Some unpaved roads are closed
Recent rains have caused extensive damage to some roads in the Needles District and some of the roads into the Maze District. More »
Safety in Bear Country
Black bears have been seen in the Needles, Maze, and along the Colorado River. Be alert and store food and garbage properly: in hard-sided, latched containers (or your vehicle) when not being prepared or consumed. More »
New backcountry requirements in effect
Hard-sided bear containers are required for backpackers in parts of the Needles District. More »
Cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum) has drastically altered landscapes in Canyonlands and throughout the American west. This annual grass arrived in shipments of European wheat during the late 1800s, and quickly established itself in many areas. Cheatgrass now covers over 100 million acres.
Cheatgrass is well adapted to the high desert climate and can out-compete many native plants. This is partially because cheatgrass uses a growth strategy unlike any other in the high desert ecosystem. While most desert plants are dormant during winter, cheatgrass germinates in the fall and spends the winter building roots and storing energy. By early spring, cheatgrass is ready to begin its aboveground growth while other plants are just breaking dormancy.
Since this strategy appears so effective, it is interesting that no native plants make use of it. Scientists explain this in two ways. First, it is possible that climate change has created a new “niche” that no native plants are able to exploit. Secondly, it is also possible that extreme climatic events which native plants can survive might someday wipe out this relative newcomer.
In addition to germinating earlier, cheatgrass also uses subsurface water more efficiently and colonizes disturbed areas more quickly. As a result, native grasslands are increasingly rare, especially where wildfires or livestock grazing have occurred. In areas where cheatgrass dominates, both biological diversity and soil health decline. Unfortunately, few animals are known to eat cheatgrass, and scientists have not found any means to control it.
Did You Know?
Desert bighorn sheep live year-round in Canyonlands. These animals make their home along the rivers, negotiating the steep, rocky talus slopes with ease. Once in danger of becoming extinct, desert bighorns are making a tentative comeback thanks to the healthy herds in Canyonlands. More...