It’s an iconic southwestern scene: the glimmer of green or yellow cottonwood leaves fluttering against the backdrop of Zion Canyon’s tremendous red- and cream-colored cliffs. Along southwest Utah’s Virgin River, groves of cottonwood trees please the eye, offer very welcome shade, and provide habitat for numerous types of animals.
But Zion’s cottonwoods are in trouble. Big as they are, the cottonwood trees along the river aren’t particularly long lived. Worse yet, as they die they are not being replaced by younger trees.