Magnificent Utah Canyons

Magnificent Utah Canyons: Kolob Canyon Landscapes, Courtesy Pixabay, Joe Russell Photography, Contributor
Kolob Canyon Landscapes
Courtesy Pixabay,
Joe Russell Photography, Contributor

Snow Canyon State Park, Courtesy Pixabay, AlpineDon, ContributorSnow Canyon State Park
Courtesy Pixabay
AlpineDon, Contributor

Utah is riddled with the most magnificent canyons on our lovely little planet! Thinking Snow Canyon, Kolob, Zion, Virgin River Gorge, Logan Canyon, Coyote gulch, Big and little Cottonwoods, and several hundred more that deserve mention.

I recently returned from leading an outing for 25 USU international students where we split our time between Snow Canyon and Zion National Park. Their hearts have yet to fully recover from world class scenery and the remarkable geologic features they encompass. Petrified 200-foot sand dunes in Snow and 2000 foot vertical “big” walls in Zion, softened by rushing waters of the Virgin river. The Virgin River Narrows tugged at their sense of adventure as many “Narrows” hikers clothed in waders, holding wooden staffs, came trekking out of the “Gateway”.

Canyon’s deliver our waters and nurture our souls. Majestic rivers- Green, Colorado, Yampa White, San Juan, the Bear, offer all levels of boating thrills from placid to riotous. I’ve experienced many with family and students in various crafts- rafts, canoes, kayaks. Much of the country they cut through is remote and wild. Desolation, Dinosaur, Arches, Canyonlands NP, Bears Ears. Many meander through terra incognito, roadless wilderness, sliced and diced into alluring slot canyons where the sun never shines. Mysteries to behold, and flash floods to unfold.

My daughter-in-law and grandchildren experienced a grand adventure in the Zion subway slot canyon. A beautiful, blue-sky day with no hint or forecast of rain. Midway through their passage the water began to rise. Unknown to them, a heavy downpour had occurred miles above. Fortunately, they were able to scramble up to a ledge where they spent a long, cold, hungry night as the waters continued to rise. Not until the following day did the stream drop enough to allow their escape.

Where else can one take refuge from our overheated summers. Adventure awaits. Hiking, climbing, skiing, wildlife watching, botanizing- all there beckoning!

Birders delights from American dippers to Great Blue Herons. Soon to be filled with bird song as spring unfolds- fox and song sparrows, MacGillivray and Wilson warblers, warbling and plumbeous vireos, black headed grosbeaks and bullock orioles, lazuli buntings, join at least 20 other species adding to the chorus. Resident canyon wrens often announce their presence in vibrant, cascading song.

Beyond their stunning beauty and endless adventure, our canyons encompass myriad watersheds which capture the masses of snow melt resulting in most of our desert state’s water. Additionally, healthy watersheds feed our iconic Great Salt Lake, a critical western hemispheric shorebird refuge, and essential to our well-being in so many additional ways.

These priceless landforms deserve our love and protection. Threats of gondolas, mining, road improvements, and other human activities will continue to be challenges. “Save Our Canyons”, a SLC organization is laser focused on keeping Wasatch canyons from being further compromised. We must all become canyon advocates for the infinite joy and countless gifts they unflinchingly provide.

Jack Greene for Bridgerland Audubon, and yes, I’m wild about Utah!


Images: Kolob Canyon Landscapes Courtesy Pixabay, Joe Russell_Photography, Contributor
Snow Canyon State Park Courtesy Pixabay, AlpineDon, Contributor,
Audio: Courtesy & © Kevin Colver,
Text: Jack Greene, Bridgerland Audubon,
Additional Reading: Lyle Bingham and Jack Greene, Author, Bridgerland Audubon,

Additional Reading:

Jack Greene’s Postings on Wild About Utah,

Kolob Canyons, Zion National Park, National Parks Service, US Department of the Interior,

Matcha (Contracted content), A Visitor’s Guide to Zion’s Kolob Canyons, Utah Office of Tourism,

The River

The River: River Rapids Per Josh Boling See:
River Rapids
Per Josh Boling
“There isn’t a mathematical formula to describe how water moves here. It’s just impossible to predict,” he told me. I was visiting Utah State University’s Water Research Lab; and a grad student had just unleashed an impressive torrent of water into a 4-foot-square, 20-foot long, hollow plexiglass column for my viewing pleasure. He was trying to demonstrate for me the physics of the Venturi Effect. The Venturi Effect in hydrology is the reduction of water pressure after water is forced through a constriction. There’s a formula for it. Likewise, there is a formula for the increase in water’s velocity upon entering said constriction according to the principle of mass continuity—which basically states that, because water is incompressible, it inevitably moves faster as it’s continually forced through tight spaces. I understood all that, but I was more interested in the frothy madness happening in the middle of the column—the wild torrent threatening the bolts and seals of the plexiglass; the phenomenon, I was told, for which there is no formula, no predictability.

There were three of us in the boat, friends who had met guiding rivers back east nearly a decade before. We had brought an 11-foot bucket-raft against one of the gnarlier western rivers at high spring runoff—a dinghy taking on a white whale. You can always hear the whitewater before you finally see it, especially the big rapids. We had come upon it faster than anticipated. Limestone outcroppings constricted the river into a bottleneck here where it makes a dog-leg to the left; and, at 20,000 cubic-feet-per-second, the river curls back onto itself at the crest of a frothing wave. There is no formula for it; no predictability. “What do I do?” the one in back steering shouted at me. “I don’t know!” I shouted back. We tilted down into the trough of the wave.

A river is never the same twice. Fluvial geomorphology says so. Fluvial geomorphology is the study of the ways in which a river moves, changes, and interacts with its channel and the landscape around it. People who study this sort of thing talk about the character of a river and how it changes with the smallest variability. A misplaced cobble of the riverbed causes a riffle where there once wasn’t one previously; an eddy develops, changes directional flow; the river is never the same again. I have always been fascinated by this. The fluid mechanics at work in a river must be respected and understood, even if they can’t always be predicted.

We rode the wave to its frothy crest where we were thrown like rag dolls, luckily, to the center of the boat rather than overboard. At the apex of the wave, we were stuck like glue to the water as it boiled in all directions—inward, outward, upstream, and back down. “Paddle hard!” one of us shouted as we scrambled back into position, jamming our paddles into the teeth of the wave. We spun this way and that and almost back down the wave before the river released us. We shouted in triumph for the sheer thrill of experience, and because we had all managed to stay in the boat. Something I wouldn’t have predicted.

If you could freeze time and analyze the cross-sections of a whitewater wave, you might come up with a formula to explain water’s frozen movements; but the formula would never be the same twice. The river says so.

I’m Josh Boling, and I’m Wild About Utah!

Image: Courtesy & Copyright Josh Boling
Sound: Courtesy Friend Weller, Utah Public Radio
Text: Josh Boling, 2019, Bridgerland Audubon Society

Sources & Additional Reading

Utah Water Research Laboratory, Utah State University,