Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Petroglyphs and Amphibians at Kachina Natural Bridge

Kachina Natural Bridge, from above, summertime.
Down the trail to Kachina Natural Bridge.
Natural Bridges National Monument is hot in the summertime, despite being at an elevation of 6,500 feet on the mesa top. All that bare Cedar Mesa Sandstone and little shade.

Petroglyphs and pictographs on southeast buttress of Kachina Natural Bridge.
Ancient symbols and stone tool sharpening grooves high on the southeast buttress of Kachina Bridge.
 Nevertheless I hiked once again down to Kachina Bridge. I'd heard from visitors that there were what sounded like salamander nymphs swimming about in one of the residual pools near the bridge.  I wanted to check that out myself.

NPS archaeology crew at work on Kachina Bridge.
When I got down to the Bridge, the National Park Service archaeology crew -- three of which are Hopi -- was at work. They were cleaning some modern graffiti that had accumulated on the southeast bridge abutment. Some of the graffiti was quite high -- probably put there at a time when the unpredictable flash floods had left a high sand bank that allowed people to walk up to the ledge where most of the ancient petroglyphs (figures pecked into the stone) and pictographs (painted onto the stone) exist. The symbols are prehistoric, left there by the Ancestral Puebloans long ago. And over a long period of time.

Being underneath the massive natural bridge is always pleasant. Besides the ample shade, the yawning opening of the bridge usually provides a kind of breezeway effect to make it feel even more comfortable. 

After talking with the crew for a while, I went amphibian hunting. It didn't take long. The pool of water nearby the bridge -- the mouth of Armstrong Canyon where it enters White Canyon -- was still deep enough for what seem to be salamander larvae, probably Tiger Salamanders, Ambystoma tigrinum. They had twin pairs of gills on each side, long tails, and legs.

Salamander larvae in canyon pool near Kachina Natural Bridge.

Tiger Salamander larva in the canyon pool.
Then it was time for the sweaty hike back out of the canyon. Good, worthwhile exercise on a warm summer day in southeast Utah.

Photo location: Natural Bridges National Monument, San Juan County, southeast Utah.

© Copyright 2016 Stephen J. Krieg