Next up in our exploration of the United States’ great collection of national parks is Zion National Park. Located in southwest Utah, Zion National Park is undoubtedly one of the most scenic protected areas in the United States. This park has has steadily increased its visitation numbers since its establishment in 1919 from 1,814 people in that year to the whopping 4,295,127 visitors it had in 2016. With its rich history, abundant wildlife, and countless attractions, this national park’s immense natural beauty is something that should be preserved and appreciated by generations of visitors to come.
Zion’s high plateaus and canyons had their first encounters with humans roughly 12,000 years ago. At this time, humongous mammals like woolly mammoths, giant sloths, and camels wandered the area, and they and ultimately became extinct about 8,000 years ago as a result of over-hunting and climate change thinned out their populations. Zion’s provision of a wide, level place to grow food, a river to water it, and an adequate growing season led to the settling of the Anasazi and Paiute peoples as well as Europeans there. Through hard work and many difficulties, these groups were able to make this national park’s irregular landscape home for a period of time before deciding to utilize their resourcefulness in a different location.
As with any national park, the wildlife of southwest Utah that call Zion home add a whole new dimension to the park’s already breathtaking landscape. Over 1,000 species of plants, 78 species of mammals, 30 species of reptiles, 7 species of amphibians, 8 species of fish, and 291 species of birds create an expansive and flourishing ecosystem amidst the sandstone cliffs and freshwater springs. Relying on each member of the ecosystem to fulfill its role. For instance, sagebrush provides not only sustenance for animals that consume it, but shade from the intense sunlight for rattlesnakes as well. In additions to this, mountain lions take advantage of the night to hunt for animals like mule deer and wild turkeys for food along with other smaller animals. The continuous exchanges that go on between the many species that live in this park help maintain the teeming-with-life atmosphere of the area.
Among the many incredibly intricate pieces of scenery located within the park is Zion Canyon, which averages 2,000 feet deep and in which people are able to hike the 20-30 foot wide area known as The Narrows. People from all over the country and the world make Zion National Park their destination to see the various natural rock arches that exemplify the park’s 250 million year long geologic process. Some of the most famous rock arches include the Crawford, Kolob, Double Pine, Jughandle, Chinle Trail, and the Hidden arch. With features like these, it’s no wonder how this national park manages to generate millions of dollars in revenue every year.
Despite the thriving appearance of Zion’s attractions, the park has still been influenced by the pollution of humans. Because of increased tourism, air pollution has been a problem in this area. Carbon monoxide from cars, nitrogen, and ozone all contribute to the pollution of the park. Furthermore, some areas that tourists visited most had the predator-prey relationship impacted. For instance, cougars began to avoid areas with lots of people, which led to the overpopulation of mule deer and overgrazing.
Zion’s scenery can be kept as breathtaking as ever as long as a conscious effort is made to preserve the natural features and keep the park clean. Insurance groups and others have volunteered for hazard fuel clean up and other duties around the park in the spirit of preservation. We can only hope that other national parks receive the same attention.