Natural Resource Condition Assessments for Wupatki National Monument

Two large red rocks frame a view of distant prairie landscape and mountains.
View of the Wupatki National Monument landscape through a geologic feature.

NPS Photo.

Nestled between the Painted Desert and ponderosa highlands of northern Arizona, Wupatki National Monument is a landscape of legacies. First established to preserve Citadel and Wupatki pueblos, the monument’s prairie landscape is dotted with ancient dwellings among red-rock outcroppings. Where food and water seem impossible to find, people built pueblos, raised families, farmed, traded, and thrived.

Today, Wupatki protects 56 square miles (35,422 acres) of high desert directly west of the Little Colorado River and the Navajo Reservation. In this region of dramatic geologic landforms, climatic extremes, and scarce water, a diversity of plant and animal species has survived for thousands of years.

Traditional NRCA Report: 2018

In an effort to better understand and manage the natural resources of the monument, a Natural Resource Condition Assessment was completed, and published in 2018. In partnership with Utah State University, Colorado State University, and the Museum of Northern Arizona, monument staff selected 14 natural resource topics to include in the study:

- Viewshed

- Little Colorado River riparian corridor

- Night sky

- Vegetation

- Soundscape

- Non-native and invasive plants

- Air Quality

- Earthcracks and blowholes

- Sunset Crater tephra layer

- Birds

- Geomorphic stability of intermittent, ephermeral streams

- American proghorn (Antilocapra americana americana)

- Seeps, springs, and surface water

- Wupatki pocket mouse (Perognathus amplus cineris)

Natural resource conditions ranged from good for the landscape topics (i.e., viewshed, night sky, and soundscape), mammals, and vegetation to moderate concern for air quality, non-native invasive plants, and certain aspects of the water-related resources, such as seeps and springs and the Little Colorado River riparian corridor. Conditions of significant concern included the Sunset Crater tephra layer, aspects of water quantity, and erosion-related measures. The primary threats influencing these conditions are shared across resource categories, most notably climate change and increasing population and associated developments. Wupatki National Monument faces many threats due to an ever-increasing human population within and surrounding Flagstaff, Arizona and increasing temperatures and erratic precipitation events due to climate change. The monument’s proactive science program will become even more important in influencing resource conditions and identifying necessary adaptations in a rapidly changing environment.


For other reports and natural resource datasets visit the NPS Data Store.

Source: Data Store Collection 7765 (results presented are a subset). To search for additional information, visit the Data Store.

Last updated: April 9, 2024

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