Natural Features & Ecosystems
Wrought by Water
Immutable yet ever changing, the cliffs of Zion stand resolute, a glowing presence in late day, a wild calm. Melodies of waters soothe desert-parched ears, streams twinkle over stone, wren song cascades from red rock cliffs, cottonwood leaves jitter on the breeze. But when lightning flashes water falls erupt from dry cliffs, and floods flash down waterless canyons exploding log jams, hurling boulders, croaking wild joyousness, and dancing stone and water and time. Zion is alive with movement, a river of life always here and always changing.
Everything in Zion takes life from the Virgin River's scarce desert waters. Water flows, and solid rock melts into cliffs and towers. Landscape changes as canyons deepen to create forested highlands and lowland deserts. A ribbon of green marks the river's course as diverse plants and animals take shelter and thrive in this canyon oasis. From the beginning people sought this place, this sanctuary in the desert's dry reaches. The very name Zion, a Hebrew word for refuge, evokes its significance.
Did You Know?
During the summer or fall, you may see a tarantula crossing a road or trail in Zion National Park. But don’t be frightened-- tarantulas are actually amazing arachnids--gentle, basically harmless creatures that have suffered a bum rap. More...