National Geographic : 1954 Jan
Amid the Mighty Walls of Zion with no escape ledges. Often the walls over hung the stream 15 feet or so above low water. In places we couldn't see even a patch of sky by which to judge whether the weather was still favorable. At one point I heard a low gurgling mysterious and ominous. After a search, I found its source, a spring higher than my head, pouring into a dark pool. Around a bend the chasm widened, but each side was blocked by immense rocks fallen from the heights. The only way was through the pool, which was too deep to wade. Putting cameras and wrist watches into plastic bags, we plunged into the water. The packs buoyed us surprisingly well. Two of the "frogmen" simply floated their packs, towing them like barges. Making Friends with Water Ouzels We were surprised to find several water ouzels, seemingly unconcerned at our ap proach. Whether through fear or lack of it, one of these small slate-gray birds sat quietly on a branch while we petted it. Another was gently picked up and carried a quarter of a mile. It seemed not frightened but merely curious when placed on the branch of a tree. Endearing birds of spray and foam, water ouzels "fly under water" in search of food.* Many times we seemed to be splashing through high, vaulted tunnels and passages where, for 40 or 50 minutes of travel, we saw no possibility of climbing off the bottom if the waters should rise. In some places, we had heard, one can see the stars in midday. We didn't see them; perhaps we didn't look in the right places, or a growing overcast hid them. Although the riverbed was mostly round stones, from the size of a man's head down to gravel, the going was fairly secure with the aid of our walking sticks. As we stopped for a moment to take the sand from our shoes, welcome sunbeams slanted down from the notch of steep and rocky Imlay Canyon (page 45). Again the walls closed in. The water be came deeper, though not because the stream was rising. The course was more winding. We were traveling a narrow tunnel whose eerie walls echoed and re-echoed our voices. Then we entered another stone chamber, with flaring rock buttresses on either side. Feeling that we were threading our way be tween the feet of giant pachyderms, we called it Elephant Temple. This point, at the junction of Orderville Canyon, was as far as Nate had come up stream on his scouting trip in May. This tributary enters at main-stream level through an even narrower slot from the east; one can touch its walls with outstretched hands. Where the river makes an almost closed horseshoe bend, we glimpsed the Mountain of Mystery jutting skyward. Then the canyon widened, and on the gravelly shore we saw horseshoe tracks and a gum wrapper. Civili zation was near. At last, seven great bends beyond Order ville Canyon, we heard voices. Across the river were the girls. They had walked up be yond the end of the trail that leads from the loop road in the Temple of Sinawava. We were weary but filled with satisfaction at having achieved our goal. As we emerged dripping from the river at the trail's end, a group of park visitors looked toward the Narrows from which we had come and listened to the ranger tell of the hazards which lurked there (page 54). That night it rained lightly. Several weeks later we heard that a flash flood had inundated the whole canyon at the Temple of Sinawava. The river's volume in creased 50 times, most of the rise occurring within about 15 minutes. How I would like to have seen the turbulent gorge then-from a safe perch! Seas Once Flooded Zion The Narrows is only one of the sights of Zion National Park. Now that our main objective was behind us, we had time to look at some of the region's other attrac tions. Over the ages Zion National Park has wit nessed many changes in landscape and cli mate. Once it lay under fathoms of water. Water pressure and chemical action changed layers of gravel, sand, and lava ash into solid rock, cemented and colored by iron oxides and lime. Embedded in this slowly upthrust rock are fossilized fish, shells, and plant life; here are found the bones and tracks of dino saurs which disappeared 60 million years ago. When today's visitors to Zion ask the in evitable question, "How was the canyon formed?" the ranger-naturalist's answer is, "Zion Canyon was carved by the stream flowing through it, the Virgin River. Frost, * See "Winged Denizens of Woodland, Stream, and Marsh," by Alexander Wetmore, NATIONAL GEO GRAPHIC MAGAZINE, May, 1934.