The unusually cold, snowy 2022-23 winter in southwestern Utah provided opportunities for interesting photographs.
Snow Canyon State Park along the Red Sands Trail.
Recently, on March 24, 2023, Utah broke its snowfall record. The Great Salt Lake's water level rose 2 feet and as a result Utah's "severe drought" status has greatly decreased. My favorite ski resort, Alta, recorded its most snowfall ever, with 749 inches of the fluffy stuff. Outside my windows, snow blankets the mountain ranges to the north and west of St George. For a few seconds the other day, I thought I was in Boise, Idaho, my former domicile with its surrounding winter mountains. Red and orange sandstone cliffs quickly confirmed that I was in southern Utah.
The southwestern Utah snowpack basin received the largest increase above normal snowpack - 300% - the highest percentage of all 16 Utah snowpack basins.
St. George long-time residents tell me that this is a "really unusual winter" (with an emphasis on "unusual"). Every week brings days of rain. Our local reservoir is filled! Temperatures are 10-15 degrees below normal. We are now at the end of March, but living in January temperatures. This has created a unique opportunity for photography. I've been fortunate to see snow against the warm hues of sandstone, mosses rehydrated to bright green pillows dotting north rock faces and hidden canyon grottos, and, by sticking around places long enough, the beginning of waterfalls during a rainstorm or sun snow melt.
The "Triple Junction" at St. George, Utah
St. George is a unique place because it's situated right at the intersection of three distinct geographical provinces, or regions that have indicative geology, physiography, botany, and climatic attributes. This triple junction is a transition zone between the Great Basin desert to the northwest, the Mojave desert to the southwest, and the Colorado Plateau to the east. St. George's downtown is located in the Mojave desert. A short drive from downtown St George northwest brings you to Snow Canyon State Park, whose geology is that of the Colorado Plateau province, and one of my favorite places to go wandering with my cameras.
The 6 Keys to Longevity and Mental Health
Hiking and meandering solo with my cameras is a great form of meditation, a time that combines creativity with connection to nature. I get to achieve 3 of the 6 keys to longevity and mental health: exercise, meditation and purpose. If you're interested in finding a good discussion of mental health and longevity, click on the link above to an article on Roxiva's website. Walking in nature is a great form of meditation and research has shown that people who live near green spaces tend to live longer, have lower rates of illness, and better mental health. Getting away from stress is fundamental to health, but we need to have ways to find stillness and silence ourselves, because it won't find us!
One of my best days this winter included a hike to see the rare waterfalls in Hell Hole, a deep canyon on the boundary of Red Cliffs National Conservation Area (BLM) near Kayenta, a development northwest of St. George, on a very rainy day. I got to witness the spectacular sight of towering waterfalls spilling down sandstone cliffs, and the downstream wash, churning with salmon-colored water. It was a sight I will never forget, and as I stood there alone, it started pouring. Deep in the canyon, close to the orange walls and cascading water, I watched as more waterfalls developed and spilled in ever increasing amounts, elevating the roar of the falls and the creek. It was a gift to see nature change so quickly and beautifully in solitude.
It's time to move on to warmer and sunnier days. At least one bonus besides replenishing our reservoirs: the wildflower show should be spectacular!
When I'm out making images, I remember a few of my favorite quotes:
"As long as you are making images, you are living the dream."
- Michael Kadillak, photographer and friend who taught me black and white "Zone System" film processing.
"Nature, time, and patience are the three best physicians."
- Ann Zwinger - The Art of Wandering in The Nearsighted Naturalist
Keep on Exploring!
Pine Valley Mountains - the largest laccolith in the U.S. - rising above Snow Canyon State Park near St. George, Utah.
A laccolith can be thought of a volcano that never erupted because molten magma was injected between layers of sedimentary rock. The pressure of the magma pushed the layers into a dome. The layers overlying the magma have since eroded away, exposing the laccolith.
(this photo was taken last winter).
Hell Hole at the head of Kayenta Wash.
The waterfall on the right began while I was there in a rain storm.
Snow Canyon State Park
Red Cliffs National Conservation Area
Looking over basalt flows south of Snow Canyon State Park.
One of the smaller, scrub oak-filled side canyons in Snow Canyon State Park.
Along the Hidden Pinyon Trail in Snow Canyon State Park.
One of my favorite chollas on the Red Sands Trail in Snow Canyon State Park.
The same cholla as above in late spring.
Approaching storm near Johnson Canyon in Snow Canyon State Park.
Early season hike up Red Mountain with Dan and Fred to an overlook of Snow Canyon SP and Pine Valley Mountains on the horizon.
Three types of rock: basalt flow, Kayenta sandstone, and the sandstone and limestone of the snow-covered Beaver Dam Mountains.
Hell Hole - these waterfalls appear only with a lot of rain or snow on top of the walls that melts. Much more rain this season afforded more opportunities than usual to see this beautiful sight.
Scouts Cave overlooking St. George, Utah and the Beaver Dam Mountains.
Snow Canyon State Park
The oldest sedimentary rocks of Snow Canyon SP are the stream deposits of the Kayenta Formation (190 million years ago).
The famous Navajo Sandstone layer was deposited over the Kayenta (183 million years ago) and are the most impressive orange, red and white cliffs as you ascend in the park. The Navajo sandstone is also the prominent layer seen in Zion National Park.
Rains left pools and bright green hydrated moss mats.
Another storm coming! Gila Trail, Snow Canyon.
A large pool of water and bright green moss at this grotto hidden behind immense sandstone walls.
Walking into Hell Hole.
Engelmann's hedgehog cactus
Walking out of Hell Hole: three waterfalls.
Whiterocks amphitheater, Snow Canyon SP
Snow Canyon State Park
This hidden pool extended between two towering walls with dripping water
It sounded so peaceful!
Three rock types: Navajo Sandstone, basalt flow, and snow-covered Pine Valley Mountain's monzonite porphyry (granite with large crystals) that formed as a result of slow cooling underground.
Red Mountain from our front yard.
Sunrise on Beaver Dam Mountains - from our back yard.
The Triple Junction of Southern Utah. a You Tube video from BackRoadsWest1.
Sue and Fred
About this blog
Exploration documentaries – "explorumentaries" list trip stats and highlights of each hike or bike ride, often with some interesting history or geology. Years ago, I wrote these for friends and family to let them know what my husband, Fred and I were up to on weekends, and also to showcase the incredible land of the west.
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