Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Johnson Canyon in Snow Canyon State Park

 I had an appointment in St. George recently, and along with doing a few errands (grocery shopping, bike tune-up, etc.), I wanted to make time for a little hike. I headed to Snow Canyon State Park and to the Johnson Canyon trail, which was described as being about two miles long and beautiful. It's also closed from March 15 to October 15, so that gave me a little extra impetus to get it done.

I drove past the parking area and to the fee booth at the south end of the park before I realized I had missed the parking area. (You can hike this trail for free, but it's nice to support the state park, too.) So I turned around and parked, then walked across the road to lots of orange sand. It wasn't long, though, until I saw the black lava contrasting with the landscape.

It was a warm day, so I thought I'd see lots of wildflowers. I just saw two though:

The drainages looked fascinating, with a twenty foot plunge over a lava lip to reach the sand below. A gauging station/weather station was off to the right above the drop.

 I ambled on and before I knew it there was a huge arch over on the side. This is Johnson Arch, with a span of 200+ feet. This is one of the main reasons to go on this hike.

Another big reason is that this is the only surface water in Snow Canyon (and that's why it's closed in the summer, to allow the wildlife to have free access to the water). There's not a lot of water, but even the small drainage leaves evidence of flash floods.

I saw a couple lizards.

I also noticed a swarm of small insects in the air. The water apparently supports some insect hatches.

The riparian ice was very pleasant. It ended in a bunch of rocks in the stream bed, but I could hike up to a big sandy area below some cliffs.

On my way back I enjoyed the arch again.

Then I found my own little arch, high up on the cliffs and only visible for a short while because it's so small. It made me happy to make this little discovery.

I also saw some signatures on the cliff wall that I had missed on the way in. Snow Canyon was named for Lorenzo and Erastus Snow, prominent Utah leaders. I'm not sure who F. Snow refers to or the other signatures.

As I was walking, ravens kept flying about and making quite a bit of noise. Then I noticed that there was a lighter colored bird that the raven was harassing. I thought at first it was a prairie falcon, but looking closer at the photo, I'm not so sure. (Any help?)

I had to take at least one photo of the creosote, a characteristic plant of the Mojave Desert. They weren't blooming yet, but they still looked and smelled beautiful.

I had most of the hike in to myself, but on the way back out I passed numerous groups and the parking lot was full. This is clearly a popular hike! If you'd like to try it, there are more details here.

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