The National Park Service and US Geological Survey have been repeating historic photographs in
southeastern Utah and other areas of the southwest. With this work, detection of change (or lack of
change) between photographs is facilitated by establishing the same field of view and perspective as the
original photo to the extent possible. Repeat photography collections such as this provide a unique
long-term perspective on ecosystem dynamics, including shifts in plant communities, soil erosion and
deposition, and evolution of stream and wash channels.
A photographer laying in a small wash snaps a shot of a group of flowering yucca in Canyonlands National Park in 1965. Shrubs such as blackbrush dot the landscape extending back towards the cliffs. A dirt road barren of veggetation curves into and out of the upper right of the frame.
This aerial photo shows Anderson Bottom in Green River. This spot is the only place for miles to allow access to the Green River from the White Rim, and farmers attempted to make a living in the fertile soil found here.
Angel Arch is one of the geological treasures of the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park. Before closure of the road in Salt Creek between Peekaboo Arch and Angel Arch Canyon in 19__, horses and vehicles accessed this remote point. Now, access is restricted to hikers and the occasional horseback rider.
This view shows the former main road into the northern part of Arches National Park passing near Balanced Rock (center), a high-use area. Junipers appear on both sides of this road, and the shrubs are mostly Coleogyne ramosissima with scattered Purshia mexicana.
This view of Balanced Rock shows the production crew and set for the film Hemingway's Adventures of a Young Man. We see blackbrush on the foreground slope, and juniper surrounding the base of Balanced Rock. Extensive dirt roads and trails are visible in this scene.
The foreground is choked with tumbleweed, which is fairly unusual in Arches and suggests significant disturbance in this area. Low blackbrush fills scene, and juniper dot the slopes below Balanced Rock.
This view of Castle Ruin in 1910 shows piles of bricks at the bases of sections of this ruin. In the leftmost structure, the top of a window can be made out on the back wall. The area around the base of the ruin is clear of vegetation, mature cliff rose and sagebrush can be seen on the slopes behind the ruin as well as the foreground. Young shrubs are just beginning to colonize the margin between these areas.
Wooden Shoe Arch is centered on the horion above the sandy wash of Squaw Creek. The foreground is dominated by Great Basin sagebrush. Behind the wash, juniper trees grow near the base of the cliffs and extend farther back onto the rock. A few leafless trees stand within the wash.
Vehicles and structures are parked under this rock ledge at Cave Springs. Large juniper tree and shrubs grow near the base, but human use has left large sections of the foreground bare of both vegetation and biocrust.
This photo looks out over the bowl of Chesler Park, encircled by the thin sandstone spires that give the Needles district its name. Pinyon and juniper trees cluster at the bases of the rock formations and along the bottom of washes where they can take advantage of areas with higher moisture. Some blackbrush shrubs dot the slopes stretching down from the rock pillars in the middle of the photo. At the time of this photo Chesler Park would still experience grazing from livestock brought in during the winter months.
The patch of soil atop this rock outcrop on Chesler Trail shows a well-developed island of soil crust, with several bunches of purple three-awn, two blackbrush shrubs, and a few young asters growing within it. (Look up common name for the aster here). Footprints along the edge of the island show where recent distrubance has inhibited crust and plant growth. Similar patches of crust and shrubs extend over the rock at the bases of the juniper and pinyon trees.
Chesler Trail cuts through a shrub-dominated area, with blackbrush, winterfat, rabbitbrush, snakeweed, and prickly pear comprising most of the plant life. Pinyon and juniper trees grow in patches to the side of the trail and extend out to the rock needles in the background. The interspaces between plants on both sides of the trail show a cover of biocrust indicating that, although sandy, the soil surface in this area is relatively stable.
This scene along Chesler Trail shows a cairn marking the trail across bare slickrock. Dark desert varnish marks the rock where water accumulates. Pinyon and juniper grow through cracks in the sandstone, and blackbrush occupies the deeper soils in the distance.
This photo shows a blocked social trail through healthy soil biocrust and a pinyon-juniper woodland. This informal trail has depressed the ground surface by several inches, and no biocrust can grown on this trampled area. Pinyon branches have been laid across the trail to allow the area to regenerate.
This photo was taken during a regional drought. The shrubs and trees show signs of drought stress, including few leaves and dead branches. Even the dark soil biocrust appears faded. The scar of the Chesler Trail windw through the center of the scene.
The tall thin walls of Courthouse Towers and other sandstone features stand out against the horizon of this photo. The base of the towers give way to pinyon-juniper and shrubland. A road cuts from the right side of the frame towards the middle before winding into the disance between the rock formations.
Courthouse Wash is almost completely barren of vegetation. A few tamarisk grow on the banks, while the main drainage was recently scoured clear by flooding. Dunes top the high cliff-banks at the center of the view.
This upstream view on Courthouse Wash shows a broad sandy channel with recent flood damage. Small woody shrubs are scattered on the mostly barren floodplain, and in the foreground may be leafless tamarisk.
Courthouse Wash is a recovering riparian habitat with abundant native cottonwood, willow, greasewood, and rabbitbrush. Native Baltic rush dominates the streambeds; its sturdy root system holds soil and prevents erosion. Young cottonwood and a few tamarisk on the far bank hint that this area is recovering from past grazing and flooding.
A thick forest of pinyon surrounds Cutthroat Castle, with juniper on the high ridge in the background. A tall cottonwood looms behind the tower, indicating subtantial year-round water in this drainage.
This striking scene from Eagle Park shows how large shrubs thrive near the bases of rock formations, as runoff from the stone formation supplements rainfall. Juniper, skunkbush, and pinyon frame the hoodoo.
This scene shows some primary industries of the Colorado Plateau: gazing and oil drilling. Native vegetation is largely absent from the scene, and cheatgrass, tumbleweed, and mustard weeds dominate. The right side of the fence, outside of the monument, is more intensely grazed than the left side.
The fenceline of Hovenweep shows the effects of different grazing intensities on the left and righthand side of the fence. The lefthand side remains a grassland, but with weedy invasive plants and shrubs clipped low by browing. The righthand side shows intense trailing from cattle and few native shrubs.
This view shows the Fiery Furnace from the main road. Blackbrush dominates these fine-grained, gypsum-laden soils. The shrub out of focus at lower right is mormon tea, and many individuals of this species occur throughout the view.
Robust pinyon, Utah juniper, and shinnery oak are nestled in the crevices of Fiery Furnace. A few barberry and Gambel oak sit within the protected fractures near the top of the ridge. Singleleaf ash and serviceberry interspersed between the large rocks indicate that the fractures provide a little more moisture and shade than the surrounding open desert.
This late afternoon view of the Garden of Eden shows the Windows Trail ascending from the paved roadway toward the East. Blackbrush and a few ephedra are small, and this vegetation shows signs of grazing taking place in the park.
A thick corridor of tamaraisk and willow lines the Green River, while a few bunchgrass and blackbrush shrubs cling to the White Rim standstone above the banks. Large stones on the sandstone ledges are river cobbles deposited during the Pleistoncene era.
This photo shows blackbrush shrubland and some pinyon-juniper woodland above Happy Canyon in the Maze District of Canyonlands National Park. Note that the pinyon and juniper are mainly confined to the low drainages, while the blackbrush occupy the higher and drier areas.
Low shrubs including sagebrush, four-wing saltbush, and rabbitbrush, show signs of grazing in their spherical, trimmed form. Woody debris show that juniper and sagebrush have experienced significant, recent dieback.
The Holly Group is perched on large sandstone boulders among sagebrush, shadscale, pale wolfberry and some bunchgrasses. Large mountain mohogany shrubs sit adjacent to each tower, and juniper dominates the far ridge.
This photo of shows Hovenweep Castle amongst great basin sagebrush and a few large juniper. The soil shows signs of extensive foot traffic, but the spreading black biological crust shows that trampling is easing.
Land's End Butte in Canyonlands is dotted with pinyon and juniper near its base. The foreground of this photo is mostly blackbrush. The soils appear eroded and windblown: small dunes have formed at the bases of the blackbrush.
The remnants of four structures visible in this shot of Tower Point from inside Little Ruin Canyon, two on the top of the hill and one midway down the slope. There is a small remnant of a fifth structure visible just to the left of the ruin highest up the hill. Sagebrush dominate the visible vegitation, growing up the slope and around rocky outcrops. Juniper trees are slightly visible over the top of the ridge to the right and left of the ruins.
A sand dune is the dominant feature in the foreground. Dead juniper and small shrub stalks in the sand indicate recent disturbance of the soil. Juniper are thriving in the low drainages below the Marching Men, with blackbrush on the open slopes.
The green river curves through the canyon at the Mineral Bottom location. Stands of tamarisk line the far bank, with a transition to shrubs growing in the floodplain of the near bank before thinning out as they hit the dryer rocky slope in the forground. A trail cuts through the floodplain in the lower half of the photo. There are sturdier trees such as cottonwood lining the curve of the left side of the river, and several more scattered into the other vegetation.
This scene shows the White Rim trail near Murphy Hogback, at Island in the Sky in Canyonlands National Park. The Green River is visible in the upper right of the screen. Vegetation on these rocky, eroding slopes is sparse and consists mainly of snakeweed, blackbrush, a few Apache plume, and other small shrubs. The foreground is a new gravel pile and a road edge is visible in the lower left.
Pinyon/juniper trees cluster at the base of the rock outcrop in the Maze while large cottonwood trees grow downslope in the lower right corner of the photo. The sandy soil below the rocks has a scattering of grasses and a few shrubs, both live and dead.
This view from Panorama Point shows the Garden of Eden in the right background and the La Sal Mountains in the left distance. The foreground is mostly Coleogyne ramosissima, and Quercus weberi, Artemisia filifolia, and junipers appear on the left and in the midground.
The slickrock near Parade of Elephans supports robust juniper and some pinyon trees in the fractures. Low-growing shinnery oak, Indian ricegrass, ephedra, Apache plume, and blackbrush reside on the shallow soil patches.
Park Avenue changed little in three years. Pinyon and juniper continue to dominate the bottomlands, while nearly every ephedra, blackbrush, and sagebrush shrub on the slopes has persisted since 1944. The slow-growing vegetation has changed little in size, and few new plants have recruited into this area.
A ranger surveys Park Avenue in Arches National Park in 1944. Mature pinyon, juniper, oak, and singleleaf ash occupy the valley bottom. The drier slopes below the sandstone walls host a sparse but diverse set of shrubs, including ephedra, blackbrush, sagebrush, rabbitbrush, and native perennial grasses.
This view just off the road into Park Avenue in 1959 shows sparse subshrubs and some soil trampling in the foreground. Pinyon, juniper, and singleleaf ash occupy the lower drainages in the background. A fenceline is barely visible along the drainage from the lower right corner toward the center of the view.
Park Avenue in May, 1960 has a greenish cast as wildflowers and other young plants flush in springtime. Blackbrush, sagebrush, ephedra, and rabbitbrush on the slopes have grown larger and more numerous since the 1940s, despite the drier weather in 1960. The thriving vegetation is likely due to the reduction of cattle.
Park Avenue was a filming location for the John Ford western Cheyenne Autumn. In addition to two actors and some equipment, we see many green leafy shrubs in the foreground and widespread trampling on the soil, presumably due to filming. The straight-stemmed shrubs are mostly singleleaf ash, while the rounder shrubs are simple leaf skunkbush. Two ephedra,or mormon tea, are just upslope from the actor.
This view upstream on Salt Creek in the Needles District shows the floodplain in the vicinity of the Peekaboo campsite. In 2004, the channel was narrow and barely visible in the center of the view, and it is flanked by a wide floodplain supporting a variety of riparian vegetation, ranging from tamarisk to cottonwood trees. The road leading to the campsite is apparent at left center. A prominent trail leading from the Peekaboo camp to Squaw Creek appears in the center right.
This view, with the La Sal Mountains in the right background, shows an assemblage of Coleogyne ramosissima with scattered Ephedra viridis on loose sandy soil. One individual of Atriplex canescens appears in the left foreground. The line of taller plants in the midground consists of taller junipers and shorter Purshia mexicana.
This view shows a gang of packhorses and several vehicles moving upstream on Salt Creek just upstream from Peekaboo Arch. Taken at the time that Canyonlands was established as a national park, it shows a wide channel with flanking narrow, high floodplains and colluvial terraces resulting from rockfall and eolian distribution under the bedrock walls. Most of the vegetation in the channel is cottonwood with xerophytic shrubs, although a large Gambel oak is present under the shadowed cliff at middle right.
By the early 1970s, the channel of Salt Creek has begun to narrow with low floodplain development and the encroachment of riparian vegetation. This narrowing occurred in many canyons on the Colorado Plateau and is not unusual or related to the road that once traversed this point. Vehicle tracks in the muddy channel are only slightly visible. The tallest tree on the left side is a cottonwood, with a non-native tamarisk in flower apparent above a bedrock ledge. Other tamarisk appear on the right side of this downstream view.
This view shows undisturbed shrublands north of the natural gas pipeline that crosses the northern part of Arches National Park along the road to Klondike Bluffs (left background). The shrubs are mostly Coleogyne ramosissima with scattered Ephedra viridis in the view, particularly at lower right.
This stunning late-afternoon photo shows the snow-capped La Sal Mountains behidn the Wingate sandstone cliffs above the Colorado River (below the line of sight). Patches of snow supply steady moisture to the pinyon and juniper and soil biocrust on the clifftop in the foreground.
Horseback riders linger in four-wing saltbrush and blackbrush underneath Skyline Arch in Arches National Park. A few small Utah juniper dot the foreground. Larger juniper and pinyon grow along the base of the rock, where they are protected from weather and receive extra water when rain runs off the slickrock.
Along the fenceline in Hovenweep National Monument, heavy grazing has reduced the former sagebrush landscape to a few twigs and small tumbleweeds. The left side of the fence shows signs of more intensive grazing than the right side, but the presence of sagebrush stumps and invasive weeds on both sides indicates an intensive transformation of the ecosystem.
This fence separates two grazing allotments, within and outside of Hovenweep National Monument. Grazing has been managed differently on either side of the fence, leading to substantially more impact on the right side, outside of the park.
This scene, taken just above the road in the Needles District, shows the floodplain of Squaw Creek. Great Basin sagebrush fills the sandy wash, while juniper are rooted in the crevices of the sandstone bench in the background.
This scene shows healthy biocrust and grama grass in the foreground on the thin soils atop this sandstone bench. The Squaw Flat grassland in the background is ringed by juniper and pinyon in sandstone fractures.
This area in Squaw Flat shows a field dominated by long-lived native bunch grasses, bordered by juniper and pinyon trees near the rock cliffs that ring it. Trees extended upward onto the rock above as well.
The Great Wall in Arches National Park features a juniper and sagebrush shrubland. Blackbrush occupies the slopes immediately at the base of the wall. A low stand of shinnery oak in the foreground indicates sandy soil, and dark soil crust occupies the low, flat areas.
Blackbrush fills the landscape around Windows, shown here at sunset in 1967. A few dried lepidium and grass stems rise between the plants, and the only sign of human disturbance is the winding asphalt road in the distance.
A few juniper are scattered at the base of Tower Arch. A few singleleaf ash and shinnery oak are interspersed low among the juniper. In the foreground, a small sand ramp supports yucca and very low-growing shinnery oak.
The base of Tunnel Arch is dominated by sand dunes: winds carry sand over the arch and deposit sand here into ramps and dunes. Large pinyon and juniper fill the lower-lying areas where water collects off the dunes and slickrock. The foreground dune vegetation is mostly sand sage and rabbitbrush with bare sand in between shrubs.
Turnbow Cabin at the Delicate Arch trailhead is a popular stop. Invasive tamarisk dominate the low areas around the streambed and ranch. Much of the streambed is scoured from recent rains, and the bare hill in the background is an area where blowing sand accumulates.
This photo from 1906 shows two children standing in a wash within 100 yards of Turnbow Cabin near Delicate Arch. Water runs at their feet. The combination of ranching, wood gathering, and farming has almost completely stripped this scene of vegetation.
Upheaval Bottom is a largely barren landscape in the 1960s. A thin line of tamarisk outlines a drainage, with some greasewood and other shrubs nearby. The sandy alluvial fan at the base of the cliffs in the background hosts a few four-wing saltbrush and bunchgrass.
Upper Salt Valley was interspersed with scadscale and greasewood, indicating salty soils in this flat valley. Lighter patches on the ground incidate salt scald - the soil is too saline to support vegetation. The very small, clumped plants might be invasive exotic halogeton. All of the dominant plants here are unpalatable to livestock, and the distant fenceposts indicate heavy grazing on this site.
This view shows Jacob?s Chair in southeastern Utah east of Lake Powell. Junipers and pinyons dot the landscape in the background. The plants in the foreground are blackbrush, or Coleogyne ramosissima, a larger one in the center and a smaller one on the left.
The rocky slope shows only a few shrubs establishing in the disturbed rock, significantly smaller than the ones on top of the rock outcrop. The outline of the Abajo mountain range can just faintly be see on the horizon.
Blackbrush dominate the slope below the Cove of Caves. Larger juniper shrubs cluster at the edges of sandstone, where they get access to extra rainwater runoff from the slickrock. Some juniper the foreground are showing signs of dieback from drought; the 1940s was a dry period in this region.