Arches Wildlife

Western Collared Lizard
Arches National Park
Photo Courtesy US NPS

Spadefoot Toad
Arches National Park
Photo Courtesy US NPS

Red Fox
Arches National Park
Photo Courtesy US NPS
Lee Kaiser, Photographer

Western Scrub Jay
Arches National Park
Photo Courtesy US NPS
Neal Herbert, Photographer

Petroglyphs
Arches National Park
Photo Courtesy and Copyright Kurt Repanshek, Photographer
NationalParksTraveler.com

The Organ
Arches National Park
Photo Courtesy and Copyright Kurt Repanshek, Photographer
NationalParksTraveler.com

Stairs to Window Arch
Arches National Park
Photo Courtesy and Copyright Kurt Repanshek, Photographer
NationalParksTraveler.com


As with its neighbor, Canyonlands National Park, Arches National Park conceals most of its wildlife from visitors. That said, lizards are easy to spot, as are mule deer in the cool times of the day. And if you spend a little time before breakfast, or after dinner, you just might see coyotes, porcupines, desert cottontails, black-tailed jackrabbits, and many songbirds.

Because of the high heat during the summer months, most of these animals will be most visible when humans are not typically out and about. Desert animals have a variety of adaptations to deal with the hot weather and aridity. A key adaptation is that most animals are nocturnal, being most active at night. Nocturnal animals in Arches include kangaroo rats, woodrats (also called packrats), and other small desert rodents, skunks, ringtails, foxes, bobcats, mountain lions, bats and owls.

Some desert animals are “diurnal”, or primarily active during the day. These include rock squirrels, antelope squirrels, chipmunks, lizards, snakes, hawks, and eagles.

Many animals have are only active in certain temperature ranges, and they alter their active times of day depending upon the season. During winter months, snakes and lizards are in an inactive state of “torpor,” or sluggishness or even dormancy. But they become active during the day during the late spring and early fall, and then become “crepuscular,” or active mainly during the nighttime hours, to avoid the daytime heat of summer.

Insects, too, alter their times of activity. Mosquitoes, as you no doubt know, may be out from dawn through dusk, depending on the temperatures. But they are not active after the sun goes down.

In spite of Arches’ rather inhospitable appearance, almost 50 species of mammals live in the park’s landscape. But the hot climate and lack of water favors small mammals. Because of their size, these animals are less able to migrate, but have an easier time finding shelter, and require less food and water to live. Rodents are numerous: there are eleven species of mice and rats.

Desert bighorn sheep are one of the larger mammal species to be seen. They are frequently spotted along Highway 191 south of the park visitor center, and call Arches home all year long. They roam the talus slopes and side canyons near the Colorado River, forage for plants, and negotiate the steep, rocky terrain with the greatest of ease.

While Arches may not be considered a prime bird watching hot spot, 273 species have been seen in the park, which includes seasonal, year-round residents, and migrants.

Much of this diversity is due to the riparian corridors like Courthouse Wash and the Colorado River (which forms the park’s southern boundary). Mornings along these corridors often are filled with birdsongs during spring and summer. You might spot blue grosbeaks, yellow-breasted chats, and spotted towhees. Listen carefully and you’ll hear the trill of the canyon wren echoing from the sandstone walls. Great blue herons hunt the shallows for fish, while Cooper’s hawks deftly maneuver through the tangle of trees beyond the riverbanks.

There is life in the desert, if you know where, and more importantly, when, to look for it.

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

Credits:
Images: Courtesy US NPS
Images: Courtesy and Copyright Kurt Repanshek, www.nationalparkstraveler.com
Text:     Kurt Repanshek/Patrick Cone, NationalParksTraveler.com.


Additional Reading:

http://www.nationalparkstraveler.com/browse/Arches%20National%20Park

http://www.nps.gov/arch/index.htm

The Geology of Canyonlands National Park

Chesler Park
Canyonlands National Park
Photo Courtesy and Copyright Kurt Repanshek, Photographer

Chesler Park
Canyonlands National Park
Photo Courtesy and Copyright Kurt Repanshek, Photographer

Baked by time like some multi-layer geologic tort, Canyonlands National Park in southeastern Utah features a landscape cut by canyons, rumpled by upthrusts, dimpled by grabens, and even pockmarked, some believe, by ancient asteroids.

Just outside of Moab rises a kaleidoscope of tilted and carved geology laid down over the eons. There’s the red and white Cedar Mesa sandstone, the grayish-green Morrison Formation, pinkish Entrada sandstone, and tawny Navajo sandstone, just to name some of the geologic layers. Stacked like pancakes, they help make Canyonlands the most rugged national park in the Southwest and, quite possibly, if you find yourself deep in the park’s Maze District, in the entire Lower 48 states.

In each of the park’s districts — Island in the Sky, Needles, Maze and Horseshoe Canyon — the remarkable effects of geologic time and its endless erosion on this sedimentary landscape rise about you.

If you could turn back the geologic clock, you would see the landscape flooded by oceans, crisscrossed by rivers, covered by mudflats and buried by sand. At various times through the millennia, the climate has resembled a tropical coast, an interior desert, and everything in between.

For hundreds of millions of years, material was deposited. Layer upon layer of sedimentary rock formed as buried materials were cemented by precipitates in the ground water. Each layer contains clues to its origin, such as patterns or fossils, which reveals the environment when it was deposited. For example, the colorful Cedar Mesa Sandstone occurred when periodic floods of iron-rich debris from nearby mountains inundated coastal dunes of white sand.

Along with sedimentation, movements in the earth’s crust altered surface features. The North American continent migrated north from the equator and the local climate and environment here changed dramatically.

Peer into the ragged maw of Canyonlands from the Island in the Sky District on the northern end of the park, and it’s no mystery how the park came by its name.

Spend the night at the Squaw Flat Campground in the Needles District and a morning hike into Chesler Park surrounds you with Creamsicle-hued minarets towering high above, like a king’s crown.

Though Canyonlands covers less than 350,000 acres, which is less than one-seventh the size of Yellowstone National Park, it feels much larger. No doubt it’s the park’s vastness and openness — you won’t find any forests here. Indeed, one old timer said that, “On a clear day, you can see the back of your own head.”

Spend a few minutes contemplating the natural forces, and the hundreds of millions of years that laid down these sediments and compressed these layers of rock. It’s really only recently that these layers have eroded to form the remarkable landscape seen today in Canyonlands National Park.

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:

Canyonlands National Park, National Parks Service,

Exploring The Parks: Musings From Island In The Sky At Canyonlands National Park, NationalParksTraveler.com Article – Lee Dalton – 06/24/2014

Exploring The Parks: Musings From The Needles District In Canyonlands National Park, NationalParksTraveler.com Article – Lee Dalton – 06/19/2014

Reflections Of Time In Canyonlands, NationalParksTraveler.com Article – Lee Dalton – 06/19/2014

http://www.nationalparkstraveler.com/search/apachesolr_search/canyonlands, NationalParksTraveler.com Canyonlands Articles