About eight centuries ago, the ancestors of today's Hopi people built several villages along the Little Colorado River near present-day Winslow. They called the place "Hom lovi," meaning "place of the little hills," and the ruins they left behind became an archaeological landmark.
The colorful rock layers of the Colorado Plateau hide many economically important secrets. One of the most valuable, and controversial, is uranium.
Much of the uranium on the Colorado Plateau accumulated around decaying organic material in ancient stream sediments. But by far the richest concentrations occur in structures called breccia (pron. breh-chee-uh, with the emphasis on the first syllable) pipes that are especially common in the Grand Canyon region.
Carbon sequestration is an optimistic but untested idea for controlling greenhouse gas emissions. The concept is simple. Carbon dioxide is a primary cause of climate change so why not bury it? Now a test of that idea is coming to northeast Arizona.
Starting soon, 2,000 tons of carbon dioxide gas will be trucked to Joseph City, a small community west of Holbrook. That's the site of the coal-fired Cholla Power Plant run by APS, Arizona's largest electricity utility.
Celebrating the bounty of Earth with turkeys isn't a new custom on the Colorado Plateau. This big game bird, native to North America, has been an important staple of regional diets at least since the days of the Anasazi a thousand years ago.
The Anasazi kept turkeys in pens for food and used their feathers to make blankets. Turkeys probably also ate grasshoppers in cultivated fields of corn and beans.
Flagstaff, AZ – Earth Notes: John Wetherill and Navajo National Monument
This year Navajo National Monument celebrates its one-hundredth birthday. The park, in northeast Arizona, is home to three outstanding ancestral Puebloan sites Keet Seel, Betatakin, and Inscription House.
The sight of a bighorn sheep poised on a narrow canyon ledge is always breathtaking. Muscular and lithe, these hooved mammals are majestic symbols of wilderness. But not so long ago, these native sheep were a rare sighting indeed in much of the Southwest.
In the 1840s, a young ornithologist named William Gambel traveled to the Southwest with noted naturalist Thomas Nuttall. Sadly, Gambel's promising career ended early; he died of typhoid fever in 1849. But his memory lives on in a tree that bears his name.
A common species, Gambel oak covers nine million acres across the West. On the Colorado Plateau, this deciduous oak forms the green understory in the ponderosa pine forest. It's also found in canyons like namesake Oak Creek.
Energy efficiency is in the news today, but it's not really new. For decades, buildings in one southwestern city were heated by plentiful, locally produced energy. The source was steam from a local utility, the Flagstaff Electric Light Company.
Sawdust, wood chips, and other waste wood from a local lumber mill fed the company's electrical boilers. For many years the steam had just gone up the stack, until someone thought to put it to good use.
In the woods and around town, crusty growths cling to bare rocks, hang from tree branches, and hug the ground. Painted in shades of dusty green, sulfur yellow, and pumpkin orange, these subtle organisms are lichens, hardy colonizers of some of the harshest environments on Earth.
Flagstaff, AZ – We all learned in elementary school that evergreen trees don't lose their leaves. Most conifers, including majestic ponderosa pines, are evergreens. By staying green all year long, these trees can photosynthesize anytime conditions are good. They don't have to spend valuable energy adding leaves once the weather warms.