Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon National Park is a small US national park located in the southwest, within the state of Utah.
The Bryce has an area of ​​145 km², with an altitude ranging between 2400 m and 2700 m.
The recent history of the settlements in this area dates back to the first settlers who were the Mormons who settled there starting in 1850, and was named after Ebenezer Bryce who settled in this area in 1875.
This area was declared a national monument in 1924 and established as Bryce Canyon National Park in 1928.
This protected area includes the famous Bryce Canyon which, despite its name, is not really a canyon but a huge amphitheater originating from the erosion of the eastern sector of the Paunsaugun Plateau. Bryce Canyon is famous for its characteristic pinnacles, the hoodoos, produced by the erosion of river and lake sedimentary rocks, erosion due to the action of water, wind and ice. The rocks have an intense color that varies from red to orange to white.

Geology and Climate-
The Bryce Canyon Amphitheater reveals a long geological history of sedimentation and erosion although it is not a true canyon as it has not been carved by a stream, water has been an important factor in the form of water. ice and chemical agent.
Geological structures called hoodoos originated in this amphitheater, which are tall and thin spiers of rock that rise from the base of arid basins and badlands. Bryce Canyon National Park contains the world’s largest concentration of these formations, although they are common in the High Plateaus region in the Colorado Plateau and the Badlands region in the Northern Great Plains. The difference between hoodoos and spirals is that the former have a body that varies in thickness, often resembling totem poles, while the latter have a smoother surface and a thickness that tapers from bottom to top.
From a climatic point of view, the temperature of this area, for about 200 days a year, fluctuates around 0 ° C. During the day the water infiltrates the fractures of the rock, during the night it freezes expanding by 9%. In the form of ice, the water exerts a strong pressure on the rock which ends up shattering. In addition, the precipitations, which are acidic, slowly dissolve the limestone, eroding the peaks and carrying away the debris.
Therefore, the morphology of Bryce Canyon National Park is constantly and rapidly evolving.

Fauna –
As the Bryce Canyon National Park has an elevation gain of about 650 meters, this means that, in a small area, there are 3 distinct climatic zones and therefore interferes with the vegetation.
Thus the fir forest, the Ponderosa pine forest and the juniper and pine forest follow one another. These different habitats ensure that there is a high biodiversity, so it is possible to see more than 100 bird species and dozens of mammal species.
Within the Bryce Canyon National Park live 175 different species of birds, some of which are only passing through and others are sedentary. The California Condor is the largest predatory bird in North America, but it is not the largest ever; it is decidedly rare, in 1982 there were only 22 specimens of this bird in the wild, thanks to the program of safeguarding the species in 1995 their number has risen to 103, currently the reproduction of this species takes place almost exclusively in captivity.
Furthermore, some relationships between fauna and flora contribute to a particular eco-systemic balance.
This is the case of the Clark Nutcracker (Nucifraga Colombiana Wilson, 1811) which plays an important role in the reproduction of some species of pine, the pine nuts of these plants are the main food of the nutcracker and hides a part of it as a reserve in the ground, all the uneaten seeds have a good chance of becoming a plant.
To underline the osprey which is a very specialized small hawk and which finds its prey by flying over the water basins and waits for the prey to approach the surface to capture it, builds its nest in the trees near the water; it is easily visible between May and July. The peregrine falcon is monogamous and the couple lasts for life; it is a species threatened with extinction, it was thought it should disappear at the end of the 1900s, but on 20 August 1999 it was removed from the list of endangered species; it is easily visible in spring and summer, in the park the subspecies present is the Falco peregrinus anatum. The common raven is a very intelligent bird, it has a rudimentary language that allows it to communicate ideas to other members of the species, the Inuit use this animal for moose hunting, it is easily visible throughout the year in any habitat. The Steller’s jay is a solitary and curious animal, it does not fear man and is therefore easy to be approached while eating, it is especially common near the Ponderosa pine forest along the canyon bank. The green-purple swallow is easily seen near water and in open spaces where it can hunt insects, it is particularly common at Sunset Point from April to September.
The list of mammals is also numerous. Within Bryce Canyon National Park there are 59 mammal species, some of which are easily visible. The golden ground squirrel is one of two species of squirrels found in the park along with the rock squirrel and is very visible in picnic areas as it is used to receiving food from humans and is easily seen in summer while hibernating in winter .
The puma, also known as cougar or mountain lion, once widespread throughout North America, is currently present only in British Columbia and Alberta in Canada and in the 12 states of the western United States of America in addition to Florida. It is very rare to be able to meet it: the greatest chances are at night in the most remote areas of the park where there is less human presence and the season in which it is most active is winter, as the snow slows down the movements of the prey making it easier his hunting; it is much easier to see his footprints. The chipmunk is one of the 3 species of tamias present in the park and is the most common, it does not have a period of hibernation but during the winter it feeds on the food it has collected and hidden in the summer, it normally lives in the trunks of dead trees (Cip and Disney’s Dale were examples of this genre). The Utah prairie dog was reintroduced in Bryce Canyon in 1973 as part of the protection program from the extinction of this species, currently there are 200 specimens and it is the largest protected colony, in summer it is easy to see them in the meadows along the road that crosses the park in the north. The Antilocapra americana is one of the most widespread mammals in the park and is the fastest mammal on the American continent and the second in the world, it is easy to spot at sunset in summer while grazing in the park’s meadows. The mule deer is the most common mammal in the park and is therefore very easy to meet along the roads or in the woods.
As for reptiles and amphibians, even if the park has a cold and high altitude climate, and therefore is not the ideal habitat for these animals, nevertheless 11 species of reptiles and 4 species of amphibians are present inside. Crotalus oreganus is quite rare except during very hot and dry summers, if the temperatures are high enough, it is possible to see it even at night, the chances of encountering one of these reptiles increase outside the paths and its bite is poisonous in 30-40% of cases, in fact it prefers to keep poison to prey rather than to defend itself. Phrynossoma douglassi is visible in summer even if you have to look very carefully as it blends very well with the ground, it is sometimes mistaken for a toad due to its flattened and broad body. The Uta stansburiana is very active in spring, summer and autumn and is very widespread within the park below 2700 meters in areas with sparse vegetation and on rocky slopes, despite the high mortality of the chicks it is very common thanks to its high capacity to reproduce. Masticophis teaniatus is a colubridae not very widespread within the park, it is easier to meet it in the lower part of the canyon, it is also possible to see it on plants as it climbs to hunt birds. The tiger salamander is the largest living salamander, it is present in the Swamp Canyon and in the various springs present in the park, the best chances of sighting it are after heavy rains and at night or at dusk.

Flora –
From the vegetational point of view, the Bryce Canyon National Park can be divided into two zones, a desert area located at low altitudes and a humid area located high on the plateau, where the rains are more abundant and in summer the temperatures are more myths. Fir and poplar forests dominate the upper part of the Paunsaugunt Plateau, yellow pine dominates at medium elevations, and pine and juniper forests at low elevations where Gambel oak, cacti and yucca are also widespread. The Colorado spruce, the symbolic tree of Utah, is found mainly on moist soils near streams between 2400 and 2500 meters. Pinus longaeva and Pinus aristata are the longest-lived living organisms on earth, they grow on arid rock slopes or on ridges between 2280 and 3500 meters, are visible along the Fairyland Loop Trail and the Bristlecone Loop Trail at Rainbow Point, the specimens oldest in the park are found at Yovimpa Point and their estimated age is 1600 years. Douglas fir grows on moist but well-drained soils or in drier but shady areas, it is quite common in the park and the most famous specimen is found on Wall Street along the Navajo Loop Trail. Pinus flexilis grows on arid rock walls and on the peaks of the highest mountains where many other trees cannot survive, between 1500 and 3650 meters, its branches are particularly flexible so they do not break under the weight of the snow or due to the wind , the most famous specimen in the park is the one visible at Sunrise Point beyond the protective railing. The Colorado pine grows in open and dry soils between 1500 and 2100 meters, the root system reaches the same size as the top of the tree, it is easy to see it at low altitude along the canyon. The yellow pine grows in areas with moderate rainfall at altitudes between 1220 and 2700 meters, is one of the tallest pines in the southwestern United States, is very common in the park and it is not unlikely to come across partially burned specimens, this is due to the controlled fires started by rangers to simulate the effect of natural fire on the survival of this plant and the forest in general, the fire kills plants that otherwise would occupy the yellow pine habitat.
The aspen grows on moist soils at the edges of pine and fir forests, it is visible along the road through the park to the south, historical photos of Bryce Canyon show that in the past this tree was much more widespread than today. The juniper of the Rocky Mountains is visible at low altitudes in very sunny areas, its blue fruits covered with a layer of wax that allows it to retain water are characteristic. Dasiphora fruticosa grows in subalpine meadows at the edge of the wood and in areas close to waterways, its yellow flowers are visible between June and August and its leaves are food for deer. Castilleja parvula also called Bryce Canyon brush, is a rare member of the Scrophulariaceae family that grows only in this park, is visible along the Peekaboo Trail and Queen’s Garden Trail among the rocky debris in spring. Iris missouriensis grows in open and humid meadows, this plant is very toxic, the leaves have a high concentration of a glycoside, irigenin 7-glucoside, which is poisonous for both animals and humans, this iris can be seen in large groups at low altitudes.

Guido Bissanti

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