What are the birds of concern in the canyon?

• May 26th: Will the Great Salt Lake evaporate to become a dry bed and how does this relate to the future of Utah’s migratory bird populations?

Philosophy and Nature Experience

• July 13th: Why Henry Thoreau and Wallace Stegner believed that nature needed to be preserved in order to protect our souls and sanity.

• March 18th: How does experiencing nature without digital devices restore the mind’s attention and executive functions? What is Attention Restoration Theory (ART).

• April 8th: How has changing views of competition vs. cooperation changed the United States economy since the early twentieth century?

• April 16th: Does modern technology hinder or enhance our appreciation of nature?

• April 19th to April 22nd: What is the scientific evidence that love and experience of nature an inherent, biological human need?

• April 23rd to April 25th: What is the scientific evidence that experiencing nature and the outdoors restores the body, restores the mind’s executive functions, reduces stress, and reduces crime?

• April 26th: What values do humans express when relating to nature?

• April 27th: How should expert studies citing statistical evidence be rated?

• April 27th: Should preservation of nature be predicated on an inherent, biological need for nature or on simple political will?

• June 6th: How causation is proved in experiments using the logic principles of sufficiency and necessity.

• June 13th: What do nineteenth and early twentieth century maps tell us about what Salt Lake City residents felt about City Creek Canyon?

June 25, 2017

June 24th Revision 2

Filed under: Gambel's Oak, Uncategorized — canopus56 @ 10:57 pm

The Oak Forest Over Time

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Composite images of lower City Creek and Ensign Peak oak forest in 1912 and 2017 (Fisher 2017, Shipler 1912 taken near 9th Avenue and A Street).

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Composite images of Dry Fork Canyon mouth in 1958 and 2017 (Drobnick 1958, Fisher 2017 taken near North Campus Drive and Mario Capecchi Drive, west of Primary Children’s Medical Center; Drobnick image is modified).

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Composite images of George’s Hollow in 1958 and 2017 (Drobnick 1958; Fisher 2017, taken from This is the Place Park; Drobnick image is modified).

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Composite images of the mouth of Deaf Smith Hollow’s mouth taken by Fisher 2017 at 9155 South 3100 East) compared to Rogers’ 1977 image (Rogers 1982, Plate 45B) and Gilbert’s 1901 image (Rogers 1982, Plate 45A; taken near SE half, Sec. 2, T3S, R1E, SLBM, near 9788 Wasatch Boulevard).

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Composite images of Landsat Images, 1985 and 2017 (NASA, 1985 and 2017).

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Trend in Acres Burned in Utah Wildfires, 1960-2012. (Utah Dept. of Agriculture and Food 2013 at 8).

11:30 a.m. I am standing at the corner of 11th Avenue and Bonneville Drive where the road turns north above the lower canyon that leads to Guardhouse Gate. The Gambel’s oak forest is visible on the distant hillsides around Ensign Peak. Across the almost forty years that I have lived near the canyon, I have had the subconscious impression that the Gambel oak chaparral forest is expanding on the southern half of the Salt Lake salient hillsides that overlook the city and on the slopes that face the canyon. I take a photograph of the Gambel’s oak forest around the Ensign Peak area and begin looking for historical comparison photographs.

Trees are unique among modern urbanite relationships with nature because of their longevity (Jonnes 2016). Our dogs share our lives for at most fourteen years, elephants in our zoos live to be forty, our life-long friends begin to pass and disappear in our sixties, and only a few zoo animals, like a giant tortoise in my boyhood Cleveland zoo will outlive me at 100 years of age. In our ordinary daily lives, only trees share our longevity. Using modern internet based maps, I am able to view near real time images of homes that I have lived in the past, and I look at images of a home where, as a boy, I helped my father plant four sapling oak trees. The first summer, I used to a broom to save them from an infestation of Eastern tent caterpillar moths. Now they have grown to a strong maturity of fifty feet in height. I wonder how the Gambel’s oak chaparral forest that has surrounded me over the last forty years has changed.

* * * *

Per Thoreau’s “Journal” on June 24th, 1852, he observes clouds and describes the virtues of watching clouds. He smells fragrances blowing off a meadow, and notes that twin flower (Linnaea borealis) is past its peak bloom. On June 24th, 1853, he notes that birds use hair to line their nests. On June 24, 1856+, he notes that the surface of springs are covered with dust and insects. On June 24, 1857, he examines a screech owl nest. On June 24, 1860, he sees young bluebirds.

* * * *

How has the Gambel’s oak forest changed over the last one-hundred years along the eastern face of the Wasatch Front Mountain range that rings Salt Lake Valley? Is it advancing or retreating in response to the high snow years between 1900 and 1990? Is it retreating in response to the now nearly multi-decadal drought from 1997 to the present? In 1949, Christensen examined the distribution of Gambel’s oak forests along the Wasatch Front, and he concluded that the oak forests had in some local instances proliferated since the arrival of the Euro-American colonists (id. at 64). He found increases in maples on the Oquirrh Mountains on the west side of Salt Lake valley. In a 1957, he found that oaks on the BYU “Y” mountain were expanding downslope in a manner similar to that later seen by Rogers in the 1980s (Christensen 1957). Generally, Christensen concluded that most of the increases occurred after 1900 (Rogers, 19). In 1982, Rogers at Columbia University re-examined the question in light of the then developing question of climate change. He compared 49 historical images with some 400 contemporary matching photographs. Based on images hillsides near Tooele and west of Lone Peak, Rogers concluded that both Big Tooth maples and Gambel’s oaks were expanding at selected locations (Rogers, p. 136 and Plates 43, 45, and 46). The oak chaparral forest is expanding at a rate of about 4 inches per year and was also thickening in place (Rogers 1982 at 19 and 132; Christensen 1964, 1957 and 1949). 4 inches per year implies a potential oak forest advance of 33 feet every 100 years.

Working geographically from the north end of the Salt Lake valley to the south, I created some “then and now” images of Wasatch Mountain Front Range slopes covering a range of 116 years. In 1912, local commercial photograph Harry Shipler took an image of City Creek Canyon near the corner of 9th Avenue and A Street (Shipler 1912). A comparison of Shipler’s photograph with one taken by me in July 2017 shows fill-in in lower City Creek Canyon, in the gulch to the northeast of Ensign Peak, and in the gulch that contains Bonneville Shoreline trail (far upper right hand corner of the image).

In 1958, botany graduate student Rudy Drobnick surveyed locations of Gambel’s oaks in northern and central Utah (Drobnick 1958 at Plates 2 and 3). He took images of the mouth of Dry Fork Canyon behind and before the construction of the University Hospital and of George’s Hollow below Wire Mountain to the west of the current Natural History Museum and state arboretum at Red Butte Gardens. Comparison of Drobnick’s 1958 and my 2017 images of Dry Fork shows some thickening of the oak forest at the left center (see images North Campus Drive and Mario Capecchi Drive). An oak copse in the foreground of the 1958 image, that is obscured in the 2017 image, also thickened. In contrast, comparison of Drobnick’s 1958 and my 2017 image of George’s Hollow shows a retreat of the oak chaparral forest (see image taken from This is the Place Park, west of the main statuary monument). A local informant states that the retreat of the oak groves in George’s Hollow was the result of a fire sometime between 1980 and 2010. This was also my recollection, but I could not find a confirming newspaper account.

Moving further south to Deaf Smith Canyon between Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons, I updated some of the prior historical photographic matches done by University of Utah graduate student Gary Rogers (1982) (later at Columbia University), and I created some new “then and now” images. Rogers compared historical images taken by Grove Karl Gilbert during 1901 of many locations throughout Utah, including of Deaf Smith Canyon above the Kings Hill Subdivision and between Little and Big Cottonwood Canyons. Gilbert’s image was taken near the Grove Karl Gilbert Geologic Memorial Park south of Little Cottonwood Canyon’s mouth (9788 Wasatch Boulevard, Sandy). Gilbert authored a landmark geologic 1890 report on ancient Lake Bonneville, and he named Lake Bonneville after early Utah explorer B. L. E. de Bonneville (Gilbert 1890). Gilbert accompanied John Wesley Powell during his western surveys from 1874 to 1879, and worked for many years as a researcher under Powell, the second director of the United States Geological Survey. In 1982 by comparing his 1977 and Gilbert’s 1901 photographs, Roger’s concluded that there was some localized thickening of oak chaparral forest around the entrance Deaf Smith Canyon. This trend continues through a comparison image taken in July 2017 that combines my, Rogers’ and Gilbert’s images. Localized thickening is seen in the two areas marked with boxes in the Gilbert image.

On a larger scale, comparison of a 1985 and 2015 Landsat images of the Salt Lake Valley shows no definitive changes on the oak forest between Ensign Peak on the north and Parley’s Canyon on the south (image). Given the rate of potential growth of 4 inches per year, the resolution of Landsat images is insufficient to capture changes in the Gambel’s oak forest except for large wildfire burns.

Both advancing and retreating changes are seen over the last one-hundred years in Gambel’s oak chaparral forest of the Wasatch Front Mountain Range around the Salt Lake Valley, but the changes are localized. An increase of 33 feet in one-hundred years is generally not seen, but it did occur in lower City Creek Canyon where increased ground water percolation from the lawns of new homes constructed above the canyon provided an opportunity for expansion. That expansion is also seen in one area at the mouth of Dry Fork (2017 image, marked with box).

How will the forest change in the future? Rogers noted that most changes occurred after the 1940s (Rogers, 136). Rogers speculated, while calling for further research, that the cause of the expansion of Big Tooth maples and Gambel’s oaks was increased precipitation (Rogers, 136-137). Although difficult to show with certainty, Rogers felt that improved fire suppression by modern Utahans was not the cause of the increase. The rate of fires after 1900 had been constant despite a ten-fold increase in fire suppression funding (id. at 140). In theory, the cycle of fire followed by rapid cheat grass invasion should slowly erode the boundaries of the existing oak forest. Rogers’ offered the tentative explanation that extreme cold weather in the late nineteenth century may have overwhelmed the negative effects of overgrazing and fire, and colder weather allowed the oak forest and maples to expand (Rogers, 138-139).

Rogers’ 1982 hypothesis is consistent with later, recent tree ring studies in the Intermountain West that reconstructed a 576 year precipitation record for Rocky Mountains, including Utah (Bekker et al 2014, DeRose et al, Wang et al; see January 30th and February 9th). From the tree rings, Bekker et al found that persistent, severe droughts were far more prevalent in the distant past than in the 150 years of Euro-American presence in northern Utah. The local advances of Big Tooth maples and Gambel’s oaks may have been a long-term, delayed response to more frequent rain and snow. However, in 1984 and shortly after Rogers published his results, the number of acres annually burning in Utah began an upward trend that continues to today (Utah Department of Agriculture and Food 2013 at 8).

If global warming is considered, available modeling studies suggest the Gambel’s oak forest will retreat. Shafer and Bartlein at the University of Oregon and Thompson at the United States Geological Survey used global climate models to estimate, among other factors, the mean temperature of the coldest month and soil moisture index for 2090 (Shafer, Bartlein and Thompson 2001). Those constraints were compared to requirements for many plants in the Intermountain west. In their extreme scenarios that looked forward almost ninety years, they concluded, for example, that sagebrush would disappear from most of Utah, Idaho and Wyoming and would migrate north to Canada. Given the extreme nature of their scenario and time horizon, in 2007 McKenney et al at the Canadian Forest Service prepared an updated, an more refined climate envelope analysis for 130 North American tree species through 2070 (McKenney et al 2007). Under the modeling assumptions that carbon dioxide would increase and trees migrate into newly created favorable climate zones to the north, they concluded that the 130 tree species would shift northward an average of 700 kilometers and their favorable climate areas would decrease in size by 12 percent (ranging from a 93 percent decrease to a 44 percent increase depending on the species). McKenney et al noted that limitations of their method did not mean that broad regions of the United States would become treeless. In his massive review of current research on the Holocene environment of the Great Basin region over the last 13,000 years, Quaternary environment researcher Grayson at the University of Washington concluded that climate predictions are highly uncertain whether one uses reconstruction of past Great Basin in the which the climate was warmer than today, as he did, or whether one uses climate models, as Shafer et al did (Grayson 2011, Chap. 10).

Ignoring global warming and the issue of whether climate change is human-induced, if the local Utah climate regresses the historical mean, will future generations see the oak forests of the local Salt Lake hillsides retreat back up canyon?

* * * *

On June 24th, 1994, in a historical piece for the Salt Lake Tribune, Jack Goodman concluded that the “Lone Cedar” tree at 300 South 500 East was probably a pinyon pine.

June 23, 2017

June 18th

Filed under: Astronomy, Creek's Delta, Uncategorized — canopus56 @ 8:17 am

Meridian Monument and the Survey Land Boat of 1897

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Schematic of Eimbeck’s 1897 land sled for surveying the Salt Lake valley (Eimbeck 1897).

5:00 p.m. When Euro-American colonized new lands in the West, how did they establish their systems of real property ownership which required accurate land surveys? Today, I visit the southeast corner of the Mormon Temple grounds in the delta of City Creek Canyon. There a three-foot tall sandstone obelisk bearing the word “Meridian” stands along with a nearby bronze plaque placed by the Mutual Improvement Association of the Church of Latter Day Saints. This monument is central to the convoluted story of how the official land survey of the Salt Lake valley occurred. This monument on the canyon’s delta played a central role in Utah’s history and in Mormon mythology.

The historical plaque suggests that the obelisk is a replacement for an original marker put there by Mormon pioneer and church leader Orson Pratt in 1847. The 1932 plaque lists its position as Latitude 40°47.747′ N, Longitude 111°52.541′ W. But Pratt’s marker was at the northeast corner of the Temple grounds and it was used by the initial Mormon government of Utah to survey provisional city lots before the completion of an official United States Coastal Survey monument and the 1868 opening of a United States Land Office in Utah (see March 25th). In the 1930s and as is still sometimes heard today, the Mormon Relief Society claimed that the accuracy of Pratt’s determination of the location of the base and range meridian monument was divinely inspired. In 1855, United States Coastal Surveyor David H. Burr established the official sandstone marker at the southeast corner, and it was only a few hundred feet away from Pratt’s marker at the northeast corner. My modern GPS locator, which uses a modern but different coordinate geodetic system, puts Latitude 40°47.747′ N, Longitude 111°52.541′ W about one-half mile away from the sandstone monument. The myth goes that Pratt, a mathematician and astronomer, traveled with the 1847 advance party carrying a then state-of-art Dolland six inch refractor telescope, a mis-calibrated chronometer, and a self-made mileage meter attached to his wagon. Despite traveling over 1,000 miles over uneven prairie and mountains, Pratt was able to determine his position with high accuracy relative to Burr’s subsequent sandstone monument (Y.L.N.M.I. Assoc., 1900 at 343 “only a few feet short”; Giles Letter, Oct. 2nd, 1949, “misinformation in the minds of some of the guides on Temple Square”). This location of the sandstone monument is culturally tied to the adjacent Mormon Temple. The Temple has high significance in the Mormon religion as the physical Temple is viewed by members as the visible base of a celestial temple that extends upwards to heaven. Thus, Pratt’s high accuracy measurement of the temple’s location supports feelings that the Salt Lake Temple’s location is divinely ordained.

A loosefleaf folder in the archives of the University of Utah provides another interpretation (copy in possession of author). Bancroft’s “History of Utah” reports that Pratt originally measured the baseline and range meridian at 40°45’44” N, 111°26’34” W (Bancroft 1890). Pratt’s survey station was not at the existing monument at the southeast corner of the station, but rather his station was at the northeast corner of the Temple. An anonymous memorandum in the Pratt telescope file, reduces the position of Pratt’s station and the position of the 1855 United States survey marker, and concludes that Pratt’s position estimate was off by “0.26” [arcseconds] in latitude, equivalent to approximately 2630 feet, or 1/2 mile, and 27′ 26″ in longitude, equivalent to about 126,210 feet, or 23 9/10 miles” (id). The accuracy of Pratt’s latitude estimate was excellent given his high-quality Dolland refractor and that latitude is amenable determination from a telescope and star chart alone. The accuracy of his longitude measurement, although off by 23 miles, was also excellent for the 1800s. Highly accurate longitude measurement required the arrival of a telegraph wire to Utah through which the relative time of a star transiting directly over the Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C. and Utah could be determined electronically. The first transcontinental telegram transmission in Utah occurred on October 18, 1861. The United States Coast Survey did not begin to experiment with telegraphic determination of longitude until 1865 (Gould, 1865).

Burr’s 1855 sandstone monument would play a further key role in Utah’s Territorial history. The early Mormon settlers, having originally moved to unallocated lands of the United States in 1847, were understandably concerned that the United States Land Office that issued official federal deeds to homesteads on federal territorial lands would not recognize deeds issued by the Mormon’s unofficial State of Deseret prior to the Utah Territory Organic Act of 1850. The pioneers’ concerns were eventually borne out when the Federal Land Office opened with the arrival of the transcontinental railroad in 1868 (March 25th). The settlers were required to repurchase their lands a second time from the federal government (id). Thus, when United States surveyor Burr arrived in 1855, local government and its citizens were resistant to Burr’s efforts to survey the valley (White, 1983). In 1855, Brigham Young and the Utah Territorial Legislature had not obtained a commitment from the federal government to recognize the pre-1850 church deeds.

Although Burr attempted to execute his official duties, on August 30, 1856, he reported by letter that one of his survey contractors had been beaten by William Hickman, a member of the Mormon “Danite Angels”, and three other men (Burr Letter, August, 30th, 1856, in White at 316). The Danite Angels where known as a extra-judicial gang who worked at the direction of Brigham Young, and statements made by Hickman to Burr indicated that the beating occurred at the request of high church officials (Burr Letter). After further threats (White, 317-319) Burr fled Utah in 1857, and subsequently, this and other events lead President James Buchanan to proclaim Utah in open rebellion against the United States government on April 6, 1858 (Proclamation at White, 319-320). (White also reviews the many disputes regarding the veracity of Burr’s claims.) In part as a result of Burr’s allegations, in 1857, Johnston’s army was then sent by the United States from the east to occupy the territory and to quell with Utah Rebellion. Following resolution of the Utah Rebellion, the technological development of determining longitude with telegraphy and the arrival of the transcontinental railroad spurred further federal land surveys in Utah.

In 1869, George W. Dean and F. H. Agnew of the United States Coastal Survey were sent to establish the official latitude and longitude of the Salt Lake Base Meridian. Two stations used in making his official estimate of the location of the initial point were buried underneath the sidewalk about 117 feet northwest of the Burr sandstone marker under temple granite (White, 329). Those measuring stations were again moved after the 1893 completion of the Mormon Temple blocked necessary sight lines (White, 330). The present official location of the meridian and initial point for the purposes of surveying in Salt Lake City is Dean marker. To confuse matters further, Professor Orson Pratt continued to use his observatory to the northwest of the sandstone monument and inside the Temple grounds walls to make daily measurements of local noon. Those measurements set the official time for the state through 1897. Thus, over time some residents came to mistakenly believe that monuments setting the position of Pratt’s observatory were an earlier official initial point of the the Salt Lake Baseline and Meridian (Giles Letter). White also clarifies that the official meridian for land surveys covering larger regions of public lands in Utah is about 55 feet away and parallel to Dean’s meridian (White, 330). Conversely, the Salt Lake County Surveyor’s Office online information system shows the Dean marker as the corner point for Salt Lake County surveys (Salt Lake County Surveyor 2017). That marker was last relocated in May 2000 (id).

In 1871, the Hayden U.S.G.S. survey expedition came through Utah, and one of Hayden’s task was surveying lands granted to the transcontinental railroads. He was not concerned with surveying Utah. Local peaks such as O’Sullivan Peak on the Big and Little Cottonwood Canyon divide in Salt Lake County commemorate the early Utah photographic work of Timothy H. O’Sullivan, the expedition’s photographer. His early Utah pictures taken on glass plates under seemingly impossible conditions are legendary (see Utah Division of State History, 2017, Link). My favorite of his images is of the upper cirque below Lone Peak at the south end of Salt Lake Valley. Lone Peak, at 12,000 feet above sea level and 6,700 feet in altitude above the valley floor, can be seen from the canyon mouth, my home, and from all other locations in the valley. To the valley, the Peak presents a wall of granite columns, but these protect a glacial “U” shaped upper cirque the size of four football fields. In modern times, hiking Lone Peak involves an hour drive to the south end of the valley, and then an all day 12 hour hike through scrub forests and steep forty degree lower slopes with poor intermittent trails. In the 1870s, O’Sullivan would have taken a day to travel from the city to the south valley trail. Then he would have forced burros carrying several hundred pounds of photographic equipment with glass plates through the impenetrable, trail-less scrub oak. His photographic outing must have taken days to complete. Being a machine age modern, how he returned his exposed glass plates unbroken back to the valley floor seems superhuman. This is the stuff of real western legend and not some pale tale of provado and gun battles.

Kings and Hayden Peaks in the Unitas commemorates Clarence King and geologist Ferdinand V. Hayden, the other co-leaders of the expedition. Wheeler Peak in Nevada commemorates the expedition’s fourth leader, George Wheeler. In 1878, the office of the United States Coastal Survey was renamed the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey, and in 1896, Utah was admitted to the Union as a State. In 1897, William Eimbeck of the U.S.C. and G.S. completed his official land survey of north western Utah and laid official township and range markers for the Salt Lake Valley based on the Salt Lake Baseline and Meridian initial point (Eimbeck 1897).

With respect to his second task of surveying the Salt Lake valley in detail, Eimbeck was stymied by the many agricultural ditches that had been dug across the valley. Setting up and moving survey instruments by the usual method of horseback proved unworkable as horses could not cross the deep irrigation ditches. His innovative solution was to build a 56 foot long land boat or sled with catamarans and a central steel keel on which survey instruments could be mounted. Donkeys or horses then easily dragged the boat north an south along the valley and over any ditch obstacles (Eimbeck, Fig. 3, p. 768a). When a new measurement point was reached, metal stilts were ratcheted down, and the entire platform raised into the air and leveled. By this means, the corner monuments for each township and section in the Salt Lake valley were accurately laid.

* * * *

Per Thoreau’s “Journal” on June 18th, 1852, he examines the construction of a hornet’s nest. He observes loosestrife and St. John’s Wort are blooming. On June 18th, 1853, he lists morning song birds: robin, chip-bird, blackbird, and martin. He finds a large toadstool, and notes that eglantine and sweetbrier are blossoming. On a night walk with a near full Moon, he hears whippoorwills and notes that white flowers can be seen by moonlight. On June 18th, 1855, he notes that late season grasses are beginning to flower. On June 18th, 1859, he describes raindrops falling on the surface of the water before, during and after a storm. He sees swarms of gnats.

* * * *

On June 18th, 2003, the City announced its annual prohibition against fireworks north of 11th Avenue and in City Creek Canyon (Deseret News). On June 18th, 2011, Lowell Bodily, Salt Lake Valley Health Department, estimates that there are 3,000 homeless tent camps in Salt Lake Valley, and the Department finds about 15 to 20 camps in City Creek Canyon each year (Salt Lake Tribune). On June 18th, 1995, the City began work on converting the greenbelt at 2nd Avenue and Canyon Road into a park with faux City Creek (Salt Lake Tribune). On June 18th, 1992, Jack Quintana, a groundskeeper at the State Capitol notes that there an explosion of rock squirrels at the State Capitol, and he notes they their population varies on a nine-year cycle (Salt Lake Tribune). The adjacent City Creek Canyon is primary breeding habitat for the squirrels. On June 18th, 1930, William Monson, a smoker who started a fire near City Creek Canyon was fined $5 USD (Salt Lake Telegram). On June 18th, 1900, more than 12 cattle, bearing the Circle-9 brand, were impounded for illegally grazing in City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake Tribune).

March 24, 2017

March 24th

This is Not the Natural Place. – Part V – Timber Harvesting

2:00 p.m. Spring returns with today’s bright warming sunshine and temperatures regain half yesterday’s the thirty degree drop. Last night’s rain has washed away the carcasses of yesterday’s earthworm explosion. The creek still runs high, and between the stream’s loud white noise, the sun’s warmth, and my own feelings of exhaustion, I am compelled to rest. I find a place next to the stream in the Sun, and fall in a meditative mood, and meld into the moment. Yesterday’s two inches of freezing rainfall, although small by eastern standards, sets a new Salt Lake City precipitation record. March has turned out like February’s unusual weather: record setting warm temperatures for the first few weeks, followed by catch-up rain and snow that regresses to a nearly average year. After the freezing rain, again, the return of insects resets. There are one or two tentative White cabbage and Painted Lady butterflies, and a few stoneflies and gnats reappear.

For plants, the snow, which has now melted except on Black Mountain, stunts the grow of the Wood’s roses for a day. But other trees bloom. A red-osier dogwoods higher up the canyon blooms, and below picnic site 6, the first Box Elder tree blooms at its highest top branches. Further down canyon cultivars bloom. A new tree’s buds open with leaves are covered with small hairs, and more searching finds one that has a desiccated apple attached. These are crabapple trees (Nov. 19th). Their distinctive leaves allows me to do a census: including one tree below Guardhouse gate an two at the up-canyon end of Pleasant Valley, there are five apple trees in the first 1.5 canyon miles. Another new blooming tree has a deep purple ovary at the bud’s center. High in the trees near picnic site 6, migrant song birds sing, but frustratingly, I am unable to see them with my monocular.

* * * *

In Thoreau’s “Journal” on March 24, 1855, he records a rock slide and describes how rivers erode hills. He summarizes the signs of spring: maple sap, willow and alder catkins, grass on south banks, cowslip, and maple buds. On March 24th, 1858, he hears song birds and sees a flock of twenty shore larks.

* * * *

Early immigrant John Miller described lumber harvesting in City Creek, an activity done during the winter, principally for the purpose of selling or using timber as firewood:

In the first place, Brigham Young laid claim to the entire canyon. There were two gates through which all must pass to enter the domain. One was the Eagle Gate and the other was at the mouth of the canyon . . . There was a gate-keeper at the inner gate and he took one-third of every load of wood that came down out of the canyon. This was Brigham Young’s toll. . . . .

Brigham Young had a great wood yard just inside the inner gate, with a circular saw run by the waters of City creek. There the toll wood was cut up into stove lengths and after that it was distributed among the president’s numerous wives . . . .

There [the logs] where taken by teamsters, and hauled to the city after paying Brigham Young toll at the gates. . . . .

After cutting down a tree, we would cut it into lengths of ten or twelve feet. Then we would point one end of it and start it down the hill on the snow. It would go down like a streak of lightening . . . There were forty of us working up in the mountains, and each one would put a private mark on his logs to enable him to settle with the teamsters below. (Salt Lake Tribune, 1903, Apr 5).

* * * *

In a March 24th, 2004 letter to the editors of the Salt Lake Tribune, Salt Lake City resident Jay S. Bachman argues in favor of banning cougar hunting in City Creek Canyon. On March 24, 1900, the City Council directed the Police Department to provide prisoners to work on creating a boulevard up City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake Tribune).

November 5, 2016

November 5th

Filed under: Orb Weaver Spider, Uncategorized — canopus56 @ 9:21 pm

A Cat’s Face on the Road

4:30 p.m. Along the road at mile 0.4, a Halloween phantasmic is crawling across the road: a spider with yellow-orange orb-shaped shell on its back that is suggestive of a cat’s face. It is a female Cat’s face orb weaver (Araneus gemmoides). My insect guide states that they are commonly seen in late October as they migrate seeking a place to hibernate for the winter. This common western orb spider looks like a crab, and a mark of its primitive evolutionary history are the hairs that cover its leg. The cat’s face spider weaves a circular web that is held in place by radial scaffolding. In the canyon, webs of the orb spider can be seen during the summer strung between thistles below the red bridge near mile 0.9. Although harmless to people, they are a fearsome predator of flying insects that feeds on wasps and bees captured in its web.

In 2007, evolutionary biologists Vollrath at Oxford and Selden at Kansas University suggested an alternative theory that predatory spiders like the orb weaver were a driving force in the evolution of flying insects because spiders and flying insects began to exponentially diversify into many new species before the arrival of flowering plants. The current generally accepted theory is that flowering plants, which began to dominate forests about 145 million years ago, were the primary driver of the evolution of wasps and bees. Ants evolved into flying insects in order to exploit a new food source: the nectar of flowering plants. According to the new theory proposed by Vollrath and Selden, the oldest spiders were ground dwelling when they first learned to spin webs, as some spiders in the canyon still do today. In response, ants sprouted wings, learned to fly, and evolved into wasps in order to avoid the horizontal webs of ground spiders. Orb spiders responded by chasing the wasps into the sky. They learned to climb thistles and other plants and to weave their vertically placed webs. Later the wasps co-evolved into bees. Vollrath and Selden acknowledge that this is an evolutionary “just so” story. Spider webs are ephemeral objects that disappear after a few days and they are not preserved in fossils. The record in the rocks is too sparse to know when the first spiders began to spin ground webs or when they took to spinning vertical webs strung between plants.

October 21, 2016

October 20th

Filed under: Mule Deer, People, Uncategorized — canopus56 @ 2:57 am

Smart Deer

7:00 p.m. The road is empty in the near darkness except for three groups of six camouflaged bow hunters. The bow hunting season started on September 15th, and since September, I have seen a total of two bow hunters. Now it is two days to the start of the rifle hunt deer season, and the bow hunters are out in force. There are maybe four deer in the 20 square miles of the canyon, so the bow and rifle hunters mostly only “take” exercise and not deer. Somehow, mule deer and elk have an accurate internal calendar that tells them when the rifle hunting seasons will start, and they disappear (see Oct. 18th) from anywhere close to the road exactly on the day before any hunters arrive.

September 28, 2016

September 28th

Filed under: Insects, Meadow Mile 1.3, People, Places, Pleasant Valley, Sunflower, Uncategorized, Wasp — canopus56 @ 8:00 pm

Iridescent Wasps

2:00 p.m. The last of the sunflowers in Pleasant Valley are giving out, and a just a few remain at the natural gas check-value in Pleasant Valley at mile 1.3 across from picnic site 11. I check them for pollinators. One is surrounded by a swarm of about 10 micro wasps. They are less than one-quarter of an inch long and are steely dark blue green. Their thoraxes and heads are iridescent, and their wings are brown-black. They are definitely not flys, as they have discernible stingers. They are not the same micro-wasps seen back on August 9th. Those had yellow banding on their thoraxes while these are completely black. I am unable to identify these wasps, nor have I seen them before in the canyon.

In the canyon on this warm fall afternoon, there are two groups, lead by graduate teaching assistants, of university biology seniors studying plant systematics (University of Utah BIO 5435). They carefully go through each plant along the roadside and discuss its scientific name. These are the real current and future experts on classifying life in the canyon.

Late in the evening, another storm front moves in, and a cold rain falls.

September 27th

Filed under: Bald-Faced Hornets, Insects, Picnic site 9, Uncategorized, wasps — canopus56 @ 1:21 am

Some Hornets Tell a Bald-Faced Lie

2:00 p.m. Identifying insects is tough for an amateur. I always struggle with it. There are so many types of species and so many varieties of each insect, and for bees and wasps, each species may also look different depending on their role as queen, solider, or worker. No one book or online database can cover them all, and this makes classifying an insect seen in the canyon a difficult and time-consuming task. As an example, there is a wasp nest at mile 1.2, picnic site 9 (see September 16th) and, it is populated by a jet-black wasp with a yellow-tipped abdomen (see August 20th). Hornets are wasps that live in large social communities, that is in nests. The nest at picnic site 9 appears to have been built by Bald-faced Hornets (Vespula maculata). After standing in front of the nest with my monocular fixed on the nest entrance for a few minutes, I am able to see the characteristic white face markings of its inhabitants that classify this as a nest of Bald-faced hornets.

I still am unsure if these are the same wasps that I saw on August 20th. Those had yellow tips, but were jet-black and did not have the characteristic white markings found on the face of the Bald-faced Hornet. Were those earlier wasps just an immature phase of or a special worker class of the Bald-faced Hornet, or were they a completely different wasp specie? There are jet-black wasps such as cricket hunter wasps, and the meadow at mile 1.3 is full of crickets. But cricket hunting wasps generally are solitary, build underground nests, and do not have yellow tips. For now, I just continue to describe those earlier jet-black wasps with yellow tips as “unidentified”.

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