Natural Resources at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area

Murky brown water meets clear blue water inside a steep canyon
Murky Paria River water joins with clear, blue Colorado River water at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.


Glen Canyon National Recreation Area encompasses Lake Powell , the second largest man-made lake in North America, and covers over 1.25 million acres (505,868 ha) in southern Utah and northern Arizona. It was established in 1972 by an Act of Congress to provide for public recreational use of Lake Powell and adjacent areas, as well as to protect the areas scenic, scientific, and prehistoric and historic features.

Lake Powell comprises only 13% of the recreation area–the remainder consists of upland desert incised by deep canyons, dry washes, and steep cliffs with areas of clay or slickrock badlands.

The bench and upland areas of Glen Canyon NRA support a wide variety of Colorado Plateau plant communities, ranging from the dominant cold desert shrub and shrub-steppe to cottonwood, willow, and tamarisk groves near flowing water, and pinyon-juniper woodland at higher elevations.

Vegetation is complex, especially in riparian zones and springs, with a total of 37 vegetation communities documented in the recreation area. Glen Canyon NRA provides habitat for a diverse array of faunal species, which include 7 amphibian, 311 bird, 64 mammal, 27 fish, and 27 reptile species.

Water resources include the Colorado River and Lake Powell, a number of perennial rivers that flow into the lake, and approximately 600 springs that have been mapped within the boundaries of the recreation area.

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Life Zones

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area ranges in elevation from 3,050 feet (930 m) at Glen Canyon Dam to 7,606 feet (2,319 m) on the Kaiparowits Plateau. While this elevation range technically spans four life zones: from Warm Desert to Ponderosa Pine Forest, excessive aridity prohibits the establishment of ponderosa pines within the park. Average annual precipitation varies significantly with elevation and ranges from 6.4 inches (162 mm) near the dam at Page, Arizona, to just under 10 inches (approx. 250 mm) at the higher elevations.

Graphic of a mountain divided into zones by elevation, with the elevations that correspond to Glen Canyon highlighted

Climate Summary Chart

Charts are an effective way to summarize and graphically represent climate variables. The following chart is based on the diagrams developed for vegetation studies by Walter and Lieth in 1967. Visit our climate page for more information.

Graph charting average temperature and precipitation at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area from 1980 to 2012 by the time of year.

Reports & Publications

Inventories are point-in-time surveys that help us learn about the resources in our parks. Information obtained through the Southern Colorado Plateau Network’s inventories of park resources helped to establish a base level of data, which has served as a starting point for our natural resource monitoring.

Source: Data Store Saved Search 3515 (results presented are a subset). To search for additional information, visit the Data Store.

Our monitoring reports provide the most recent published findings from our field work.

Source: Data Store Saved Search 3471 (results presented are a subset). To search for additional information, visit the Data Store.

Protocols describe how we monitor. They include a descriptive narrative of what we monitor and why, our field methods, how we analyze and manage our data, and more. All of our protocols are peer reviewed.

Source: Data Store Saved Search 3280 (results presented are a subset). To search for additional information, visit the Data Store.

Find additional documents on our Reports & Publications pages.


Park Flora (SEINet)

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    Last updated: October 21, 2022