After a good night's sleep at the campground, I headed back to the Visitor Center to hop on the shuttle bus and explore Zion Canyon.
A prominent feature of the 229-square-mile park is Zion Canyon, which is 15 miles long and up to half a mile deep, cut through the reddish and tan-colored Navajo Sandstone by the North Fork of the Virgin River.
People heve occupied the landscape of what is now Zion National Park for thousands of years. Zion's first residents, 12,000 years ago, tracked mammoths, camels and other mammals through open desert and sheltered canyons. With climate change, disease and over hunting, these animals died out 8,000 years ago. Hunters adapted by hunting smaller animals and gathering food. As resources kept diminishing, people adjusted to suit their location. One desert culture, evidence of their occupancy here still, evolved over the next 1,500 years as a community of farmers now known as the Ancestral Puebloans (Anasazi). The diverse geological setting gave them a combination rare in deserts, terraces to grow food, a river for water and an adequate growing season. On the Colorado Plateau. crops grow best between 5,000 and 7,000 feet of elevation, which makes Zion's elevations nearly ideal. But drought, resource depletion And migrations eventually decreased the Anasazi's dominance. The Anasazi moved southeast 800 years ago, due probably to drought and overuse. Soon after, Paiute peoples brought a lifeway fine-tuned to desert seasons and thrived. In the 1860s, just after settlement by Mormon pioneers, John Wesley Powell visited Zion on the first scientific exploration of southern Utah. The U.S. Government subsequently moved to extinguish Indian land claims in Utah and to confine all Indians on reservations. The Southern Paiute refused to go to the Uintah Reservation and eventually settled in the uninhabited hills and desert areas of southern Utah. In the early twentieth century several groups of Southern Paiutes finally received tracts of reserved land, but were left with little choice but to work in the wage economy. Today, Southern Paiute communities are located at Las Vegas, Pahrump, and Moapa, in Nevada; Cedar City, Kanosh, Koosharem, Shivwits, and Indian Peaks, in Utah; at Kaibab and Willow Springs, in Arizona; Death Valley and at the Chemehuevi Indian Reservation and on the Colorado River Indian Reservation in California.
Is it a Canyon or a Cathedral? Paiutes, pioneers and early visitors applied religious or spiritual names to many of the area's features. The Great White Throne, Angel's Landing and the Temple of Sinawava are several well-known examples. The name Zion, first used by a Mormon settler in the 1880s, implied a peaceful, serene place. Many people have been, and continue to be, inspired by the beauty of Zion.
Zion Canyon and Zion Lodge
On the right is Zion Lodge Note: I realize the photo looks slanted, but it is an illusion caused by the benches and the slanted sections of the roof leading to the wings of the building.
A couple of panoramas taken from the grounds of Zion Lodge
Crossing the Virgin River
The two lizards were sunning on the same rock. They did not seem to mind that there were several people around. I've found that wildlife around view points and at the beginnings of trails do not mind human invasion of their territory. However, they are still wild animals and should be treated as such. Even squirrels and chipmunks will bite, if approached.
Year-round seeps and springs continually recharge the pools. Rare in a desert environment, these perennial waters create micro-habitats for a variety of animals and plants, including the green algae that gives the pools their emerald color. The three sets of pools (Upper, Middle and Lower) create an unique oasis on this desert environment. The rock ledge in the photos is harder and more resistant than underlying formations. Over long periods of time, the softer, lower canyon rock layers have slowly eroded away. leaving the 100 foot drop and waterfall.
On the left part of the Emerald Pools Trail and on the right is water that fills the pools falling over the cliff
A closer look at the falling water and on the right one of the Lower Emerald Pools
Water splashing down the rocks into the pool on the right
What it looks like from below
More photos from underneath and in the desert, cactus, right? It is more of the pricklypear cactus that is found throughout Utah.
A narrow place in the trail
And on the left what it looks like from a distance. The photo on the right is actually from the Hanging Gardens area, but it fit here.
See the people above the falls on the left. Right: That's a mouthful!
The footbridge across the Virgin River leading from Zion Lodge to the Emerald Pools
The grounds at Zion Lodge (left) and the Great White Throne in th ebackground on the right.
Weeping Rock and the Hanging Gardens
A dripping spring feeds the hanging garden of ferns and mosses at Weeping Rock. Seeps and springs are part of a pattern in Zion Canyon; hanging gardens flourish along the Emerald Pools Trail and Riverside Walk. Because the cliff's Navajo sandstone is porous, it acts as a vertical reservoir. Snowmelt percolates down through the sandstone. When it reaches an impermeable layer of siltstone or shale, the moisture travels sideways along cracks until it emerges from the canyon walls, punctuating the cliffs with damp micro-habitats. Life concentrates in the green niches. Weeping Rock is a vertical oasis, a constant spring that nourishes a large concentration of ferns and wildflowers. Mysteriously the water seems to bleed from the rock. In this steep terrain plants grow in vertical zones, like a garden tilted on edge. Canyon walls compress an unusual diversity of life within short distances. The trail is steep enough to pass through sharply contrasting habitats, including high desert and lush springs. Here are found vegetation from desert cactus to moisture-loving ferns.
Plants grow on vertical walls and even on the undersides of ledges
On the left is a Plant Gall. When insects lay their eggs in the leaf stem, the plant tissue reacts to the irritation by producing a tumorous growth around the egg called a gall. This confines the egg so there is no long-term effect on the tree and it also provides food for the egg when it hatches.
Water seeping from the rocks and on the right looking back down the canyon from Weeping Rocks
There's that guy who follows Budder around the country. In the right photo you can see the water droplets falling. The source of all this water is from within the canyon face. There is no pool or stream above. Yes, I did get wet, those are water drops on my sleeve.
The formation on th eleft reminded me of the Sphinx. The bridge to Weeping Rock crosses a stream that feeds the Virgin River
This is one of the Zion Shuttle Buses
A lone woman waiting for a bus
On the right is the Great White Throne
On the right here is The Organ
In several places the river is more active than others
On the left looking up canyon toward the narrows. A boy plays in the river on the right.
The squirrels were out in force the day I was at Zion
An interesting rock face and what it looks like up close
A mini waterfall on the Virgin River
On the left is the end of River Walk. You can go farther up the canyon through the narrows, but it is a primitive hike with no set trail. On the right are some of the other visitors to Zion.
Walking on the stoney river bottom was not easy for the couple on the right
Long before today's landscape even appeared, streams, oceans, deserts and volcanoes dpeosited thousands of feet of mud, lime, sand and ash. The immense pressure and heat of accumulating sediments turned lower layers to stone. Later, underground forces uplifted the Colorado Plateau, a 130,000-square mile mass of rock over 10,000 above sea-level. Rain's watery fingers then worked the Plateau's minute cracks, loosening grains and widening fractures -- and eroding today's mighty canyons. These processes continue, today, rivers still deposit sediments that turn to stone, earthquakes still punctuate the Plateau's unward journey, and erosion pries rockfalls from Zion's cliffs. Eventually, this beautiful canyon will melt away and others will form. All it takes is time.