Cedar Breaks’ geologic amphitheater is a spectacle of color and geologic formations that is also full of life. The ecosystem along the rim of the amphitheater is diverse and fascinating, including mammals, birds, plants, trees, and wildflowers.
There are many animals that call the amphitheater rim home. Small mammals, such as the Yellow-bellied Marmot, Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel, and the Uinta Chipmunk make homes within and near the rocky cliffs. During the mornings and late afternoons, marmots can be seen sunbathing out on rock ledges. There are also many birds that are commonly spotted along the rim, such as the White-throated Swift and the Violet Green Swallow, who use their acrobatic flight pattern to search and dive for insects within the wind currents of the amphitheater. Looking out over the rim is also an opportunity to see larger birds soaring out past the cliffs, including Golden Eagles, California Condors, and falcons.
The rim provides a unique environment for vegetation, as the plants and trees found here must withstand high elevation, cold winters, strong winds, and hostile soils. Some of the trees found here are the Engelmann Spruce, Limber Pine, Subalpine Fir, and the Bristlecone Pine. The Bristlecone Pine is an ancient tree, with some in the park being over 1,000 years old. They thrive in this environment because of a lack of competition, as they are one of few trees that withstand the hostile limestone soils found where they grow.
Every summer, the parks blooms with wildflowers across the meadows, trails, and even the rim. The flowers found directly along the rim must be able to withstand harsh and persistent sunlight throughout the day. Some examples include Elkweed, Cushion Phlox, and Panguitch Buckwheat. These flowers have special adaptations which allow them to live within these conditions. Cushion Phlox grows tightly together and low to the ground, offering protection from the wind. Panguitch Buckwheat is endemic to Southwest Utah, meaning that’s the only place it’s found, and has adapted to grow in the limestone soils many plants can’t withstand. Like the Bristlecone Pine, the Panguitch Buckwheat favors this for the lack of competition from other vegetation.
For these ecosystems to stay strong and last, we must all do our part to protect them. The ecosystem on the rim is affected by climate and natural effects as well as visitor use. Always make sure to stay on a marked trail, respect the wildlife, and pick up trash, not wildflowers.
Last updated: April 26, 2022