Winter Trail Conditions
All roads and trails remain open, but many trails are snowy, icy, and dangerous. Please inquire at the visitor center for the most up-to-date conditions.
Construction Update - 11/25/2013
Construction work continues at the Devils Garden parking lot, limiting parking and causing occasional delays. Visitors can avoid the area by turning around at Sand Dune Arch. More »
There is a great deal of exposed rock in Arches, and much of it is spotted with multicolored lichens. Lichens usually grow on north-facing surfaces since reduced solar radiation is an advantage for many organisms in the desert. Lichens also colonize healthy, mature cryptobiotic soil crust, and occasionally on live or dead plant material. Many species of lichen are found in Arches.
A lichen is actually a simple community of at least two organisms, namely fungi with green algae or cyanobacteria, though sometimes with both. The lichen structure is more elaborate and durable than either fungi or algae alone. Green algae and cyanobacteria manufacture food via photosynthesis, while fungi provide a buffer against weather and are capable of extracting nutrients from soil and rock.
Lichens are well adapted to arid climates. They can carry on food production at any temperature above 32º Fahrenheit. Lichens can absorb more than their own weight of water, and can absorb temporary water like dew almost directly into their algal cells (the water does not need to go through roots and stems as it does in vascular plants).
Many plants benefit from the presence of lichens. The cyanobacterial component of lichens can transform atmospheric nitrogen (unusable to most organisms) into a form that is an essential nutrient for life. This is especially important in desert ecosystems, where lack of nitrogen is known to limit productivity.
Did You Know?
Once feared of becoming extinct, desert bighorn sheep are making a tentative comeback in southeast Utah due to reintroduction efforts by the National Park Service. There are roughly 50 sheep in Arches, though their shy nature keeps them well-hidden from most visitors. More...