Above Moab’s Mill Canyon, a sandstone cliff holds an art gallery. Its images range from petroglyphs left by the ancient Fremont people to cowboy inscriptions. One stands out—a bull bison, complete with hump and horns. Nearby, painted Ute warriors carry shields, a form of body armor crafted from the animal’s skin.
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.
Managing wildlife sometimes means weighing the value of one species against another in order for the more threatened of the two to survive. This is the case in New Mexico, where state game managers were able to remove desert bighorn sheep from the state's endangered species list, in part, by reducing a robust mountain lion population.
As cliff swallows return to the Colorado Plateau this spring, they set about building mud nests on cliffs – or, just as often, on manmade structures like bridge abutments or under wide eaves. That takes a lot of work—more than a thousand beakfuls of mud for a new nest.
Cliff swallows live communally, and they’ll sometimes fast-track the nest-building process by stealing mud from neighbors or laying an egg or two in a nearby nest.
For those living in the American Southwest, dust is as much a part of the environment as dryness and sunshine. Tiny particles seem to get into everything, including houses, cars, and noses.
While dust can be annoying, scientists believe it plays a vital role in the region’s ecology. It appears to provide essential minerals and chemical compounds to high-mountain ecosystems, just as seafaring salmon bring ocean nutrients high up into freshwater streams.
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.
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?