Part II, Aquifers in Red Rock Canyon
Part I of Red Rock Canyon was an overview of the area’s inception from being formed under an ancient sea to the present day desert landscape with canyons, sandstone formations and escarpments. In Part II, we look at how water continues to play a prominent role in Red Rock's uniqueness, from seasonal precipitation to the numerous streams and springs, each with their own diverse micro-environments.
Just past the entrance to the Red Rock Scenic Loop and set against the backdrop of the Spring Mountains, First Creek flows through massive boulders, over colorful sandstone rocks, and along banks with single-leaf ash trees.
Within the First Creek Trail Head, the Shinarump waterfall flows 20 feet (6m) to the pool below when there has been adequate rainfall or snowmelt, creating its own unique micro-environment with Maidenhair Ferns.
Spring Mountain Ranch State Park located within the Red Rock Canyon Conservation Area is a definite oasis in the desert and holds the water rights to 53 natural springs in the 528 acres (214ha) of the park. Spring Mountain Ranch has a long history with cattle ranching and was once owned by the actress Vera Krupp who ran a working cattle ranch. At present, many of the pastures are still being leased out for cattle grazing. Behind the ranch house, the 3 acre (1.21ha) Lake Harriet is a permanent water source and home to many different forms of wildlife.
One of many natural ponds at Spring Mountain Ranch surrounded by tall, mature cottonwood trees.
Inside the 13 mile Red Rock scenic loop are numerous perpetual streams including Pine Creek that runs through Pine Creek Canyon. The unique micro-climate of Pine Creek Canyon supports the growth of tall Ponderosa pines that rarely grow below 6,000 feet 3,000 m, and are thought to be the remnant of a much larger ancient forest.
Lost Creek lies about half way through the Scenic loop and offers a serene view with a quiet reflecting pond.
However, a closer look at the heavy boulders strewn around the area is a constant reminder of the violent earth movement that took place some 100 million years ago.
The Waterfall at Lost Creek is one of the outstanding features of Red Rock Canyon when it is flowing after a heavy rain or during snowmelt as it plunges down to the alcove below.
In the general area of Lost Creek, Willow Springs stands as an important site visited by a hunter-gather society perhaps 10,000 years ago with its petroglyph carved rocks and limestone roasting pits.
Many of the aquifers in the Red Rock Conservation Area are fed from seasonal monsoons and low pressure systems that bring occasional rain or snow to the area. There is nothing quite as relaxing as being out at Red Rock during a light summer rain, watching the water flowing through cracks or cascading over sandstone buttresses as it has for millions of years.
Sometimes you might catch a rainbow as it forms across the loop.
During thunderstorms or heavy downpours, flash floods rage through the dry washes carrying tree limbs and big rocks, providing us with a glimpse into the past and how Red Rock was formed.
As paradoxical as it might seem in the harsh desert, water has always played a vital role in Red Rock's legacy. Whether from underground streams or in the form of participation, water replenishes the aquifers which provide the micro-climates that are essential to the plants and animals of Red Rock Canyon.
In Part 3 of next week's blog, we take a closer look at the flora and fauna unique to the Mojave Desert and Red Rock Canyon.
What an exciting and interesting photo-adventure this day has been. I love it when I am drawn to an area and not knowing what to expect I get treated to new experiences.
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