Flash Floods and the First Picture of the Season!

When I made the move to Utah’s Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument from a small college town in coastal Northern California earlier this summer, I had no idea what to expect.  Growing up I’d moved almost a dozen times and experienced a variety of environments and communities.  I had not, however, lived or explored in a region even remotely resembling the quickly changing landscapes of high deserts and canyon country.

When I first spotted this river, I was somewhat puzzled.  It was my first day in Utah and though all the scenery was completely new to me, this stuck out! I’d never seen a river flow such a rusty orange.  I remember assuming it probably always looked this way.  I pulled over immediately and snapped a picture- my first of the summer!

First picture in Utah!

Flash flood!

After spending the last five months living and working closely with this land, I now know that this river was probably experiencing a much higher flow than usual.  The formidable clouds above meant it was most likely raining somewhere nearby and upstream.  The river was flooding and loaded with sediment from further up the river – hence the color.  It’s so obvious to me now, but I when I found this picture it was fun to remember how much I have learned this summer.

Now that monsoon season has arrived (yes you read correctly- our area of the desert experiences a monsoon season!), we know the best spots to go and look for the onset of a flash flood or a raging river.  One of the prettiest spots to be when the rains come in is a local area known as Long’s Canyon.  The water flows over the cliff tops and down into the canyon, and it’s just magnificent!  Usually the last place you want to be when floods could occur is in a wash/canyon bottom, but this spot happens to be safe Mom, I promise!


Temporary waterfall in Long’s Canyon!

It’s fulfilling to know how much the myriad of experiences I’ve had this summer have taught me.  The intricacies of an ecosystem that once seemed so foreign and unforgiving are less daunting and more exciting now.

Lauryl McFarland

Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument