Searching for Zion’s Natural Springs
Within the National Park Service, Foundation Documents frame the resources, values, and history that inform park management and establish protection priorities. When Zion’s Foundation Document was written in 2013, canyon springs were recognized as a “fundamental resource” of Zion, and park management identified the pressing need for a complete natural spring inventory. Field Guide funding in 2018 supported a core inventory team, comprised of college student interns and park staff, who took the first steps in establishing a comprehensive list of Zion’s natural springs by measuring spring flow and water quality in Parunuweap Canyon.
While significant progress was made, approximately 60 natural springs have substantial data gaps including a full understanding of the plants and animals relying on them as a water source. These springs are located in areas of the park most at-risk for impact by future water development outside the park.
During the second phase of the natural spring inventory, a team of college intern Geoscientists-in-the-Parks will establish a baseline understanding of 60 spring sites over a 12-week period. Data collection will include descriptions of the geology and supported animal and plant life of each site, along with recorded flow rates and water quality. As this dataset is built, Zion’s Resource Team will learn how to better protect and manage spring resources over the long-term. This project also benefits visitor experience, as Zion will be better equipped to share information with park guests who rely on natural springs while hiking Zion’s backcountry.