Rose Houk

Land Lines

With their bald heads, beady eyes, and habit of shredding messy roadkill, turkey vultures look like birds only a mother could love. But this week we all should look up and tip our hats at the key role they play in the natural world. Saturday September 5 is International Vulture Awareness Day.

We tend to think that rivers flow in a consistent direction: downstream. But over geologic time “downstream” can change. That’s why a place like Unaweep Canyon in western Colorado is such a good place to think about long-term time travel.


When presidents approach the end of a term, an otherwise little-known federal law often hits the headlines. It’s the Antiquities Act, passed by Congress in 1906.

How do we know who lives where? Increasingly, land managers are turning to a fun and educational event to find out: the bioblitz.

Northern Arizona Audubon Society

Each spring, common black hawks soar into Arizona skies from their wintering grounds in Mexico. These large, coal-black raptors, with distinctive white-banded tails, spend the warmer six months of the year here breeding, nesting and raising young.

Springs are magical places where groundwater comes to the surface — lush green patches that are among the most diverse, productive, and threatened ecosystems on Earth.

  This year, Walnut Canyon is celebrating a hundred years of protection as a national monument—protection that came none too soon because its prehistoric sites were being seriously damaged.

It was people known to archaeologists as the northern Sinagua who built some three hundred rooms in the limestone alcoves of this hidden canyon near the San Francisco Peaks. They lived, farmed, and hunted in the canyon and on the rim from the 1100s into the mid-1200s.

National Park Service

  It was a long way from the civilized college town of Ann Arbor, Michigan, to Mexican Hat, Utah, back in the summer of 1937. But Dr. Elzada Clover made the trip.

A botanist at the University of Michigan, she had an ambitious dream to explore the little-known plant life of the Colorado River region. Cacti were her specialty. Where better to find them than the Southwest deserts?

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

People in New Mexico pay close attention to the sky this time of year, watching and listening for flocks of sandhill cranes flying in graceful V-formation.

Each winter, ten to twenty thousand sandhills arrive, spending the days resting and feeding along the Rio Grande around Albuquerque and south. Others winter in southeastern Arizona.

Utah State Parks

  Many visitors discover Goblin Valley by chance on their way between marquee national parks like Capitol Reef and Canyonlands. But this Utah state park received unwanted publicity in 2013 when two men were caught on video toppling rocks off the weirdly rounded hoodoos that give the park its name.

That act of vandalism spurred a big idea: why not expand the park? Goblin Valley currently consists of about 3,500 acres of outlandish geology. But that may soon grow to about 10,000 acres under a State Parks plan.