Hot Springs

Utah Hot Springs
Click map for larger view
Map by H. Strand, Data from
Blackett and Wakefield 2002.

Hi, I’m Holly Strand from Stokes Nature Center in beautiful Logan Canyon.

Cold weather getting to you? Can’t swing a trip to Hawaii or the Carribean this year?

Fortunately for us, there’s a natural antidote to winter right here in Utah Hot springs abound in the Beehive State. According to a Utah Geological Survey database, there are 106 known springs with waters above 25 degrees Celsius or 77 degrees Fahrenheit. The hottest temperature recorded in a Utah spring is 91 degrees Celsius or 195 degrees Fahrenheit at Crystal Hot Springs in Salt Lake County.

Hot springs develop when rain and melted snow infiltrate into the ground. This ground water then sinks deep enough to be warmed by the heat contained in the earth’s interior. Because hot water is less dense it is pushed back to the surface by the continued sinking of incoming heavier, cold water. Replenishment through surface precipitation creates a continuous cycle.

Why do some areas have hot springs and others do not? While there is heat in the earth beneath any spot on the surface, in some areas, this heat is concentrated closer to the surface. For instance, in and around volcanoes–this is the case in Yellowstone area.

Luckily, we don’t know of any volcanoes lurking beneath us. But we know that the Basin and Range area of western Utah, southeastern Idaho, Nevada and eastern California, is expanding or spreading. This spreading movement leaves a relatively thin crust. And a thinner crust means heat is closer to the surface. Furthermore, crustal movement create surface faults that allow cold water to seep down and warm water to flow out. Thus with few exceptions, the higher temperature geothermal areas in Utah occur either in the Basin and Range Province or within the Basin and Range-Colorado Plateau transition zone.

Geothermal sources have many practical uses. The Blundell power station at the Roosevelt Hot Springs geothermal area near Milford produces commercial energy. There are several greenhouses and aquaculture facilities in Utah using geothermal resources. But my favorite application of geothermal waters would be the hot spring spa or swimming pool. lists 16 of these in Utah. And for those of us in northern Utah there’s at least ten more right across the border in Idaho.

For maps and sources of information on hot springs and spas, see
Thanks to the Lion’s Gate Manor in Lava Hot Springs for supporting research and development of this Wild About Utah topic.

For Wild About Utah and Stokes Nature Center, I’m Holly Strand.

Images: Map by H. Strand, Data from Blackett and Wakefield 2002.

Text:     Holly Strand, Stokes Nature Center

Sources & Additional Reading:

Blackett, R.E., and Wakefield, S.I., 2002, Geothermal resources of Utah, a digital atlas of Utah’s geothermal resources: Utah Geological Survey, OFR-397, CD-ROM. Available online [accessed January 10, 2010]

Blackett, R.E. Utah Geothermal Wells & Springs Interactive Map. 1:500,000. Utah Geological Survey, Cedar City Office. [ accessed January 10, 2010]

DeTar, R.E. Thermal Waters. Digital Atlas of Idaho. [ accessed January 10, 2010]

Oregon Institute of Technology. Geothermal Resources of Utah. Geo-Heat Center Quarterly Bulletin Vol. 25. No. 4. [ accessed January 10, 2010]

Utah Geological Survey. Geothermal Occurrences in Utah.

Lion’s Gate Manor in Lava Hot Springs. (208) 776-5118

Geothermal Springs in Idaho,



Cedar Waxwing US FWS FWS Digital Library, David Menke, Photographer
Cedar Waxwing
US FWS Digital Library
David Menke, Photographer

For the chance to admire a flock of Utah’s most rakishly handsome songbirds, look to the sky or trees when you hear this call:

[Kevin Colver, Cedar Waxwing, Songbirds of Yellowstone and the High Rockies…]

That high, thin whistle indicates waxwings. All winter long, waxwings stick together in dense, cohesive flocks that fluidly fly and forage as one. Like locusts, a flock will swarm over a mountain ash, juniper or hawthorn, quickly stripping it of the small fruits that constitute their diet. They eat a wide variety of small fruits from berries to grapes to cherries. Cedar waxwings are commonly seen throughout Utah all winter long. They are nomadic; traveling to where ever fruit is abundant. Some winters, they are joined here by their northern cousins, the Bohemian waxwings. Both waxwings are debonair, with a sweptback crest and an angular black Zorro mask. The name waxwing refers to a line of scarlet waxy droplets at the tips of specialized wing feathers. More likely you’ll notice the bar of lemon-yellow feather tips across the tail. Both of those colors come from pigments in their fruity diets. The body of the smaller Cedar waxwing is more caramel-colored than the grayer Bohemian waxwing. Bohemian waxwings have a distinct rufus patch of feathers beneath the tail.

Cedar Waxwing feeding on berries
David Menke, US FWS
FWS Digital Library

So remember to pay attention when you hear that high-pitched whistle and look around you for trees decorated with these snazzy-looking waxwings. They will surely put some zing in your drab winter day.

Thanks to Kevin Colver for the use of his bird recordings.

This is Linda Kervin for Bridgerland Audubon Society.


Bohemian Waxwing Copyright © 2006 Stephen Peterson

Bird Recordings: Courtesy & Copyright Kevin Colver, Cedar Waxwing, Songbirds of Yellowstone and the High Rockies… //

Pictures: David Menke, US FWS Digital Library

Courtesy & Copyright 2006 Stephen Peterson

Text: Jim Cane, Bridgerland Audubon Society

Additional Reading:

Bohemian Waxwings Copyright © 2006 Stephen Peterson

Creating Landscapes for Wildlife …A Guide to Backyard Gardens in Utah,

Utah’s Sistine Chapel

Utah’s Sistine Chapel
Holy Ghost group, part of the
Great Gallery in Horseshoe Canyon
Photo Courtesy
David Sucec, BCSProject
(photographer, copyright holder)

Hi, I’m Holly Strand from Stokes Nature Center in beautiful Logan Canyon.

Utah is famous for the beautiful and mysterious rock art found on its colorful canyon walls.

There are two main types of rock art. A petroglyph is an image that is pecked, incised, or scratched into rock. Petroglyphs are often found on rock surfaces coated with desert varnish. The dark stained varnish provides high contrast as the image is carved into the lighter underlying stone.

Pictographs, however, are painted onto rather than carved into a rock surface. Mineral pigments such as hematite, limonite, azurite, and gypsum were used to produce long lasting liquid and solid paints. Paint was applied with brushes, fingertips or hands, with fiber wads and even by spraying or blowing paint. It’s possible that vegetable dyes were also used by ancient artists but these would have been washed away without leaving a trace.

Archaeologists classify ancient rock art into different styles according to image content, drawing techniques, location, and the relationships between various picture elements. The so-called Barrier Canyon Style is well-known in eastern Utah where its greatest level of expression is found.

The Barrier Canyon Style features human-like figures with a supernatural appearance. Torso lengths are exaggerated and shaped like mummies or bottles. Heads may have horns, rabbitlike ears or antenna-like projections. Eyes of the figures are often round and staring. Hands, if present, may be holding plant-like images or snakes. Aside from the human-like figures, birds, canines, bighorn sheep, and rabbits are also common in Barrier Canyon Style compositions.

Cultural affiliations of the Barrier Canyon Style artists are still not fully understood. But most archaeologists agree that the artists were part of small bands of nomadic people who roamed the Colorado Plateau between 7500 BC and 300 AD.

Perhaps the best place to view the Barrier Canyon style is in the Great Gallery in Horseshoe Canyon near Canyonlands National Park. The Great Gallery features a 300 foot long mural with over 60 figures. David Sucec (pronounced Soosek)–who is coordinating an effort to photograph and record all Barrier Canyon Style rock art–calls the Great Gallery ‘Utah’s Sistine Chapel.’

So far over 230 different sites featuring Barrier Canyon Style rock art have been discovered. In Utah, look for them in the Book Cliffs area, the San Rafael Swell, around Moab and in Canyonlands National Park.

Thanks to the Red Cliffs Lodge in Moab, Utah for supporting research and development of this Wild About Utah topic.

For Wild About Utah and Stokes Nature Center, I’m Holly Strand.

Images: Courtesy & Copyright David Sucec

Text:     Holly Strand, Stokes Nature Center

Sources & Additional Reading:


Cole, Sally. 1990. Legacy on Stone: Rock Art of the Colorado Plateau and Four Corners Region. Boulder, CO: Johnson Printing

Repanshek, Kurt. Traces of a Lost People. 2005. Smithsonian magazine. March 2005.

Schaafsma, Polly. The Rock Art of Utah. 1971, Third Printing 1987, Papers of the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology Vol. 65, paper, 169 pp.


Utah’s Conifer Trees

Juniper Leaves & Cones
Juniper Leaves & Cones
Copyright © 2009 Linda Kervin

Two-needle Pinion PineTwo-needle Pinion Pine
Copyright © 2009 Linda Kervin

Norway Spruce ConesNorway Spruce Cones
Copyright © 2009 Linda Kervin

True Fir NeedlesTrue Fir Needles
Copyright © 2009 Linda Kervin

Douglas Fir Cones
Copyright © 2009 Linda Kervin

Now that the leaves have fallen from the deciduous trees, we can fully appreciate Utah’s evergreen trees. Conifers are trees that bear their seeds in cones instead of producing flowers and fruits. Utah has five kinds of conifers; all with stiff, needle-like leaves that remain green throughout the winter. Traits of their needles and cones allow you to distinguish between our different types of conifers. Cones can be found still attached or scattered on the ground.

I will start with the junipers. These conifers have scaly, slightly fleshly leaves. Juniper seeds are embedded in a cone that resembles a green berry. The cones are round and densely fleshy. Junipers are widely adaptable here, from arid foothills to rocky alpine slopes.

Our pines collectively span this same elevation range. They are the only conifers that have cylindrical needles bundled in clusters of 2 to 5. The one exception to this is Single Leaf Pinon, which as you might guess has single, round needles. The count of pine needles is often diagnostic of their species. Pinons mix with junipers at low elevations; their oily, wingless seeds are the edible pinon nut. Bristlecone pines, found in southern Utah, can live for over 1000 years.

Spruces are conifers that many recognize from their own yards. The spruce needle leaves a peg on the stem when it drops, which gives their twigs a rough, nubbly surface. Spruces grow in a classic pyramidal shape.

Another montane group is the true firs. Their flat needle attaches smoothly to the twig. True firs have uniquely upright cones that gradually disintegrate without dropping to the ground. Crushed fir needles are wonderfully fragrant, redolent of tangerines or grapefruit. Perhaps that is why true firs are a favorite Christmas tree.

Douglas fir, despite its common name, is in a different genus than the true firs. Its cones are distinctive; having long, three-pointed, papery bracts that project out from amid the cone’s scales. Douglas fir is one of the west’s most valuable timber tress. Like the spruces and firs, it is a montane species.

Conifer trees are a great resource for Utah wildlife, providing food and shelter, especially in the icy cold of winter.

This is Linda Kervin for Bridgerland Audubon Society.

Pictures: Copyright © 2009 Linda Kervin
Text: Linda Kervin and Jim Cane

Additional Reading:

Sibley, David Allen. 2009. The Sibley Guide to Trees. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.

Johnson, Carl M. 1991. Common Native Trees of Utah. Utah State University Extension Service. Logan, UT. 109 p

Kuhns, Michael R., Utah Forest Facts, Conifers for Utah,, USU Extension