Educational Videos

Learn about the animals, geology, plants, and history that make Zion unique with these short education videos! These videos are a great addition to lessons on the desert, National Park Service, geology, and more.
 

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Hello, my name is Cheyenne, and I would like to talk about an amazing geological process that happens here in Zion National Park. Do you see that? That's a spring behind me releasing water. Notice how the water is flowing down the rocks and how the mosses and ferns are growing from it. Water flows almost everywhere here in Zion. Have you ever heard of or been to the Narrows of Zion Canyon? It is a deeply carved canyon with vertical sandstone walls that took millions of years to form. And, did you know that water is a powerful force that still continues to carve the canyon today? The Virgin River and its tributaries carry away around one ton of material every year from this canyon. Water is the main reason why Zion looks the way it does today. You'd be surprised at the places that you can find water in the desert. Did you know that there are canyon carving elements hidden within these rocks behind me? Zion springs showcase the hidden history of canyon carving concealed within its sandstone walls. Before we jump into how springs are made, we need to have an understanding of the geology here. Geology is the study of the earth and especially rock formations. Behind me, you can see some of Zion's large red cliffs. The rocks here in Zion National Park are millions of years old, and all of them are layered like a tall layered cake. Each of these layers has something unique about it. These sheer white and pink cliffs towering behind me make up the Navajo sandstone layer. This type of rock is called sedimentary rock. Sedimentary rocks are made up of small pieces of rock, or sediment, that were deposited here and then lithified, or hardened, into a new rock. Now, what do you think sandstone is made out of? Yeah, sand! The shape of the sand here is super round, and this shape allows for air and water to move around them in the cliffs. Now, let's take a look at the top portion of this image showing the roundness of the sand in the Navajo sandstone. As you can see, there are tons of gaps between the sediment. I like to imagine this kind of like a ball pit. There are tons of spaces between the balls which allow you to walk through it easier. We actually have a word for this, and it's called being permeable. A material that is permeable allows water to move through it. Water can easily move through sandstone, and that makes it very permeable. The Navajo sandstone layer might be permeable, but the layer underneath it is not. This layer is called the Kayenta layer, and it is another sedimentary rock called siltstone. You can see it behind me as a hilly formation beneath the Navajo sandstone. Let's take a look at this picture that I've shown previously. On this bottom portion, you can see the Kayenta siltstone. Siltstone pieces lay flat and snugly next to each other, and this creates less pockets for water to travel through. Kayenta siltstone is not permeable. Instead, the water will travel across the top of it instead of through it. Let's demonstrate the permeability of these two layers with this water bottle. The bottom of this bottle is filled with children's clay acting like the Kayenta siltstone, and the rest of the bottle is filled with round marbles acting like the Navajo sandstone. Let's pretend it's raining in the canyon. So, I'm going to pour some water in the top of this bottle. Look at that! The water travels right through the Navajo sandstone, but it doesn't go through the Kayenta siltstone. The water will sit between these layers and travel downhill until it reaches a crack in the side of the cliff face, and this creates a spring! A spring is where water flows out of a cliff face or a crack in the rock. We have many springs in Zion Canyon like the one I'm standing in front of now. This water can take thousands of years to travel through our sandstone cliffs. All of this water flowing through the Navajo sandstone and along the top of the Kayenta siltstone carves the rocks from the inside out. As the water is moving through these layers, it picks up small pieces of sand and silt and carries them out of the rock. As these pieces are getting moved out, they rub up on the walls of the rock, kind of like sandpaper, and carry out more sediment with them. This is called erosion. There's another way that water can change our canyon walls. During the winter months, temperatures can drop below freezing. This causes the water in our sandstone cliffs to freeze within the cracks. Think about if you've ever put a water bottle in the freezer before. Water expands when it freezes, and you might have even seen that water bottle crack open or explode. The same thing happens with our rocks here. The water will freeze within the cracks, pushing them wider and wider, until the rocks can't hold on anymore. This causes huge rock falls, and these rock falls contribute largely to the widening of our canyon. The unique geology of Zion allows springs to form which contribute to canyon carving with erosion and freezing methods. Without the hidden workings of water, the canyon wouldn't look the way it does today. If you're planning on coming to Zion National Park anytime soon, I recommend taking a stroll down the Riverside Walk and looking for some springs and hanging gardens there, and while you're on our shuttle, keep an eye out for previous rock falls we've had at Weeping Rock.

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Duration:
5 minutes, 44 seconds

Ranger Cheyenne investigates the amazing geological processes of Zion National Park, and shows how the rock layers at Zion help create beautiful springs and seeps in the canyon. This program is designed for upper elementary-aged students, but can be enjoyed by all!

 

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Hi, my name is Ranger Logan, and today we're going to be talking about the desert bighorn sheep that live here in Zion National Park. Today, we're out here on the east side of the park, surrounded by the slick rock wilderness area that the bighorn sheep call home. This is a photo of a desert bighorn sheep. They have large horns and smaller bodies that are perfect for surviving here. They've been living out here for thousands of years, so they've had tons of time to adapt to the predators that they may meet and the food that they like to eat. This is a photo of the mountain lions that live here in the park. They have sharp teeth and long claws that are perfect for eating the bighorn sheep that live here. Luckily though, the bighorn sheep have tons of really cool adaptations that allow them to survive in this harsh desert with predators like the mountain lions. Have you ever heard the word adaptation before? An adaptation is the process by which a creature gets fitted and comfortable in its environment. As time passes, their body begins to change and adapt to this new place and the predators that they meet. So, imagine moving from sunny Las Vegas to chilly Alaska. How might you adapt to your surroundings? One way that you can do that is by changing out of your t-shirt and swimsuit into a jacket and boots. That's how we adapt to our surroundings. Adaptations are crucial for survival. Bighorn sheep have several special adaptations that help them survive. One of which is their big horns. Believe it or not, bighorn sheep are named after their big horns. What I'm holding right here is a real bighorn sheep's horn. Take a look at your fingernails; they’re made out of this exact same stuff. It's called keratin, and it's really sturdy. Place your pointer fingers on the sides of your head, like this, and imagine having fingernails that grow out of your head your entire life and you can never trim them. That's exactly how it is for the bighorn sheep. Bighorn sheep use their horns for many things. One way that the bighorn sheep use their horns is to ram heads with the other males in order to win a girlfriend. The noise that they make can be heard from over a mile away. Another way that bighorn sheep use their horns is to smash open cactus to get to the yummy, hydrating parts inside. The desert is really dry, so a lot of the animals here have adapted to be able to get the water that they need from the food that they eat. It's a really cool adaptation. And, as a last resort, the bighorn sheep will use their horns to protect themselves from mountain lions, but that's pretty unlikely. One awesome adaptation that bighorn sheep have is excellent eyesight. Have you ever seen a sheep or a goat's eye? They have really weird, scary looking, square pupils right in the middle. This is a photo of a bighorn sheep's eye. It's amber colored on the outside and square in the middle. It serves them super well because the square pupil allows them to see the world through a wide lens. Now, let's do an activity to explain how bighorn sheep use peripheral vision to their advantage. So, place your hands like goggles over your eyes, just like I'm doing, and look around at the world all around you. What can you see? What can't you see? This is what life is like without peripheral vision. Now drop your hands. Can't you see everything a lot better? Humans have pretty good peripheral vision, but bighorn sheep have amazing peripheral vision. Their square pupils and their excellent eyesight allow them to see predators coming their way, from even a mile away. Speaking of predators, bighorn sheep have super cool adaptations on their hooves too that allow them to suction cup onto the rocky cliffs of Zion. This allows them to go places that mountain lions would never dare to go. This is a photo of a bighorn sheep's hoof. On the outside, it's really hard, like a horse's hoof, and on the inside, it's super squishy. This allows it to form to the rocks as they walk. Now, let's do another activity. Place your hands together in a clapping position like I'm doing. Squeeze them together and then pull them apart slowly. You can almost feel them stick together and even make a funny noise. Just like this. That's exactly how the bighorn sheep's hooves work. It allows them to stick onto ledges that are only two inches wide. Did you know that if bighorn sheep were to buy pairs of shoes, they would have to buy two different pairs? Their front hooves are much bigger than their back hooves because they have to support those massive horns. Talk about a crazy adaptation. Bighorn sheep have some amazing adaptations that allow them to survive in this harsh environment with dangerous predators like the mountain lion. Their strong horns, excellent eyes, and grippy hooves allow them to survive attacks on a daily basis. They are still endangered though, so make sure you give them some space and pick up any trash that you find. When you come to the park, definitely check out the slick rock wilderness area up on the east side. It's where they call home, and you might just get to see a couple of bighorn sheep. Next time you're out in nature, keep your eye out for some awesome adaptations that you see. You'd be surprised how many animals have gotten comfortable in your neighborhood.

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Duration:
5 minutes, 19 seconds

Have you ever wondered how the bighorn sheep of Zion can run so swiftly over the rough terrain, or live in a desert with inconsistent water sources? Ranger Logan shares the unique adaptations that help desert bighorn sheep survive in Zion. This video is designed for upper elementary-aged students, but can be enjoyed by all.

 

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Hi I'm Ranger Sofia and I'm here in Zion National Park off of the Pa'rus trail. Behind me you can see the Towers and Temples of the Virgin along with the West Temple as the sun just hits them this morning. Today I'm going to be talking to you about the ingenious tricks that Zion's plants use to adapt to this harsh desert environment. As you look around me you'll notice that I have lots of dry grasses I have lots of shrubs and smaller trees and from that you can tell that Zion is in a desert. That means that we get very little rain or moisture here in fact down this lower elevation of Zion National Park we get only about 14 inches of rain per year and the temperatures can rise above 110 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer. That means it's a very hard place to live. Everything that lives in the desert must adapt to both the heat and the dryness here including us humans. Now I want you to imagine that you are going on an adventure in the desert. What would you pack with you? How would you adapt to both this heat and the dryness? If you're watching this video with a friend I encourage you to press pause and share your ideas with each other. As humans we have many ways we can adapt to the desert heat and dryness. First of all we can bring around along a water bottle like this purple one I have here. We can put on sunscreen like the sunscreen that I'm putting on my arms in this moment and we can make sure to only hike in the morning and in the evening to avoid the worst of the heat. This protects us from dehydration, sunburn, and heat illness. Desert plants use many other behaviors and structures to protect themselves from this harsh desert environment. Today I'm going to be talking about two desert plants that live here in Zion National Park. The prickly pear cactus and the four wing salt bush. Now I'm here kneeling next to a prickly pear cactus behind me you can still see those western walls of Zion Canyon. As you can see here it has these green paddles covered in spines and ouch! They're quite sharp. This plant in the springtime as you can see in this picture I'm holding has beautiful colorful flowers. In the picture it has a nice yellow one .In the fall, usually around this time of year, the cactus develops these magenta fruit which you can see in this picture here and this is very a very popular snack amongst both animals and humans. During the rare times of year when we actually get rained here in Zion National Park the prickly pear cactus uses its shallow root system, which you can see in the picture I'm holding here, these very thin small roots are right under the surface of the ground and it uses those to actually soak up that little bit of rain water which it stores inside of these green pads kind of like a water bottle for the plant to use later. Then these spines that you can see here actually protect the paddle from the thirsty animals who might want to come along and take a bite of it. Just for your knowledge though if you did take a bite of one of these paddles which are in fact edible it would kind of taste like biting into a juicy but very bland apple. Now we're here in front of the small woody shrub which is our second plant, the four wing salt bush. Behind me you can see the eastern walls of Zion Canyon now if you look at this plant you'll notice that it has sage green leaves and then kind of these clusters or clumps that look like flowers but are actually seed pods. So I'm going to grab one that we can look at a little bit more closely so if you look at this you'll notice that it actually has four parts, or four wings, and that's actually how this got its name the four-wing salt bush. Another adaptation that this plant has is that in the desert we often actually have a little bit of salt in both the water and the soil which is quite harmful for most plants. So this plant can actually push that salt to the surface of its leaves into these very fine little hairs where the salt forms crystals and these crystals actually deflect the harsh desert sun. Did you know that plants can get sunburned just like us humans? So I'm going to grab one of these leaves and we're going to look more closely at it if you look at it you'll notice that it actually has this kind of white shimmering sheen to it and those are the salt crystals which actually act like a sunscreen for the plant just like the sunscreen I put on earlier. Zion's plants are expert desert survivalists. Without the adaptations that they have to both the heat the dryness and the saltiness here, Zion Canyon would be a much more barren place than it is today. Well I hope that one day you come to visit us here in Zion National Park and if you do please remember to pack your water bottle like the prickly pear cactus put on your sunscreen like the four wing salt bush and take a walk on the Pa'rus trail where you can admire these amazing plants that can actually thrive in this really harsh environment. Thanks for joining me today!

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Duration:
5 minutes, 30 seconds

Join Ranger Sofia to learn all about the ingenious ways that Zion's plants have adapted to live in a desert environment. This presentation was created for students in grades 4th, 5th, and 6th, but can be enjoyed by all. Standards addressed: NGSS: 4-LS1-1

 

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Hi everyone I'm Ranger Sofia and today I'm going to talk to you about how Zion's four native fish species are perfectly adapted to the Virgin River. So today you can see that I'm next to the burbling Virgin River behind me you can see the walls of Zion canyon including the Sentinel which is one of our rock formations here. So looking at this river you might think huh, I think that's a perfect place for fish to live. It's clear it's calm but, think again. In Zion we actually get violent flash floods. These usually occur in July and August which is our monsoon season but can happen anytime we get large amounts of rain. To demonstrate what that's like I want you to look at this picture here. So if you look at this you'll see that like today this river is nice and calm and clear and moving very slowly. But when we get lots of rain in just a matter of minutes bam! The river can look like this. A whole wall of sticks and rocks and boulders and mud coming down at you. So if you were a fish do you think this would be an easy place to live? I don't think so. Luckily though we have four resilient fish species that actually live in Zion National Park in this Virgin River. The first kind are called suckers. They have this very dramatic mouth like you can see in this picture that I'm holding here they use that big mouth to suction up different foods and things on the bottom of our river. So the first type is this guy here this is the flannel mouth sucker. In this drawing I'm holding you can see that's a bit green in color. And then our other sucker fish is this guy here called the desert sucker and this one as you can see in the drawing is a bit more brown and a little bit smaller than the flannelmouth sucker. Our final two fish are both in the minnow family. The first one is this this is the speckled dace you can see in the drawing there are speckles on it. It is never quite this large but I've blown it up so you can see it better. And then our very final fish in our is called the Virgin River spinedace it is silvery with a little bit of copper on top as you can see in the drawing here. And it is actually endemic to Zion National Park which means it can't be found anywhere else in the world which I think is quite special. But how do these four fish survive in the turbulent Virgin River? How have they adapted? So first of all I want you to look at this picture I'm holding here and notice the shape of the fish. What about that long shape might help them survive in this environment? If you're with a friend go ahead and pause the video and discuss your answer. So if you look closely at this you'll see that they're kind of shaped like a torpedo, maybe like the ones that you throw in the swimming pool that go really far. And that makes them very aerodynamic or in this case hydrodynamic, which means they can move very quickly and easily through those violent floods that we might have sometimes. Now let's look at our second attribute so if you look at this picture I'm holding here it's a picture of the fins you'll notice they're all very wide and broad and large. So how might that help them? So again go ahead and pause and think about it. So these guys are kind of like flippers. If you've ever gone snorkeling or put flippers on in the swimming pool those flippers make you go much faster and that's just the same thing with the fish. With these big wide broad fins they can navigate the river much more easily to get away from those flash floods and find a hiding spot.

Our final adaptation, you can see in this picture here, is focusing on the colors of the fish. You'll notice that all of them are kind of a darker brown color on top and lighter on bottom. How might that help them? Go ahead and pause that video one last time. So I want you to imagine that you are a red-tailed hawk and you are flying over the virgin river during one of those muddy flash flood days and you look down do you think you can spot these fish? Nope they are perfectly camouflaged. So as you can see our four native fish have been perfectly adapted to this Virgin River and all of its natural flow. This is their home. We can help protect their home by making sure we do not go to the bathroom in our river here and keep all of our trash out of the water. I hope that one day you come to visit us in Zion and if you want to see these really cool fish I recommend you walk either the Riverside Walk or even hike in the Narrows and you might see some of these fish swimming along thanks for joining me.

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Duration:
4 minutes, 44 seconds

Learn all about the fish that call the Virgin River home along with Ranger Sofia. While Zion's iconic river is known for its flash floods, four very special fish have adapted to survive and thrive in these waters. These four fish are perfectly adapted to the Virgin River’s natural turbulence. This program is designed for fourth grade students, but can be enjoyed by all. Standards addressed: NGSS: 4-LS1-1, Utah SEEd: 4.1.1

 

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Hello everyone my name is Rachel. I'm an education ranger here at Zion National Park behind me you can see our beautiful cliffs and some rubber rabbitbrush. Today we're going to talk a little bit about lizards. Did you know that we have 16 different species or different types of lizards here at Zion and although they're small they are feisty. Lizards are masters of survival that use unique adaptations to help protect themselves from predators like birds and snakes.

Imagine you're a lizard enjoying a hot sunny day basking in the sun when all of a sudden you hear a rustling in the bushes behind you. You look back and there's a road runner, like the one in this picture, eyeing you for dinner it's sharp beak pointed right at you. What would you do? I know what I would do. I'd run away as fast as I could and that's exactly what the western whiptail does that you can see here in this picture. The western whiptail is our fastest lizard and it can run up to 18 miles per hour. Some lizards aren't quite as fast as that and require other ways to protect themselves from predators. Take a look at this guy. This is the a photo of the greater short-horned lizard. It's a small lizard with tiny little um horns on the base of their their head and their body. This little lizard weighs about as much as three nickels and it can fit in the palm of a child's hand. But don't let its small stature fool you these guys have a nasty secret. They can shoot blood from their eyes. Are you surprised? Are you grossed out? Well that's exactly the point. Predators that wanna eat this guy for lunch think they're gonna get a nice tasty snack but when blood is shot at them they are freaked out and scared and they quickly lose their appetite. Now if you're a lizard that can't run away fast enough or scare your predators away you might think that you're out of luck but many lizards including the lizard in this photo the colorful side blotched lizard have one last trick that they can use to escape the grasp of their predators. They bargain with them. As a last resort the lizard can remove its tail and run away the predator gets a tasty little snack and the lizard gets to escape with its life. While it's not ideal for either of the animals, the lizards must lose its tail and the predator only gets a portion of the meal that it wanted, it's still a win-win for both animals. Whether they choose to run, stand their ground, or bargain with their enemies one thing is for certain lizards are masters of survival. We hope you all get the chance to visit Zion one day to see these incredible creatures for yourselves in the meantime you can download a Zion coloring book page of a lizard so you can create a Zion lizard at home. Find the link in the description below. Thank you for joining me today and happy exploring.

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Duration:
3 minutes, 21 seconds

Ranger Rachel shares some fascinating facts about Zion's lizards. Zion is home to 16 species of lizards, and these unique animals are masters of survival that use unique adaptations to help protect themselves from predators like birds and snakes. This video was created for ages 7 and up, but can be enjoyed by all.

Last updated: August 31, 2021

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1 Zion Park Blvd.
State Route 9

Springdale, UT 84767

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435-772-3256
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