The Cutthroat Trout

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Yellowstone Cutthroat
Oncorhynchus clarki bouvieri
Courtesy USDA Forest Service
 
Bonneville Cutthroat
Oncorhynchus clarki utah
Courtesy Wildlife.utah.gov species list
 
Colorado River Cutthroat
Oncorhynchus clarki pleuriticus
Courtesy US BLM Rawlins, WY Office
 


Utah streams offer excellent year-round fishing opportunities for every level of angler. According to the Department of Natural Resources, Utah’s waters are home to approximately 80 different species of fish, but it is the trout fishing that is the biggest attraction for fishermen. Of the trout species swimming in our rivers and lakes, the cutthroat trout is a local favorite and the only trout native to the state.

The cutthroat trout represents the most diverse trout species in North America. They are a freshwater fish of the Salmonidae family that live in cold, clear streams and lakes across the west. Cutthroat trout are distinguished from other trout species by two red slashes prominently striping the lower jaw after which they are named. All cutthroat trout share a single common ancestor, but historic population isolation gave rise to 14 subspecies, each endemic to their own geographic region and river drainage.

There are four subspecies that exist in Utah. Only three of these are considered native to the state: the Colorado River cutthroat, the Yellowstone cutthroat, and Utah’s state fish, the Bonneville cutthroat. In Utah, the Colorado River cutthroat trout can be found in some of the smaller streams and tributaries of the Green River, the San Juan River, and the Colorado River drainages. Their bright coloration and posterior black spotting distinguish these cutthroats from others.

Pure, native Yellowstone cutthroat trout are present in small numbers in the streams of the North Slope of the Raft River Mountains in northwestern Utah. However, this subspecies is more widely distributed across the state due to extensive stocking. Yellowstone cutthroat trout can be differentiated by larger-sized black spots concentrated near the tail and their gold, gray, and copper tones.

The Bonneville cutthroat trout evolved in the Bonneville Basin of Utah, Wyoming, Idaho, and Nevada. Its primary ancestors were a population of lake dwelling cutthroat trout living in the late-Pleistocene aged Lake Bonneville. The Bonneville cutthroat trout is less vividly colored and has spots that are more sparsely and evenly distributed across the body than other cutthroats. Thought to be extinct in the 1970s, populations of the Bonneville cutthroat trout are now estimated to exist in around 35% of their historic range, including the nearby Weber and Provo Rivers.

Like so many species, the native cutthroat trout of Utah are under significant pressure due to drought, habitat loss, disease, and competition with non-native species. Though only the Colorado River cutthroat is included on the Utah State Sensitive species list, conservation of all of Utah’s native cutthroat populations is a focal point for state wildlife resource managers.

For Wild About Utah, I’m Anna Bengtson of Park City.

Credits:
Images: Courtesy USDA Forest Service, US Bureau of Land Management & Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.
Text: Anna Bengston

Sources & Additional Reading:

“2014 Utah Fishing Guidebook.” Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, 1 Jan. 2014. Web. 7 July 2014: http://wildlife.utah.gov/guidebooks/2014_pdfs/2014_fishing_low.pdf.

“Bonneville Cutthroat Trout.” Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. n.d. Web. 7 July 2014: http://dwrcdc.nr.utah.gov/rsgis2/search/Display.asp?FlNm=oncoclut.

“Bonneville Cutthroat Trout.” Native Trout Species. The Western Native Trout Campaign, n.d. Web. 7 July 2014: http://www.westerntrout.org/trout/profiles/bonneville.htm.

“Colorado River Cutthroat Trout.” Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. n.d. Web 7 July 2014: http://dwrcdc.nr.utah.gov/rsgis2/search/Display.asp?FlNm=oncoclpl.

“Cutthroat Trout.” Colorado Parks and Wildlife, n.d. Web. 7 July 2014: http://cpw.state.co.us/learn/Pages/ResearchCutthroatTrout.aspx.

“Cutthroat Trout.” Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. n.d. Web. 7 July 2014: http://dwrcdc.nr.utah.gov/rsgis2/search/Display.asp?FlNm=oncoclar.

“Cutthroat Trout (Oncorhynchus clarkii).” Natural Resources Conservation Service, 1 Jan. 2007. Web. 7 July 2014: http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/nrcs143_010039.pdf.

“Cutthroat Trout (Oncorhynchus clarkii) – FactSheet.” Cutthroat Trout (Oncorhynchus clarkii) – FactSheet. U.S Geological Survey, 14 June 2013. Web. 7 July 2014: http://nas.er.usgs.gov/queries/FactSheet.aspx?speciesID=890.

“Endangered Species of the Mountain-Prairie Region.” U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, n.d. Web. 7 July 2014: http://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/species/fish/bct/.

“Fishes.” Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, n.d. Web. 7 July 2014: http://dwrcdc.nr.utah.gov/rsgis2/search/SearchSelection.asp?Group=OSTEICHTHYES&Species=VERT.

“Native Cutthroat of Utah.” Trout Unlimited Blog, 18 Dec. 2012. Web. 7 July 2014: http://www.tu.org/blog/native-cutthroat-of-utah.

“Utah’s Native Trout.” Utah Fly Fishing Club, 24 Dec. 2011. Web. 7 July 2014: http://utahflyfishingclub.com/2011/12/24/utahs-native-trout/.

“Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout.” Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. n.d. Web. 7 July 2014: http://dwrcdc.nr.utah.gov/rsgis2/search/Display.asp?FlNm=oncoclbo.
Brown, Dylan. “Shocking habitat projects help increase native Cutthroat populations.” Standard Examiner, 14 May 2014. Web. 7 July 2014: http://go.standard.net/Recreation/2014/05/13/Shocking-habitat-projects-help-increase-native-Cutthroat-populations.html.

Chorney, Chad. “For the Love of Cutthroat.” Trout Unlimited Blog, 29 Jan. 2013. Web. 7 July 2014: http://www.tu.org/blog-posts/love-cutthroat-trout.

Golden Spike Locomotive Refurb.

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Driving the golden spike ceremony at Promontory Summit, Utah on May 10, 1869, Courtesy of the US National Park Service

Driving the golden spike ceremony at Promontory Summit, Utah on May 10, 1869
Courtesy of the US National Park Service
 
Reinactment of the golden spike ceremony at Promontory Summit, Utah on May 10, 2014, Utah. Photo Courtesy US NPSReinactment of the golden spike ceremony at Promontory Summit, Utah on May 10, 2014
Courtesy of the US National Park Service
 
Box Elder County, Utah. Photo Courtesy US NPSSteve Sawyer
National Park Service Locomotive Engineer
Photo Courtesy and Copyright Pat Cone
 
Fireman Michael Ostereich. Photo Courtesy and Copyright Pat ConeFireman Michael Ostereich
Photo Courtesy and Copyright Pat Cone
 
 


This sage-covered valley is not on the way to anywhere, unless you’re a railroad and history fan. For it was here, on that May 10th, 146 years ago, that a grand undertaking came to its celebratory conclusion: the meeting of the rails and two grand locomotives.

With the driving of the Golden Spike the Central Pacific, that had clawed its way across the High Sierra and vastness of the Nevada Desert, and the Union Pacific, which rolled across the plains and Rocky Mountains completed a steel artery of commerce and transportation.

Union Pacific Number 119 and the Central Pacific Number 60 (better known at Jupiter) faced each other amidst a crowd of dignitaries, engineers, and railroad workers as the final rails were laid, and spikes were driven. President Abraham Lincoln’s dream of a transcontinental railroad was complete.

Today, the Golden Spike National Historic Site at Promontory, Utah commemorates this event, staging daily reenactments of this meeting with two, grand replica engines. And this May 10th, they’ll look and run better than ever after having undergone a thorough refurbishing.
The original engines were scrapped for their metal in the early 1900s. These two massive replicas were built in 1979 at a cost of nearly $750,000 a piece, in Costa Mesa, California, by Chad O’Connor. He had a passion for steam.

Every 15 years these locomotives are disassembled, boilers cleaned and tested, and over 166 fire tubes replaced. The boiler is pressure tested, the gauges and brass bells and whistles are brightly shined, and the funneled smokestack is repainted, ready for their big day. There’s over 500 feet of tubing in each engine, they weigh 62 tons apiece, and make steam from treated water the old fashioned way: 119 burns coal, and the Jupiter is wood-fired.

Steve Sawyer has been a National Park Service locomotive engineer for 8 years and loves driving these down the track, wearing period costume. He’s one of two engineers, and a fireman who fires them up and takes them out. “These engines run 8 hours a day for 5 months from May 1st through October 15th,” he says, so they need a thorough rebuilding.

Fireman Michael Ostereich takes his time as he puts a rust-proof sealant around the new welds on the boiler, in preparation for a layer of insulation, and the final jacket. But the three railroadmen aren’t alone. There are over 60 volunteers that help in this grand task, reminding us of what it meant to be able to travel from coast to coast in style and comfort.

Jupiter is red and blue, while Number 119 is mostly red with black. Jupiter has a bright blue cowcatcher and a large funnel, while Number 119’s cowcatcher is red with a straight smokestack. The drive wheels are as tall as most men and the pistons are shined to a mirror finish, and there are hand-painted scenes adorning them from Disney animator Ward Kimball.

They are huge, noisy, and magnificent works of art. And, they’ll both be ready for their debut during the anniversary of the meeting of the rails on May 10th. There will be kids of all ages there, so catch them in action if you can.

For Wild About Utah, this is Patrick Cone with National Parks Traveler

Credits:
Image: Courtesy US National Parks Service, www.nps.gov
Image: Courtesy and Copyright Patrick Cone, www.nationalparkstraveler.com
Text:     Patrick Cone, NationalParksTraveler.com.

Additional Reading:

Golden Spike National Historic Site, Brigham City, Utah, Golden Spike National Monument, US NPS, http://www.nps.gov/nr/Travel/cultural_diversity/Golden_Spike_National_Historic_Site.html

Golden Spike National Monument, US NPS, http://www.nps.gov/gosp/index.htm

Golden Spike Locomotives Being Refurbished, Patrick Cone, National Parks Traveler, http://www.nationalparkstraveler.com/2015/03/golden-spike-locomotives-being-refurbished26421

Blowing Off Steam…, National Parks Traveler, http://www.nationalparkstraveler.com/potw/blowing-steam22551

I Love the Four Seasons

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Red Admiral Butterfly
Thomas G. Barnes
US FWS Digital Library

Glacier Lilies
Erythronium grandiflorum
Copyright © 2010 Andrea Liberatore


I love the four seasons. Having spent my 72 years residing in the mid latitudes, I’ve learned to celebrate each of our seasons, but especially spring!

This is the rebirth flush with abundant water, new greenery, and air filled with bird song and sweet aromas as new flowers perfume the air hoping to lure in a pollinator.

With mid-April upon us and our 42 degree latitude, spring is in full swing here in northern Utah! Winter departs grudgingly slapping us with snow squalls intermingled with glorious, early summer days, a wild roller coaster ride which I truly enjoy!
I’m an avid phenology follower. Phenology is the study of how life adapts to seasonal changes. I revel in the first floral bloom, the first neotropical birds returning from Latin America with a heart full of song, and newly emerged, gaudy butterflies.

With a relatively stable climate, until recently, the timing of these events has evolved to near perfection
Let’s take a closer look at some of these phenomena. I’ll begin with our neotropical birds such as lazuli buntings, yellow warblers, and Western tanagers to mention a few. These species spend over half of their year in Mexico, Central and South America flying thousands of miles to for the breeding and nesting season in the Intermountain West. This may seem a bit extreme for these tiny flurries of life.

On closer inspection, you will find they have good reason for this daunting and dangerous task. The tropics have a relatively stable climate without the dramatic seasonal change that we experience. This results in relatively stable populations of flowers and insects, the primary food sources for most species. Further, the ratio of daylight to darkness is nearly constant with 12 hours of each. Our days lengthen as we journey toward summer solstice with nearly 16 hours of daylight! This allows a burst of energy to flow through ecosystems resulting in eruptive populations of insects and floral bloom. It also offers long hours of daylight for parents to gather food for their young which grow rapidly toward fledglings, thus reducing the possibility of predation and also preparing them for the arduous flight south as fall approaches.

Let’s examine flowers and insects. With our very warm winter and spring, I was expecting a much earlier arrival of both and was not disappointed. I counted 17 species of flowers by the second week of April! And butterflies were on a similar schedule with 9 different species during the last week of March- remarkably early! Although delighted, it occurred to me that returning birds may not be so pleased. If the flowers begin to fade, and insects begin their downward slide at the peak of birds rearing their young, trouble is afoot! A five year Audubon study revealed that 1/3 of our birds are predicted to be severely impacted by these rapid climate shifts.

On a more positive note, spring will continue as will bird song, vernal waterfalls, eruptions of wildflowers and butterflies. And spring repeats itself as we move to higher elevations. As cornices on our mountain ridges recede, up pops flowers for yet another spring bloom, and with them butterflies, bees, and birds!

Credits:

Pictures: Courtesy Dr. Thomas G. Barnes, US FWS
Pictures Lilies: Copyright © 2010 Andrea Liberatore
Text: Jack Greene, Bridgerland Audubon Society

Additional Reading:

http://wildaboututah.org/usa-national-phenology-network/

An Arizona Road Trip Back Into the Past

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Montezuma Castle, Courtesy US NPS

Montezuma Castle
Courtesy US NPS
 
Location of Hubbell Trading Post NHS in the Southern Colorado Plateau Network,  Courtesy US NPSLocation of Hubbell Trading Post NHS in the Southern Colorado Plateau Network
Courtesy US NPS
 
Hubbell Trading Post, Courtesy US NPSHubbell Trading Post Interior
Courtesy US NPS

Arizona is rich in history — from the 1800s all the way back to the Late Triassic Period. You can stitch together a road trip that winds out of Flagstaff to Montezuma Castle National Monument, to Petrified Forest National Park, and ends at Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site. Along the way you’ll experience fascinating chapters of geologic and cultural history.

At Montezuma Castle, 45 minutes south of Flagstaff and just off Interstate 17 (Exit 289), a short walk places you in front of a 5-story-tall cliff dwelling that offered safety from invaders: it stands 100 feet above the valley floor, nestled into an alcove.

The site was misnamed Montezuma Castle in the late 1800s by whites who thought the structure had been built by the Aztec people. The original owners, members of the Southern Sinagua (seen aug wah) people, called this area home from roughly 1100-1425 A.D.

Stroll the short trail that loops around a vegetated landscape below the “castle,” and you’ll find great views as well of the remains of Castle A. That dwelling once rose 60 feet and was home to about 100 residents.

From Montezuma’s Castle, it’s 95 miles via Arizona 87 to Winslow, and then 34 miles east on Interstate 40 to Holbrook. Finally, another 19 miles southeast on Arizona 180 leads you into Petrified Forest National Park and its unusual landscape.

There’s no lodging within the park, and you have to leave by sundown, so you will need to make some tough decisions if you have just one day. Do you take time to tour the Rainbow Forest Museum with its dinosaur displays, or hike out to Agate House?

A building built of petrified wood is pretty cool, so stretch your legs with a walk to the house. Then head north and deeper into the park to the Crystal Forest Trail. Wander this path and you’ll find yourself surrounded by petrified wood with its hues of yellow, red, and green, black and white.

Blue Mesa is another great stop. There’s a trail that takes you down into another colorful landscape of badlands and chunks, logs, and even slabs of petrified wood in shades of red, blue, yellow and black.

The northern end of the park road is anchored by the Painted Desert, a great place for sunset photos. Here you’ll also see the Painted Desert Inn, which some day could put the Park Service back into the lodging business but today is just a museum piece.

Back on Interstate 40, drive 22 miles east to Chambers, and then north on U.S. 191 for about 38 miles to Ganado and Hubbell Trading Post. This authentic trading post was opened by John Lorenzo Hubbell in 1878 on the Navajo Reservation.

Although it was added to the National Park System in 1967, Hubbell is not a museum piece but an active trading post. As such, it still holds richly woven Navajo rugs, jewelry, and other Native American artworks for purchase.

Schedule your visit to Hubbell Trading Post for May and you just might be able to attend the annual Native American Art Auction. Check with the park (928-755-3475) for the exact date.

If you have a little more free time, you could extend your your trip by heading 39 miles north on 191 to Canyon de Chelly National Monument.

For Wild About Utah and National Parks Traveler, I’m Kurt Repanshek.

Credits:
Image: Courtesy and Copyright Kurt Repanshek, www.nationalparkstraveler.com
Text:     Kurt Repanshek, NationalParksTraveler.com.


Additional Reading:

Montezuma Castle National Monument, NationalParksTraveler.com, http://www.nationalparkstraveler.com/2012/03/visiting-montezuma-castle-national-monument-arizona9636

Montezuma Castle National Monument, US National Park Service, http://www.nps.gov/moca/index.htm

Geographic Area covered by the State of Deseret and Utah Territory, International Society Daughters of Utah Pioneers, http://www.dupinternational.org/dyn_page.php?pageID=54

Fossil Formation

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Fossilized fish
Mioplosus labracoides
Copyright 2013 Stokes Nature Center
Andrea Liberatore, Photographer

Fossilized fish
Copyright 2013 Stokes Nature Center
Andrea Liberatore, Photographer

Horn Corals from Logan Canyon
Copyright 2013 Stokes Nature Center
Andrea Liberatore, Photographer

Fossilized leaf
Copyright 2013 Stokes Nature Center
Andrea Liberatore, Photographer

Fossilized shells
Copyright 2013 Stokes Nature Center
Andrea Liberatore, Photographer

The most popular school program that the Stokes Nature Center offers is a geology lesson for second grade. I’m not sure what happens between second grade and adulthood to make our general perception of geology go from exciting to boring, but you would be amazed at how excited second graders get over rocks, and especially, over fossils.

Fossils are really quite rare – a very specific set of conditions have to be met in order to create one. Most living things decompose fairly rapidly upon death, leaving no trace of their existence behind. In order to create a fossil, this process of decomposition needs to be halted fairly rapidly, which typically means that the body is quickly covered by some kind of sediment – like sand, or soil or mud. For this reason, most fossils are found embedded in sedimentary rock. If pressure and moisture levels are just right, over the course of millions of years the organism’s molecules will slowly be replaced by minerals from the surrounding sediments – eventually turning bone into stone.

Only somewhere around one in a billion bones will make it through this process. From there the fossil has to remain intact and identifiable through eons of tectonic plate movement, earthquakes, and mountain uplift. Then, in order to be found it has to be located near enough to the earth’s surface, and in such a place where a human might come across it. Some geologists estimate that only 1 in 10,000 species that have ever lived have made it into the known fossil record, which makes me wonder what discoveries still await us.

Fortunately for us, prehistoric Utah was a place where fossilization happened with some regularity, as evidenced by places like Dinosaur National Monument and the Escalante Petrified Forest. Did you know that Utah has a state fossil? That distinction goes to the allosaurus, a predatory dinosaur that thrived during the Late Jurassic period. Numerous skeletons found in east-central Utah range in size from 10 – 40 feet in length, meaning this fearsome creature may have rivaled it’s more famous cousin Tyrannosaurus Rex for top predator status.

With such a rich fossil history, it’s not out of the question that you might stumble onto something truly amazing during a routine hike. Can you keep your find? Well, that depends on two things: the type of fossil, and whose land it was found on. On public lands in Utah, fossils of vertebrates cannot be collected, while fossils of invertebrates and plants can be. Private land owners have full rights to the fossils found on their property. With all fossils, it’s a great idea to report your find to the US Geological Survey so that your discovery can be documented for public or scientific research, display or education.

Fossil creation is an incredible phenomenon that has allowed us to glimpse the earth’s history in ways that would otherwise be completely hidden. Thanks to fossils, we can envision a prehistoric landscape filled with giant ferns, enormous dragonflies, long-necked allosauruses, and flying pterodactyls. Without the evidence in the fossil record, I doubt that even the most imaginative person among us could have envisioned such an amazing array of life.

For the Stokes Nature Center and Wild About Utah, this is Andrea Liberatore.

Credits:

Photos: Courtesy & © Stokes Nature Center, logannature.org
Text:    Andrea Liberatore, Stokes Nature Center, logannature.org

Additional Reading:

State of Utah, Utah Geological Survey, Dinosaurs & Fossils (2011) http://geology.utah.gov/utahgeo/dinofossil/index.htm

McCalla, Carole and Eldredge, Sandy (2009) What should you do if you find a fossil? Utah Geological Survey. Accessible online at: http://geology.utah.gov/surveynotes/gladasked
/gladfossil_collecting.htm

Trefil, James (1996) 101 Things You Don’t Know About Science and Nobody Else Does Either. Houghton Mifflin Company: New York, NY, http://www.amazon.com/Things-Dont-About-Science-Either/dp/0395877407

Bryson, Bill (2003) A Short History of Nearly Everything. Broadway Books. New York, NY, http://www.amazon.com/Short-History-Nearly-Everything-Illustrated/dp/0307885151